1. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    Striking a ballance between narriation and dialouge

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Blue_Lotus, Jul 15, 2011.

    Silly question but how much Dialouge is too much?
    If a chapter is 20+ pages where does one draw the line between MC interaction and mind numbing drivel?

    same goes for Narratives?

    I find that I tend to put the devil in the details in my story with lot of talking between the charaters where the story componets start to take shape. This interaction between the MCs is how I let the story develop. In between I do drop in bits of third party information that pulls the lot together.
    However after having read a few books on this subject I worry that perhaps I use this tool in the wrong way?

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Dialogue can go on for any given amount of time as long as it's well done. If you can set a tone via characters' body language, little things going on around them (does the light flicker, etc) and make readers feel whatever emotion is supposed to be there (if it's supposed to be tense or awkward, for example), and if the dialogue is relevent, there's no limit.

    Don't just do this:

    "______," he said.
    "_________," she said in return
    "___," he replied

    etc for 20 pages. Also, don't use dialogue as an excuse to infodump. Infodumps are bad whether there are quote marks around them or not.

    Also, the dialogue must be realistic.

    Hope I helped!
     
  3. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    Yeah now I really worry that I have done it badly...
    I was taught that ending in he said she said would become Invisiable to the reader fadding into the background not to be noticed, thus you use it when ever possiable.:eek:
    oy, now I will have to re word things I think...
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I mean, it's not just a matter of replacing "he said" with "he sighed" or "he quipped." You'll want to do other things to pad the dialogue, set up the tone, and convey details.
     
  5. seelifein69
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    seelifein69 Active Member

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    I feel as if you can have 3 pages full of just dialoge if it's important and interesting.
    Just give them something meaning to say, and then as your doing your dialouge you will see when some story telling or thoughts should be told.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Three pages of dialogue without a break is probably too much. There could be exceptions, but generally it will get on your readers' nerves.
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Years ago, I read somewhere that dialogue was referred to as "face" and narration was "carry", and that it was advisable to strike an even balance between the two. So, I think a good starting point is 50/50, then work more in one direction or the other as long as it fits the needs of the story.

    I will disagree (gently) with my good friend Mallory on one thing - dialogue can be an effective way to bring out background information that is relevant to the story, and doing so may well eliminate the need (or temptation) for an infodump. However, it must be done sparingly and carefully or else it will be quite transparent to the reader (as well as being really cheesy).
     
  8. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    Thanks lots of things to think about here. I will have to review the Rules for writting dialouge these days and revamp the work during re writes.
    :)
     
  9. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think there are any 'rules' as such. It depends and authors all differ in their approach.

    As for the 'he said, she said' - that's fine to use, and probably better than coming up with alternatives that disrupt the flow, as it were. What I like to do is have a lot of dialogue, interspersed with description (not too much) of body language etc.

    You don't always need dialogue tags either. Having a back and forth conversation, you can drop them now and then, and it will be clear who's talkin'.
     
  10. Rustgold
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    Rustgold New Member

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    I've seen some great 100% dialogue in short stories, but it's not something that I could do.

    Maybe if you find something good, have a look at how they've done it
     
  11. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's too much when it becomes boring to the reader. Sometimes the dialogue is so exciting you can go on for pages. Sometimes the action IS the dialogue. For example, stage plays tend to consist mostly of dialogue.

    The only way to say for sure is to let a number of people read your story and say what they think.
     
  12. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    ah now see I wondered about tag dropping...
    hmm, could you exsplaine when and how to use it properly, or should I just use a tag when more than two people are talking and hope that my reader is smart enough to follow along?
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Example:

    With tags:

    John walked into the living room, pulling off his coat. He said, "So where's Judy?"

    James said, "She went to the store. She'll be back soon."

    John asked, "What do you mean by soon?"

    James said, "More than twenty minutes, less than a day."

    John said, "Yeah, very helpful, thanks.
    "

    Without tags:

    John walked into the living room, pulling off his coat. "So where's Judy?"

    James leaned back, settled comfortably in John's easy chair. "She went to the store. She'll be back soon."

    John studied him for a moment, then shrugged and took a seat on the couch. "What do you mean by soon?"

    "More than twenty minutes, less than a day."

    John turned away to reach for the paper. "Yeah, very helpful, thanks."


    Generally when a character can be taking an action, that can eliminate the need for a tag, and if the action can be meaningful, it can also add to the scene. As well, in a two-person conversation, you can quite often kill the tag without having a character action.

    ChickenFreak
     
  14. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    Thanks Chicken.
     
  15. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, I often drop the action as well when there's two people talking. The example above would be 'too much', for me personally.

    Upon re-reading, I then check that it doesnt go on too long without something that fleshes out the dialogue, and if need be I add some tags/description.
     
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think most people find dialogue very easy to write. That's the danger. If I were to transcribe a conversation between myself and my friends, it would go on for pages and pages and probably not get very far. Dialogue in fiction should be used very carefully, precisely because it's so easy. The reader doesn't need to see every joke, every barb, every um and er. In fiction, you have to edit dialogue down to what's important to the story. It has to be true to the characters, but it also has to advance the plot, or at least, not stop things cold. The dialogue presented to the reader should, in my view, be an edited (severely edited!) version of the dialogue the characters actually have.
     
  17. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    RE: tag dropping
    Bear in mind that, when you have a protracted conversation between two people, a man and a woman, it should not take long for the reader to figure out who each of the speakers is. Therefor, after a couple of tags, the reader will recognize which person is saying what. So, if it is obvious, you do not really need the tags. If, however, it has been a long time between identifiers and there is a possibility the reader may get confused, or perhaps a third person comes into the mix and you now have perhaps two guys and a gal. So it is not quite so easy to distinguish among the three. Now you will need to find a different way of clarifying dialog. This is where ChickenFreak's guidelines will come to the fore.

    As for finding your balance between dialog and narrative? There is no hard rule and any 'soft rules' you may come up with are likely to chanage from one work to the next. Consider whether the story is more about the people in it or is it becoming more about the narrator. When you feel you are getting too much narrator and you are losing your characters, you've probably got too much narrative at that particular point. You find your characters taking over and there is no clear cut image of what's going on? It's time for your narrator to step in and explain to your readers what the situation is.

    Not easy and it can sometimes be difficult to really see just how much the reader is actually seeing vs. how much is your innate knowledge and vision. You do, however, want to be sure your characters and your story are in the lead over your narrator.

    Think of it sort of like a boxing match ... or a hockey game. The commentator will tell you what's happening, but in the end, it's all about who sneaks the puck passed the goalie and lights the light more times. THAT's where the story is. The commentator is only there to fill in the gaps and pump up the excitement.
     
  18. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    WOW! great example, I am definitely going to keep that in mind while writing and editing. thank you!
     
  19. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    ChickenFreak's example was perfect and illustrates pretty much what you need. People don't just talk. They gesture with their hands, shuffle papers, shuffle their feet, shift their weight, move curtains to look out windows, pace, tap their fingers, raise their eyebrows, etc.

    If all you do is type out dialogue it's a boring two dimensional conversation. Sure you can have a few lines where they just talk but you need to add in the actions that they are making to keep it lively, interesting, and above all, real.
     
  20. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    In my opinion, I use dialogue only when it is necessary. I don't tend to use dialogue to describe the setting and the action. I use it whenever someone is talking to someone else. Even though I find dialogue can be heavy and take up the story, it isn't that bad.
     
  21. martial_wolf
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    martial_wolf Member

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    I bounce back and forth sometimes but generally I'll lean towards an approximate 60:40 ratio in favor of narration. But I really like to keep things moving, and regardless of how long a conversation lasts you really want to get into the mood. Just my opinion though.
     

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