1. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Turning Dialogue into Exposition

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by peachalulu, May 17, 2015.

    Has anyone here ever turned a few pages of dialogue or a scene into a more condensed paragraph or two of exposition. I just did it for one scene in the piece I'm working on. I didn't like the scene as is ... how it was going - it was a little cheesy so I condensed it.
    So far it looks pretty good. I don't know how it will be through the read-thru, unfortunately I still understand the scene as I previously wrote it so I will get what I'm referring to. I don't know if the reader will. I'll definitely have to set it aside. But my mom has since got her hands on my handwritten copy by mistake ( gulp - that was nerve wracking ) so maybe I can ask her.
    I did like the power of the new condensed paragraphs, so much that I'm thinking of trying it again. The scene will be a nearly pure dialogue scene. I've tried writing it several times from two different angles - one resolving an argument, the other - flip side - escalating it. I'm not pleased with it hence the urge to switch it. There is someone watching and I'm thinking of having him tune out the words and instead of a blow by blow have him contemplating what's going on.

    Do you have any special techniques for turning dialogue or a scene into a more compact exposition.
    Right now I used a sentence pattern from the start of the story to start a contrasting comparison between two characters which I thought when well. This time I'm not sure what I'll do if I want to take one idea and make it the focus of the paragraphs.
     
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  2. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I started to have a main character talk about his ex wife and it was going to explain a lot about his actions. I ended up condensing it so it didn't read so much like exposition. Instead, it keeps a mystery, but the reader got enough to figure out what happened. Of course, I'm still working on it, so I might end up adding more later.
     
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  3. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Very, very interesting. I've been going through this phase lately myself. What I'm hoping is that by condensing (and therefore eliminating all but bare essentials), I am in effect employing iceberg method. It's good to understand exactly what's happening in a scene, and to know that, if a gun were held to your head, you could explain it 100%. When I first got into writing, I was one of those guys that wanted to write the Godfather, you know, something slow. subtle, and ominous, like an impending thunderstorm- of course the result was,unnecessarily cryptic pieces of crap. As such, I have abandoned any attempt at subtlety, but I'm starting to wonder if it isn't time to reconsider, not by forcing subtlety, but simply by cleaning up and condensing obvious prose, and especially dialogue.

    The question of course is, how much information does the writer have to give? I say he has to give all the relevant facts, and, even if it takes years of trying to figure it out, those facts ultimately have to be able to fit into a cohesive framework. Assuming this is true, I'm also wondering how much time a writer should spend trying to figure out whether he has achieved this before just giving it to betas and letting them tell him.
     
  4. UpstateWriter
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    UpstateWriter Member

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    I do this all the time, typically in re-writes. I'll often find huge chunks of dialogue that are presented better as exposition, and sometimes vice versa.
     
  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I resolved my other dialogue scene last night. - :) I was getting pretty frustrated and turned on an old movie to distract myself. After getting hung up on this scene I needed a break. The opening came on with Dane Clark in a boxing ring and suddenly I had one of those epiphany moments. I had a metaphor - the argument as a verbal battle.

    Final draft? or along the way. I'm not always certain why I put certain details in along the way. Sometimes I think they're little seedlings for future scenes. I read this awesome book by Lygia Fagunda Telles ( The Marble Dance ) and everything seeded a future metaphor. The mc's mother was crazy and kept talking about a beetle fallen on it's back and that it can never right itself. When the mc temporarily loses her faith in God, she chucks a bible out into the bushes and sees it as a beetle that can no longer right itself.

    Could be definitely worth exploring. Strangely enough I find the less-long passages of dialogue I have, the easier I can control the story and the characters. But I tend to write a lot of dialogue. 50% I would have to say is circling bullshit. But I have a love/hate thing about dialogue.
     
  6. Tim3232
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    Tim3232 Active Member

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    And here's me needing more dialogue. Perhaps we'd make a great team.
     
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  7. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    I have a hard time deciding this, too. I guess you just have to figure it out during reading it and if you're just skipping over this part and need to condense it or if you felt it was just cut short and need to add more, like turning exposition into a dialogue scene and making it more come to life. It just comes down to our skills as writers and deciding which is better at the time when we read it and which is better for the story and its overall flow.
     
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  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    True.
    I do wonder though if writers have blinders on when it comes to some of their dialogue. Or even the idea of dialogue. I've bumped into three or four writer's that I've tried to suggest more exposition less dialogue. Or more details to enhance the dialogue. Several of the writers were starting to repeat their information, and their tricks or leaning too much on the idea that this was the story - the interaction. When in reality a lot of it was banal shop talk. Could it be dialogue is a comfort zone? I mean as long as we get it somewhat right I notice a lot of critiquers don't nitpick it quite like exposition.
     
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  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's an interesting observation - never thought of that! Could it be because dialogue is in general easier to read by virtue of being, well, a bunch of one-liners? It's rare you get one character speaking for longer than a few sentences, and in that sense the reader can go very fast. In this sense it's a little like how people won't grumble so much if you gave them 20 pages of widely spaced document with a large font and wide margins, but they'd groan if you gave them just one page of tightly condensed text typed up in pt.8 font that spills over the margins to the point of there being no margins left lol.

    Certain things that make a dialogue more natural are also things that add little meaning content-wise, for example a character going, "What?" :D which may make it harder to see when such superfluous things are actually desired/good and when they're really not. These are also elements readers can happily and easily skip without losing meaning, so perhaps they're not even reading it properly and hence were not bothered by it (a bit like the "he said, she said" thing - how readers just gloss over it without really seeing it)

    Dialogue tends also to be more direct than narrative, unless it's first person, which might make it more relatable as well as simply easier to read - less to think about.

    Just some theories :)
     
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  10. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, @T.Trian and I have also done that with our WIP. We tend to go for dialogue a tad too quickly, and we've become aware of this, so we try to think which would be the best way to show thing X. E.g. in the scene(s) we're currently working on, fast pace is quite essential, so there's a bit more condensed exposition. Basically we did exactly the same thing as you described here, Peach. There was dialogue that felt not quite that important and the pacing was particularly critical, so a chunk of dialogue became a short paragraph of exposition.

    Although, this happens mostly when we're editing and have already gotten the story "out of our system". I guess that's why our editing is quite slow 'cause we go pretty meticulously about it. When writing the first draft, the editor's hat isn't on, and we just churn the scenes out. That's when stuff is a bit all over the place, there's too much dialogue, and so on.
     
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  11. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, dialogue is easy(not good dialogue, though), but we're not writing a screen play. The beauty of literature is its ability to convey both emotion and information in indirect and sometimes even abstract ways, also it lets us get into the skin of narrator. If a novel that uses exposition, as well as dialogue, can be compared to a water color painting, I would compare a novel that relies only on dialogue to a pencil sketch.
     
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