1. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    writing too much dialogue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by kingzilla, Mar 3, 2012.

    In my WIP book -- which I am about half way done with -- I have found I am writing a lot of dialogue. Since I am a first time writer, I don't know whether this is good or bad. When I attempted to write a book a couple months ago, I realized I had not much Dialogue and way to much static narrative and description so I have made it a goal to put a lot more dialogue in. In my newest scene I made, I had about 650 words dedicated to dialogue and 550 dedicated to all other types of writing. Is this healthy or am I using to much Dialogue?

    Thanks in advance - Kingzilla
     
  2. Fifth Business
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    Fifth Business Member

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    Sounds completely healthy to me. Hemingway typically had very little detail, but loads of dialogue.

    It's the way I also write myself. I actually switched to just writing scripts because of it.

    But it's not a problem.
     
  3. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    Thats nice to know. I have showed my chapters to a few friends and they all love it (its nice to be a teen and be writing a young adult book) so I assumed it wasn't such a big problem. I suppose there are many different styles of writing.
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Depends what you're doing. Some writers have had success writing a ton of dialogue with very little narrative, and others have had success doing the opposite. I don't tend to write a lot of dialogue, partly because I don't trust it because it's so easy to do, and partly because my characters tend to be pretty taciturn. With one notable exception, they're loners who don't talk much. I usually write a lot of narrative - characters doing things rather than talking.

    So what kind of story are you writing? One with many characters who talk to each other a lot? Or one with few characters who spend a lot of time alone? That will have a big effect on how much dialogue you write.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What determines whather you have too much dialogue is not the word proportion. It's how effective the dialogue is.

    What is true of narrative is also true of dialogue. If you have content that does not contribute to the story, icluding expositon of character, you need to prune it to remove the deadwood.

    There is a tendency to treat dialogue as sacred, not subject to the same rules as narrative. Perhaps it's a feeling that cutting out dialogue is somehow censoring the character. But characters are not real. They exist solely for the story.

    As you pick and choose scenes, and even scene elements, to keep the focus on the relevent material, you do the same with dialogue. Dialogue is not a verbatim report of all the flows from the character's lips. It should give the illusion of real speech while leaving out the fluff and noise. Each piece of dialogue should open a window for the reader to new insights about the story or the characters. Often what is not said is more revealing than what is spoken directly.

    So examine your dialogue in that light instead of the word proportions. Does the dialogue communicate to the reader to the same degree, word for word, as the narrative? If not, get out the pruning shears.
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is this a rough draft ? My first drafts tend to be dialogue heavy and I add deeper POV, more setting etc on the rewrite.

    Some stories are more dialogue heavy than others - at least one book I remember has no dialogue in it.
     
  7. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    My WIP is kinda dialogue heavy too, but that's because I prefer to 'show' the plot unfolding in scenes rather than telling it in narrative. I also have a lot of characters - I've introduced 4 main ones and 7 secondary ones already, and I'm on chapter 5 - so there is a lot of character interaction. It seems natural to me to have a lot of dialogue in a story that is about people, and how their lives impact one another. I think, as Cogito says, you just have to judge whether the dialogue is working for your story, or if it's superfluous filler. There are no rules other than that.
     
  8. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    On the other hand I've seen a book by norwegian novelist Erlend Loe (haven't read them though, but they look nice) that seems to be almost only dialogue. and it doesn't even contain quotationmarks or dialogue tags, so you don't really know who says what but you get that from the context I guess. Any other writer who uses a lot of dialogue? I'd like to read novels like that. I think it could teach me a lot. I think they are the funniest part to write.
     
  9. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    My problem with dialogue is that it tends to drag. And by that I mean, there are just two people talking and they're not revealing anything new to the audience, and they're not showing their characters, just dull words with no meaning. And then in my desperation I write a really long dialogue and the story implodes.

    There's no problem with a lot of dialogue if it's well written. I can envision a delightful story of entirely dialogue in which a complex and interesting plot unfolds entirely through people talking about it. But that would be an extreme example and a very delicate balance to strike.
     
  10. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    My WIP is a rough draft (1st draft). At this point, I really can't afford to go back and edit. If I did, I know I would be sucked in and I would never finish my 1st draft. Since my novel is a young adult book, I try to implement as much humor as i can without wrecking the plot or storyline. This requires a lot of... not pointless dialogue, but not really useful diaglogue either. I don't like to plan to much before I write so I someitmes do go off course, but I usually catch myself before I wreck my scene. I guess I just have to finish my 1st draft and see what damage has been done :D
     
  11. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    Scandinavians are flavour of the month, they can get away with anything until the next trend.
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This makes no sense to me. Narrative IS showing in scenes, if it's done right. It's not just telling. I had a chapter in my novel in which a character went hunting, all by himself, and it was an important sequence that ran to 10,000 words. Zero dialogue, because there was no one for him to talk to, and he wanted to keep as silent as possible anyway so as not to spook his prey. I think it was all showing, no telling.

    Narrative does not equal "telling." Dialogue does not equal "showing."
     
  13. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    That's not what I said. I am aware that narrative CAN be showing, but for my particular story, big chunks of narrative means there is no character interaction, and my plot is all about character interaction. Lots of action and description is fine, but that's not for me. I never have been, and never will be, someone who can write pages and pages of narrative without boring the shit out of both myself and my reader. I need PEOPLE in my life who like to CONVERSE with each other. Maybe it's because I'm a fairly sociable person. Or a complete chatterbox :D
     
  14. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    I would say if you’re using dialog to describe atmosphere like “Look Jim the street lights have come on and the streets are damp.” Then you have to much dialog. On the other hand you can put together a character study with a number of characters in discussion with nothing but the equivalent of 2 or 3 hours of pure dialog and have a masterpiece.

    Personally I find you have to use narrative to move things along or you end up trying incorporate endless minutia that are important to the story but can take forever to include with just dialog. It’s also hard to maintain pace and continuity when you span weeks, months, years and maybe even centuries when all you have is dialog.

    In the end you have to decide what works for the piece. The tempo and atmosphere you're trying to create.
     
  15. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    @ superpsycho I use a mix of static description, narrative, and dialogue to describe my atmosphere. I try not to lean on one of the three, but since my book is YA and it requires the plot to almost always be moving, I try to use dialogue to describe. I never do sentences like the one you wrote, mine are more like:

    "'Do you see that building there?' Joel said.
    Matt shook his head, 'No, I don't.'
    Joel pointed to a tall skyscraper which stood above the rest of the city's towers. It was had a circular structure and the entire building was covered with tinted glass windows. 'Don't be stupid, Matt, it is the one with the logo on it. The big A with a circle around it. Oh, and it has a red flag on the top as well.'"

    That is pretty much an indirect example of description in my novel. I didn't say it all at once, or even the same way, but the idea is by the end of the conversation, the reader knows that Matt is refering to a tall circular glass building with a logo on it and a flag at the top.
     
  16. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    As long as the dialogue is important enough to move the story along, it's no sweat! I myself like to write lots of dialogue for scenes and plan out lengthy scenarios. If you truly feel the dialogue is meaningful then theres no need to worry, your fine.
     
  17. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    In your example it would depend on the reason Joel needed to tell Matt about the building. If the observation stands alone then why is it there? If there is a reason for Matt and Joel to discuss the building as part of the plot, then of course dialog is what you want. If it’s just to provide a general atmosphere of the landscape then I’d rather just have one character stop look around then peek into his thoughts and feelings, so the reader gets some emotional feedback rather then a dry distribution.
     
  18. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    If i was going to ellaborate on the example, the building would be probably important, hence Joel pointing at the building. I know what you mean, though.
     
  19. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Then don't worry this is just a first draft. Once you are finished decide whether you are going to heavily edit or rewrite. Either way the ratio of dialogue to description will probably change.
     
  20. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    I am very much dreading a rewrite. LOL
     
  21. zaffy
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    A skyscraper with a red flag on it, and Matt couldn't see it!!! He should've gone to Specsavers.
     
  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that the technique can work, but this specific example isn't working for me - the things that Joel is saying sound like things that you need the reader to know, not like things he would actually need to say to Matt. Either the logo or the flag should be sufficient to identify the building to Matt; having two items of description telegraphs, to me, that the conversation is for the reader's benefit. In fact, having any item of description appear only in the dialogue, when you're providing a lot of description in narrative anyway, gives me that vibe. If this were mine and I were editing, I would change it to:

    "'Do you see that building there?' Joel said.*
    Matt shook his head. "Which one?"
    Joel pointed to a skyscraper that stood above the rest of the city's towers. It had a circular structure and the entire building was covered with tinted glass windows. A large logo, an "A" surrounded by a circle, dominated the top several floors, and an enormous red flag flew at the very top. "Don't be stupid. That gigantic ugly steel-and-glass thing? With the flag? Did you forget to wear your contacts again?"


    Here, I've completely abandoned having the conversation describe the building. Instead, it's providing some insight into Joel's feelings about the building specifically and one kind of architecture in general, and also lets us know that Matt wears contacts. And it retains the fact that Joel appears to be pretty contemptuous of Matt, and that he doesn't hesitate to be rude to him.

    Now, the contacts part is a lousy example, because nobody is likely go out without their contacts; pretending that they would is, again, something that telegraphs that I'm using the conversation to communicate a fact. It's just an example (a poor one) of using dialogue to convey information that is a couple of levels of indirection away from the actual topic of the conversation.

    ChickenFreak
     
  23. Jowettc
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    I think you need to separate the narrative - i.e. an inanimate description from dialogue i.e. two people talking.

    "Do you see that building?" Joel asked.
    Matt shrugged, 'Which One?"
    "You see the big blue one?"
    "Sure."
    "And next to that, you see the circular one with the pointy top and the big red 'A' plastered over the side?"
    "Sure."
    "We have a winner!"

    Matt squinted as the sun reflected off its sheer glass sides.

    Joel patted him on the back laughing, "Geez dude, it's huge. It even has flags for chrissakes."

    Could be another way to go about it. In any event - you mentioned a dialogue to narrative ratio early on - I wouldn't be too bothered at the early stages - remember, as a beginner you are probably using five times the words you need to to convey a point so you should cull heaps during editing.

    I have read some stories that were light in dialogue and others heavy - once again it depends on what the premise / theme of your story is. If the entire story takes place in a single room between two people, it's fair to assume the story might be dialogue heavy.
     
  24. zaffy
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    Glad Matt took my advice, not bifocals I hope, they have you tripping up everywhere, still that could be part of the plot.
    "Hey mind you don't trip over that skyscraper," said Joel, "oops too late."
     
  25. superpsycho
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    “Do you see the building with the big “A” on it?” Joel asked.
    Matt shrugged “Ya, why?”
    Nodding towards it Joel answered “That’s where we’re headed, near the top.”
    Looking a bit confused Matt asked “What in hell for?”
    With a sly grin “Let’s just say I want to take that “A” and shove it up their “A”. And I want to make it hurt.”
    Matt stunned and a bit nervous “Couldn’t we just send them a nasty note or something? Maybe, let them off with a stern warning this time?”
     

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