1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Two-way dialogue in same paragraph

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by OurJud, Sep 6, 2016.

    I think I'm only asking this for confirmation, rather than because I don't know, but the last couple of books I've read have featured a few instances where a quick dialogue between two people has been in the same paragraph.

    My reasoning is that this is done when the story-teller wants to quickly explain a short dialogue that took place, rather than bother setting it out with the normal formatting of a new line for each speaker. Almost as though it's done as an aside.

    Example from one of the books:

    'Good news?' she said, because I owed her so much rent. 'You never can tell,' I said. 'But it's from a great man. He could send blank pages, and it would be good news to me.'

    There's other examples where the exchanges go on for even longer, but I can't remember where they occurred.
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    This sort of thing irritates the hell out of me, and appears to be becoming more prevalent.

    This example actually also breaks another of my pet hates, that of sticking dialogue (..."You never can tell,"...) between two slices of narrative.

    Both "errors" make it more difficult to see what is spoken and what isn't.

    It's also a really bad example of head-hopping; it's in first person POV, and yet the narrator knows WHY she said something, surely something only she would know.
     
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  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm totally OK with this. I've seen it enough times that it doesn't bother me (though it never really did). I remember learning in school that we have to have a separate paragraph for each speaker. The first time I saw someone break this advice, I simply went, "Oh, cool." And that was that.

    I think the reasoning behind this approach is to confine a single idea to one paragraph. Breaking up the speakers would mean separating that idea into multiple paragraphs. This is OK when the idea is complex enough that several paragraphs are needed, but in some cases, the writer feels splitting up the dialogue hurts more than helps. That's just the way I see it.
     
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  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is quite nonstandard. I see it as a moderately extreme style choice. Unless you feel that it's absolutely necessary to your writing, to the extent that it wouldn't even feel like your writing if you weren't doing it, I would recommend against it, just because it's likely to distract your readers and anyone that you might be trying to persuade to publish your work.

    And I say that as someone who adores Rumer Godden, who sometimes did it. When well done, I like it a lot. But as a new writer, it may cost you more than it gets you.
     
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  5. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Out of context I can see how it may seem like this, but if you've read the book up until this point, him making this assumption makes perfect sense.

    @ChickenFreak - I slipped into one of these during work on my own WiP and it felt like the most natural thing in the world - so much so I never even considered not doing it.

    My view is exactly as @thirdwind - and I think he has fully understood the reasoning behind it. Not that any of this matters - it's all down to personal preference.
     
  6. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with shadow and Chicken. Distracting and unnecessary IMO.
     
  7. Wolf Daemon
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    Wolf Daemon Active Member

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    No, just no. That just bugs the hell out of me.
     
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  8. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Yeah, I'm not into the exact example, but I have been known to do a sort of midground between it and the 'right' way. So my dislike of this is probably hypocritical. For me the line is apparently actually using quotes, because I'll write something like
    which I know should probably be
    but I'd never do
    It's a taste/style thing and I know some people would hate my method (pretty sure I've gotten a comment about it on this forum, actually), but I'm still going to do it, albeit sparingly. So seeing someone using quotes is something I'd hate and it honestly would damage my enjoyment of the book, but eh. Until an editor tells you "I'm not publishing this unless you change the weird dialog" I feel like you should do it however you want. Even then, really - it just becomes how determined you are to either stick to your style or get published.
     
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  9. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I am the tab and stacker type.
    (indent)"And when you want to get off your lazy ass", she said red face, as he walked away
    muttering something under his breath.
    (indent)"You're never going to get anywhere with that attitude, jackass."
     
  10. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Now this does confuse me. I've no idea who's saying the 'jackass' line here. Is it her or him?
     
  11. Sack-a-Doo!
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    I suspect this is a cost-cutting strategy initiated by traditional publishers (cram more words onto a page and therefore save paper) that's spilled over into ebooks (if indeed that's where you encountered it) as a way to 'keep up with trends.'

    I don't like it when I see it in other people's work and certainly wouldn't do it myself. But it may be something we'll have to learn to live with. (sigh)
     
  12. vermissage
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    vermissage Member

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    Here's one from Remembrance of Things Past:
    "You know who Mlle de Forcheville is, she's simply Mlle Swann. And her witness at the marriage, the Baron' de Charlus, as he calls himself, is the old man who used to keep her mother at one time, under Swann's very nose, and no doubt to his advantage." "But what do you mean?" my mother protested; "in the first place, Swann was very rich."

    One from The Defense:
    "But look, look!" exclaimed Luzhin senior. "You should go this way and everything is saved--you even have the better position." "Don't you see I'm in check?" growled the doctor in a bass voice and began to set out the pieces anew.

    And one from One Hundred Years of Solitude:
    "The Liberals will go to war," Aureliano said. Don Apolinar concentrated on his domino pieces. "If you're saying because of the switch in ballots, they won't," he [Don Apolinar] said. "We left a few red ones in so there won't be any complaints."

    These are the three books that I know of offhand which uses the technique. I'm sure there are many more out there.
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It's fine for short stretches. The purpose of beginning a new line is clarity. Short segments like those above don't suffer clarity issues. I see this quite a lot.
     
  14. vermissage
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    vermissage Member

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    The Remembrance of Things Past two way dialogue paragraph is actually quite long, as the first speaker takes over again and goes on for like 250 words.

    But you're right, it works best for short stretches, and when speaking of the paragraph in question, which is about 600 words, you have to put it in perspective as the novel is a whopping 3,000 pages long.
     
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  15. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I've read Swann's Way and Proust, of course, doesn't necessarily follow conventions. But setting aside writers like that, I've seen it done plenty in more conventional books when the passages are short. Other writers, Proust, Woolf, and I think some bits in Conrad's work, will employ the technique for lengthier passages.
     

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