1. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I'm Welsh - and proud!

    Dialogue Using too much dialogue?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Thomas Kitchen, Mar 14, 2014.

    Hi all,

    Whenever I've written a story, be that a short story or a novel, I've always found myself to be heavily grounded in dialogue. I love dialogue. Most writing articles focus on writing good dialogue because people already write good narrative, but for me it's the other way around. I know this because even lecturers, publishers, and fellow Creative Writing students have stated this about my writing. Nobody has said my narrative is bad, per se, but I sure don't use as much as other authors.

    What I'm wondering is this: is having a lot of dialogue okay in a story? I haven't had much experience with film scripts (wrote my first 'proper' one yesterday, in university), but I would like to give them a shot. The thing is, I have no idea how to go about it - I'm still not sure exactly how to write a script for television, film, or radio (in UK format, if there's a difference), and would I still need an agent, or is it different for that corner of the media? Is submitting to television, film, and radio the same as submitting to publishers?

    Bottom line is this: are there any authors which use a lot of dialogue in their books, and do readers accept it? And even if they do, should I also have a decent shot at writing scripts, in case that would be more suited for my work? I find that dialogue truly moves a story along.

    Thanks. :D
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    A lot of Hemingway's stories are heavy on dialogue. His Hills Like White Elephants is basically all dialogue. I can't think of any novels that have a ton of dialogue at the moment, but if I do I'll come back and post some examples.
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    If the dialogue works well, it could work and certain genre's are definitely more dialogue friendly. I remember reading R.L. Stine's Phone Calls which was done entirely in dialogue and it was a fun read. And Richard Layton - I seem to recall a lot of his horror novels being extremely dialogue heavy.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Allan Drury had long stretches of dialogue in Advise and Consent, which made sense since it was about the US Senate. But these were balanced by even longer stretches of narrative (in later novels, the narrative turned preachy). Clancy also had some segments that were heavy on dialogue, but these were more than offset by his military-techie discourses. I smiled when I saw @thirdwind's response, because I was thinking of Hemingway, too.

    In The Swan Thieves, Elizabeth Kostova could have a ton of dialogue - or, more accurately, extremely long monologues - but she avoids it by turning them into 1st person narratives.

    Maybe plays are really your best form.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    From what I understand, William Gaddis' JR is a 750 page novel written almost entirely in dialogue. It won the National Book Award in 1976. You can check out some pages on Amazon, if you're interested.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    I find my novel heavy on dialogue because that's the verbal part of the story in my head. It's the part that flows easily onto the page. For a short story I don't think it's as much of a problem. However, one of the most frequent critiques I get from my group is, not enough description. They can't see what my mind sees in regards to the setting.

    The reader needs to see, feel, & smell the story in order to be immersed in it.

    Of course the last chapter I took to the group they complained the description dampened the emotion the protag was experiencing at that time. I can't win. :p

    So now I'm working on making the description of the scene tie in better with what the protag was going through. Instead of only describing the scene, I am putting emotional reaction to the scene and not just the verbal exchange.
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Roddy Doyle's The Commitments is heavy on dialogue, but I'm not sure you want to use that as a model.
     
  8. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Speaking from a reader's perspective, I prefer a story that is dialogue-heavy than consisting of an overwhelming amount of description. I feel like dialogue is what keeps the story moving and keeps me engaged. Page after page of description fails to grip me.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There's no such thing as too much dialogue. There's only such a thing as too much ineffective dialogue.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...there's no 'right' amount, only what works and what doesn't...

    ...you can google for BBC format... i have amassed tips from the pros on any aspect of writing for film or tv that you want, that i'll be happy to pass on, if you email me...

    ...yes, you would... though in the UK, i have heard it's easier to submit scripts directly to the BBC, than it is to get anyone in the US industry to take a look at one, if you don't have an agent...

    ...see above... it's different in that with books, you can often submit directly to publishers, without having an agent... but it's almost always best to have one... in the US, that is... i've also heard one can get along more easily without an agent in the UK, but don't know if it's true...

    ...i'm sure there are and that some readers like or don't mind it... but dialog-heavy fiction doesn't draw the reader into the scenes as well as one with a better ratio, since only describing the scene's setting can do that...

    ...i mentor aspiring screenwriters for film and tv, so if you need any help/guidance/info along the way, feel free to email me any time...

    not necessarily, since a film script is not really mostly dialog and the action/description element is every bit as vital to the script as the dialog... perhaps even more so... and as screenwriting is the most specialized of the writing arts, it's not all that easy to learn to do well...

    ...the part in bold is the key here... it does do that, but it does not either show or tell the story... which is why the narrative is equally important...

    hope this helps...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  11. Tesoro
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    i don't see a problem, as long as it works. :)
     
  12. Gil VILLANUEVA
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    Gil VILLANUEVA Banned

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    What about dialog format for a novel?
    Example below:

    MARK: "I found the way out. But, we would have to make tools from scratch."
    MARY: "I dont know how much i can take of this nightmare."
    JESE: "It's ok Mary, just calm down. Take a few deep braths and relax. Dont look at the time or you will go insane."

    Is this acceptable dialog format?
     
  13. EdFromNY
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    That would be fine for a play. I've never seen it in a published novel.
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm a bit surprised, Ed! You're a James Michener fan. He did that in Space. Not at the beginning, as I recall, but later on he dealt with dialogue that way.
     
  15. EdFromNY
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    Yes, if I remember correctly, it was used to depict radio communication between a spacecraft and Houston. I reads rather like a transcript. And that reminds me of one other place I've seen it, a novel by William Landay called Defending Jacob, in which segments are presented as actual transcripts of grand jury proceedings. I would say those are not ordinary dialogue situations, but that doesn't change that my comment above was a tad hasty.
     
  16. Gil VILLANUEVA
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    Gil VILLANUEVA Banned

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