1. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    Why I hate writing dialogue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mercury12000, Jan 6, 2012.

    Think about it... how often does the storyline of real life hinge on what was actually said (compared to what was done)? But it seems like every single paperback novel I've ever read is rife with dialogue. 90% of the story seems to hinge on interaction between two or more characters with very little description of a character acting alone, and then of course there would be no dialogue when someone is alone. Now, I may be a bit more of a loner than the average person, but I do belive that people do spend a considerable time alone. And does that not mean that life ceases to progress, hence there is no story? I don't think so.

    What I'm getting at here is that I have a major hanging with my writing because I just don't think in terms of constant interaction and discourse as the main basis of storyline.

    Am I wrong?
     
  2. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like writing dialogue, but I wouldn't say that I'm one of those who seem to write almost only dialogue. I wish I would write more of it though, because I think I'm pretty good at it and I think it's fun. But even in my case the characters are alone sometime too, and they reflect a lot on what has happened, what will happen and so on. I don't think there need to be sooo much of it, even the narrative can be really interesting if it's done well. What I dislike instead is descriptions, both of places and people. I know I should write more of it.
     
  3. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    Although it isn't difficult for me, for a lot of people writing dialogue is hard. However, you can heighten suspense by two characters misinterpreting what they are saying to each other. And dialogue can show a character's personality in ways that action or description rarely can.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'm happy to read either type of work, so long as the work is well-written.

    I think a lot of readers are put off by a lack of dialogue, however. Particularly given the prevalence of dialogue in so much modern fiction. I know plenty of people who are put off by a book in the story if they flip through it and see that there is not a lot of dialogue.
     
  5. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    ^Wow, Tesoro, you and I are like polar opposites. I can write descriptions all day long. Eventually I have to bring myself to write some dialogue, but then I can't help feeling like it's sounds so mundane. Perhaps my problem isn't that I don't like dialogue, but that I don't know how to use it.
     
  6. xAudienceofone
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    xAudienceofone New Member

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    As long as its a good story, well written and has memorable characters how you write shouldn't matter much at all. If you want 10% dialogue rather than 90%, by all means do it!
     
  7. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    Again, I don't get this. Maybe it's because of my love of reading non-fiction, which doesn't normally contain any dialogue. But when I open a book and see pages of dialogue I tend to imagine the author having hidden ambitions of being a playwright and not a novelist.

    A good example would be Ligeia by E.A. Poe... hardly any dialogue, but awesome imagery. That is what I prefer. As opposed to Count of Monte Cristo, which reads like a soap opera script.

    Know your audience I suppose.
     
  8. Show
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    I feel a balance is key. Include as much dialogue as you feel necessary, be it a lot or a little.
     
  9. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    I'm still really confused about what drives an author to write so much dialogue.

    For example: Do people normally have long drawn out conversations with a store clerk or random old man? Or when friends get together are the conversations always so direct and on point? Well in novels they sure are. Nobody ever "chit chats" in a novel; everyone has perfect give and take and there is a constant driving interest.

    I just don't find it realistic which is frustrating when you're trying to write fiction that reflects real life.
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Fiction isn't necessarily supposed to reflect real life in every respect. Maybe if you are writing a literary work with that purpose in mind, but for most modern fiction that sells well (thrillers, romance, fantasy, or what have you) approaching it as though character interactions, dialogue, and the like are going to mimic real life is a sure way to bore readers.
     
  11. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dialogue is not supposed to be true to life, it just need to give an impression of a real life dialogue, without the meaningless parts. You just concentrate on the stuff that's important. I think many writers are afraid that people will find the book boring if they don't have massive dialogues because it is easier to read. That doesn't mean, though, that all of them are good in writing it.
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't like writing dialogue because it's too easy. I don't trust it. I can spew out pages and pages of dialogue, piling up my word count and thinking I'm writing up a storm, but most of it isn't really advancing the story that much. It's just characters jabbering at each other.

    Narrative is more difficult for me, so I trust it more. I have to pay more attention to mood, which means style, and I have to make sure that each paragraph has a function beyond just being there and taking up space. I write narrative and description much more slowly than dialogue, but I'm much more proud of the results.

    I enjoy writing scenes that only have one character, or possibly two characters who aren't talking to each other. Little or no dialogue, but lots of "real" writing!
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Writing that kind of jabbery dialogue (as you put it) probably is a bit too easy. Writing good dialogue that really is lean and advances the story is not as easy. There are some authors who use a lot of dialogue, but who are extremely good at using every word of that dialogue to great effect.
     
  14. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay, Mercury12000, think of your life without anyone ever speaking. What would it be like? You could sit in the living room and watch tv ... but of course no one would be speaking so that would eliminate 100% of everything ON tv. I guess there's the radi...oh ... maybe not. Well, there's always reading! And then there is your job. What would you do and how would you know WHAT to do and how to do it? No one could tell you because no one is speaking. So you'd just have to muddle through, make lots of mistakes on your way to figuring out your job. Go to the grocery store and can't find what you're looking for? Tough! You would not be able to ask for help because ... well, you know. And let us just hope that you are never caught on the wrong side of a cave-in. No one would know if you were alive or dead because ...

    Even people who cannot speak have developed a language, ASL, by which to communicate. Your reticence to write dialog may be a misunderstanding of the importance of communication in everything we DO.

    Now I choose to believe that you are being facetious in making this comment since we all know life does not cease to progress if a person is alone. And, of course, there are many times when a person will have no need to speak or would need to communicate without speaking. However, the world would be a pretty drab place without the music of the human voice to break the silence now and again. Another fallacy you are dealing with is: If you are writing to be published, you are not writing for yourself. You are writing to communicate ideas and story to the reader. The reader, like a good friend who just stopped by your house while you are deep in sign language communication with a third party, needs some words to follow what's going on.

    WORDS - DIALOG, really do contribute to the story and, if you don't believe that, you might be better off writing text books. Agents not only want dialog, they expect it. And you won't get representation without it.
     
  15. Ziggy Stardust
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    I hate reading jabbery dialogue too.

    One of my all time favourites quotes from C.S. Forester's character Horatio Hornblower:

    "Why must you speak when you have nothing to say?"

    I think that dialogue can be a trap, especially for inexperienced writers (such as myself). It's easy to pump out jabbery dialogue, it's hard to write dialogue that is natural, well formed and that really gives a sense of character.

    Speech is very important to developing a character though. Whether your character is the kind of person that never shuts up, or is that typical "strong but silent" hero type, who only speaks when he has to. Of course body language and action are also very important, but they're not more important.

    Even when a character is alone, you usually hear their thoughts/internal speech.

    It's like CastAway. Tom Hanks didn't have anyone to talk to, so he drew a face on a volley ball and talked to that. :D

    Conversations are a great way to develop relationships between characters. And this is on the central focus of many stories. But that doesn't mean it's necessarily going to be good/interesting.

    There are books where a character is in total isolation and it's only their own thoughts and actions for much of the book.

    "Into the Void" springs to mind. It's a true story of a guy that fell while mountain climbing, and his struggle to survive. It's almost all from his first person perspective, and describes everything he did in detail, and his thoughts.

    Also I remember this other book I read ages ago in school where a kid got stranded in the wilderness and had to survive by himself, until he eventually got rescued. Bear grylls type stuff.

    And actually I haven't read it, but going from the film, Into the Wild seems like a similar thing.

    And look at Gromit, from Wallace and Gromit, he has great character without ever speaking. Harder to pull off in writing of course, but it can and has been done.

    Most humans do not live in isolation though, speech is an essential and natural part of our lives. Dialogue is simply an element of story telling, completely up to you how you use it, or if you even use it at all.
     
  16. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    I don't now if I'm normal, but I have an open and friendly demeanor that causes people to approach me and talk to me. When I was still employed, I worked as a security officer behind a reception desk. There were a lot of people who came by my desk just to talk to me. Now I'm self-employed [I give courses in conflict resolution and self-defense], I take care of the house and the children [talking with other parents], and I'm a writer [talking to a lot of book store clerks and random people at caf├ęs. For example, yesterday I took my five-year old to a huge indoor playground where he ran wild, while I sat on a corner couch with a book and my iPod. The woman next to me dropped her cappuccino. I was hankering after a cappuccino myself, so I offered to get her a new one while I got one for myself, if she watched my stuff [and catch my son if he came to check on me]. When I returned with the coffee we had a conversation about conflict resolution in the workplace, and other people joined in... I have plenty of interesting [fiction worthwhile] conversations every day I get out of the house - I almost have to turn off my phone and doorbell to avoid having conversations with people.
     
  17. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    There is no dialogue when someone's alone? Schizophrenia is your solution.

    In response to the rest of the OP, stories aren't real life. Real life contains lots of boring people and people desperately dodging conflict left and right. In contrast, nearly every character in a story should be interesting, and conflict is the bread and butter of a good story.

    If all else fails, pretend your character is a social butterfly. Better yet, actually write about a social butterfly.
     
  18. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd agree with the others on that lots of things in life depend on dialogue. Example for when you're getting bad news, say someone died, or someone decides to file for a divorce, or telling you they're pregnant. Most of the conflicts in novels is born in dialogue between the characters, so I'd say it's important, even crucial, but that doesn't mean all of the book needs to be dialogue. Plus dialogue reveals a lot about how the character interact with the people around him, which is what makes him interesting. A novel character is rarely interesting enough just from reading about his thoughts and inner monologue, there has to be interaction with others.
     
  19. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    For a lark, read 'The Killer Inside Me', by Jim Thompson - about a deviously sociopathic main character who looks like a doofus and enjoys using inane chit-chat to wear people down until they stop paying attention to him...
     
  20. astroannie
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    I think in life, people talk so you need to include that. If you don't think dialog is important to carrying a story, try a vow of silence for a few days.
     
  21. Show
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    My characters chit-chat. Of course, it's a fair point to note that you probably don't have much time for chit-chat if people are dropping dead around you. (Not that this happens in every book. Just an example. lol) In fiction, the average everyday events of life are usually not given too much focus. There is an intense conflict going on. So why shouldn't the dialogue reflect that? If a conflict to the level of most fiction appears in real life, I am sure the dialogue in real life would also be more serious.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    for stellar dialog, read any of james lee burke's dave robicheaux novels... aside from the nifty stories he comes up with, they're worth reading for his great, quirky cajun dialog alone!

    a novel that's woefully short on dialog is like a bird that can't sing, or soup with no seasoning...
     
  23. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    I flipped through some Harlequin Romance novels this morning just to get more perspective on dialogue and my assumptions had been affirmed. Dialogue seems to be the driving force of fiction.

    Adjectives and verbs were just supplements to dialogue; "Blah blah blah" he said, meekly. She stood back and whispered "blah blah blah". they were both stunned. "blah blah blah blah blah" he shouted this time. "blah blah blah. blah blah blah blah", she couldnt' believe her ears.

    Usually at the beginnig of chapters the author will spend more time on the setting and possibly describe a characters routine or surroundings. But it's not long before the dialgue takes over the chapter.

    It's boring, IMO. I prefer the psycholigical aspect of a character.
     
  24. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    Do you model your writing on Harlequin Romance novels? And since when are Harlequin Romance novels the epitome of fiction? The conclusions you draw from your limited research are curious, to say the least.
     
  25. Mercury12000
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    Harlequin Romance's are the epitome of a genre of fiction, so don't even try to discount them. They generate half a billion dollars per year. So what's your argument again?

    Anyway, obviously I don't model my work after Harlequin novels because, like I've made very clear, I loathe writing (and reading) so much dialogue. However, if Harelquin romance's contain so much dialogue it, and they're so successful, then there must be a perfect legitimacy for it that I am just missing. I can accept that.

    I flipped through other books too and they were equally packed with dialogue, though not quite as much as the romances, which lead me to another conclusion: women readers and as well as women writers prefer dialogue. That makes sense because they talk so much IRL.
     

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