1. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    To much conversation in my story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by zoupskim, Jan 22, 2016.

    So, I have been writing this story about three people. I had resolved early to rely on conversations and short, well selected words to deal with descriptions of action. Any setting or plot elements are mostly conveyed by characters talking about them. There are a few times when people think to themselves, but mostly everything happening in conveyed through people describing it or talking about it.

    As I read back through my writing, it strikes me that there is a LOT of talking. Most of the book, in fact, is people talking. Is this a bad thing? I do not think the dialog is bad, there is just SO much. Is this a bad thing? Should I narrate more of the setting and plot, or is it all right to have people just talk about it?
     
  2. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I wouldn't have an answer because I'm new to fiction, but what percentage of the story would you say is dialogue?
     
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  3. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I don't think a lot of talking is bad, necessarily, but you do want to avoid a talking head sort of thing where it's all dialogue and you lose track of where the characters are or what they're doing. And be sure it's dialogue that makes sense for people to actually be saying. "The fortress is made of stacked stone with three massive towers on each -" "Dude I know, I'm looking at it too."

    Having characters talk about the plot could come off as very tell-y rather than show-y, too, which could get tedious. But I don't know, honestly it seems like something I'd have to read for myself to make the call on.
     
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  4. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    At least half, although it could be more. I'd post an excerpt but I haven't done my two critiques yet. An example would be a scene where I needed to explain a monorail system. I gave the explanation to a character, who explained it to someone who did not know how the monorail worked. It really was not a plot point, I just needed to give some information. I just wrote it as dialog as opposed to narration.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's iffy, though it's hard to tell until you can offer it for review. Dialogue should never appear to be there purely for information.
     
  6. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This seems like it could be a common thing for people newer to fiction who are more used to TV shows or movies, where that kind of dialogue is sometimes needed. I wouldn't say it's necessarily bad, but I'd recommend finding other books you want your writing to be like, analyzing how they accomplish the same thing without dialogue, and weighing the pros and cons of each approach. You'll probably come to the conclusion that dialogue of that sort can be needlessly wordy, unnatural, and/or limited compared to non-dialogue options, and you'll hopefully be able to spot the occurrences in your writing where dialogue is not the best way to go.
     
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  7. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    I'm going to be honest... I'm a little confused. You start with,

    Then you say,

    From the beginning you say that you're going to be relying on dialogue to tell the story. Are you simply surprised that there's a lot of dialogue (if so, that's where I'm confused; why would you be surprised) or are you questioning the decision to tell the story through dialogue?

    My response to the second one would be that it all depends on your writing on whether or not it works. I've read pieces where it's all a monologue or just a dialogue between two people and it was great. I've also read pieces where it was the same thing, and I absolutely hated it.
     
  8. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you questioning the decision to tell the story through dialogue?

    Yes.
     
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  9. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It's really impossible to tell without seeing an example - the monorail one sounds good. You could have pulled it off, or it could come off as unrealistic that they would be having the conversation.

    I much prefer writing dialogue to description or exposition, but they all have their place. Maybe try writing out the monorail explanation as narrative and see how it sounds?
     
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  10. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Start of Scene II - MacBeth (edited down a little)

    DUNCAN What bloody man is that? He can report,
    As seemeth by his plight, of the revolt
    The newest state.
    MALCOLM This is the sergeant...Say to the king the knowledge of the broil
    As thou didst leave it.
    Sergeant Doubtful it stood;
    As two spent swimmers, that do cling together
    And choke their art. The merciless Macdonwald--
    Worthy to be a rebel, ...
    For brave Macbeth--well he deserves that name--
    Disdaining fortune, with his brandish'd steel,
    ...Like valour's minion carved out his passage
    Till he faced the slave;
    Which ne'er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
    Till he unseam'd him from the nave to the chaps,
    And fix'd his head upon our battlements.

    THAT'S too much dialogue for a novel.

    Because Shakespeare, bereft of CGI, had to show the audience a massive, bloody battle-scene. If he had been writing a novel, he could have described it without having to use the device of one character telling another.

    If your dialogue looks at all like this, perhaps you'd be happier writing a play/screenplay?
     
  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Relying on dialogue to convey plot elements can work—mainly in a very short story—but most readers prefer a variety of pace in a novel. You haven't said if you're writing a short story or a novel, and I do think that matters.

    In a film or TV show you will have long periods where nobody is talking. You'll watch a character or group of characters doing something ...sometimes for minutes at a time before anybody says something. When was the last time you saw a film where nobody ever shut up? It was just nonstop talking from the start to The End, an hour and a half later? I'd be screaming by that point, wouldn't you?

    Unfortunately, non-stop dialogue can also be exhausting to read. Personally I find dialogue more tiring to read than narrative. Dialogue moves quickly, while narrative slows things down. An endless stream of dialogue is like a runaway train. Sooner or later you need to get off and rest. Readers need time to think about what's happening, and dialogue doesn't really give them the opportunity. Page-turning will be rapid, but surely rapidity is not the goal of the writer. You want the reader to keep turning the pages because they want to know what happens next.
     
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  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    In addition to @jannert's points, if all action is conveyed through dialogue, you do not put the reader in the shoes of the character. Instead, it reads like reportage, keeping the reader at a distance. I agree with @Shadowfax - maybe what you want to write is a play.
     
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  13. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    Its a full length novel.

    An example would be early in one chapter five people clear a building for enemies. They talk through their actions, with narration to convey emotion and movement.

    Later, a single character wanders around another building alone, with narration explaining his mindset and movement, but not a single word said.
     
  14. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know where you're from but if I remember right there's a novel by norwegian author Erlend Loe, which in the english version is called lazy days, and I think that book consist purely of dialogue. (haven't read it myself, just heard someone talk about it) If you can find it or another book that uses the same approach, maybe yo could get some inspiration for how to make it work?
    I'm really intrigued by the idea, I'd like to try something like that myself some day :)
     
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  15. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's one thing to rely primarily on dialogue as a stylistic choice, and quite another because you lack the skills to properly convey you story-considering that you had to ask, I'm going to bet it's the latter.

    Don't be too hard on yourself- at least you noticed. A lot of us amateur writers rely way too much on dialogue. More often than not it results from a poor understanding of how narration works. This is why it's important to read novels and also how to books, not to learn "rules," but to develop the necessary skills to convey whatever it is you want in an immersive and engaging manner.
     
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  16. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Yes, for some of us.

    Not sure I buy this reasoning, at least not in my case.

    I had no trouble with story (plot). My characters and the events that happened developed first. Later as my story and my writing skills improved I had to work harder on description. Now I'm getting better at that.

    So my earlier work was heavy on dialogue. Now I'm going back and inserting more world building.

    Get the story down, don't worry it is dialogue heavy. But as you go, teach yourself how to describe the world the dialogue is happening in.
     
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  17. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I just plow through first draft. Some of mine can tend to be dialogue heavy and I try not to worry about it ( though I usually do. ) During the second draft I start to pick and choose what will work best as dialogue and what would be best turned into exposition.

    If it sounds intimidating you could practice your exposition by turning the volume off on a familiar movie scene and typing out your version of it via a mix of show and tell.
    Also keep reading - really taking notice of the spots in books that are giving you a hard time in your writing.
     
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  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A wonderful piece of advice that pertains to any and all writing problems you encounter.
     
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