1. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    Telephone Format

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Spencer1990, Sep 29, 2016.

    I'm posting this thread in hopes of gleaning some information and opinions on how some of you think phone calls should be formatted in a narrative.

    Obviously, in first-person it would be a little jarring to have both sides of a phone conversation. But what about third person?

    Would you carry it out like normal dialogue? Or would you format it differently like:

    John: blah blah blah
    Claire: blah blah blah

    Just curious as to what others think about this sort of thing.

    ETA: And I'm not meaning to talk about extended conversations over phones. I mean relatively brief exchanges. I wouldn't want to read a novel with a bunch of this. But if a couple of phone calls are used for a specific reason, is it bad form?
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2016
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'd use normal dialogue. And that's how I see it used in novels. I don't think I've ever seen the format above. I have seen that format for text message conversations, and perhaps for email as well, but not for spoken dialogue of any kind. Doesn't mean you can't do it as a matter of style, but it's certainly not necessary.
     
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  3. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I think once you mention that the characters are speaking over the phone, you can use the normal dialogue format.
     
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  4. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    The reason I was thinking about the format I listed above was for two reasons. One because it's third-person limited. The whole story is from one character's POV. I thought it might be a little strange to do normal dialogue, but now that you guys have commented, I'm not sure why I thought it would be strange.

    The second reason was to give a kind of robotic texture the conversation. The main character feels disconnected from everything and I thought doing it in this format might help to highlight and drive that emotion I was trying to convey. And this is along the lines of me showing how he feels rather than telling the reader "so and so felt disconnected."
     
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  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Reason number two is a perfectly good reason to use the format. I'd give it a try and then see if it actually achieved the effect or not.
     
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  6. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I had a friend of mine read the story and he actually commented on that specifically. He said that he likes the robotic/scripted feel to it because it fits the narrative emotion.

    The reason I posted this thread is because I'm still a bit insecure in taking artistic liberties and wanted to hear what other people thought. (If I'm being honest.)
     
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  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I say go with it, based on what you've written here.
     
  8. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    Double post. Whoops.
     
  9. Becca Hodge
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    Becca Hodge New Member

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    I've found in the past to have taken inspiration from Caryl Churchill's Top Girls where an interruption in somebody's line is denoted by a "/" and the next person starts speaking on the following line with a "/". It works great for busy conversations in which interruptions are frequent, as well as for those moments in phone conversations too where the lag between speakers means both start at the same time.

    to use your example:

    John: blah blah/ blah
    Claire:/blah blah blah.

    (Also, first time poster :))
     
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  10. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    I would stick with normal dialog. Things like this can come across as some sort of fancy trick, which can mean it's an attempt to make up for something the story lacks. That's my take on things. Things like this can work, sure. I've just never been a fan of examples like the one you gave. I want the story to be front and center. In my mind, changing the dialog to this script form would be a distraction.
     
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  11. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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  12. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    If the scripted feel didn't add to the narrative, I would absolutely go with regular quotes. I like that it reads kind of robotic because it mirrors how the MC feels. I don't think this is a "fancy trick", just an experimental way to add to the tone.
     
  13. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    Thanks @Cave Troll

    Nice articles. I appreciate you posting those for me.
     
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  14. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Anytime. :superagree:
     

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