1. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Active Member

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    a drunk conversation

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by alpacinoutd, Oct 17, 2020.

    Hello.

    I'm writing a short in which a conversation happens between two individuals, one of which is completely drunk.

    Is there a verb which means "to say something in a drunk tone"?

    How can I avoid saying "he said in a drunk tone"?

    An example:

    "I'm fine. What are you talking about? I'm alright. The booze hasn't even kicked in yet," he said in a drunk tone. "You look pathetic," his wife scolded. "Come on! Can you stop being so uptight and come dance with me," he asked in a drunk tone. He walked awkwardly [like a drunk person walks] towards her to hug her.


    I am looking for some verbs to describe how a drunk person speaks and walks and avoid saying the same thing again and again.
     
  2. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

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    A drunk person could speak fiercely, or be melancholic, flirtatious, jubilant... intoxication has different effects on people and it would depend on the reason for intoxication. Definitely no need to repeat it throughout the conversation, you've established he is drunk at the beginning of the dialogue.

    Also, he could stagger or stumble or sway.
     
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  3. Malum

    Malum Clanging Supporter

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    Slurred, infer the scent of alcohol, glazed eyes. Abrupt, honest divulgences in their dialogue, over confidence. Aggression, depression, whatever characteristic emotions are likely to be enhanced because of being drunk. Drugs are subjective in their effects. As is your character's personality.

    Showing or telling. I don't believe it has to be one or the other in all novels.
     
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  4. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    Drunks repeat themselves... a lot. And they talk nonsensically over each other... you can't even call it interrupting because nobody actually stops speaking. And the walking is often easier than standing still. Lots of people are fine so long as they keep moving, but once they try to stand still, they tend to alternate between swaying and stumbling.

    You definitely don't need to make "drunk tone" speaker attributions. If the character has been drinking and acting like an asshat, the point will be more than made.
     
  5. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Contributor

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    @Homer Potvin hit it pretty right on the head, you'll iterate your drunken character better by showing the reader how he is drunk rather than telling. Use sensory imagery to fill in the smell and especially volume of the drunkard. Not everyone slurs, but they usually talk nonsense and the volume usually keeps increasing as more voices come in because they ABSOLUTELY NEED to be heard and make their point or joke. You can also point out things like how much they're sweating and the hand-eye coordination coming apart when they start dropping food or accidently breaking stuff. Black-out incoherent isn't the only type of drunk, you've got a lot of ground in between depending on how much they had.

    By all the sensory imagery, you can bypass the need to tell the reader, and let the reader develop their own sound for the character's drunken voice. Leaving more character description in the hands of the reader to decide makes the character more accessible to more people.
     
  6. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Active Member

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  7. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Active Member

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    Does this count as "creating sensory imagery"?

    His breath smelled like brandy. He was staggering and had to lean on the counter in order not to fall.
     
  8. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    To show rather than tell isn't that difficult, and you shouldn't need an example.

    To simplify, just imagine this drunk person in your head. Imagine how he moves or steadies himself on a wall. Then, in the narration, just tell us the things you're seeing.
    Yes. The second sentence is 'show not tell'. It's all too obvious, though. We know drunk people stagger, and we don't need to be told why he had to lean on the counter.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2020
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  9. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Active Member

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    How would you do it in a more subtle way?
     
  10. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Contributor

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    Well he's not going to be staggering and leaning at the same time. Sometimes just less is more. Combine the sentences and have the drunkard only doing one of the two. I would say leaning because if it's a conversation, they aren't liking to be going anywhere. Remove the "in order to not fall." That is assumed.
     
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  11. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    With this example you could just eliminate the bits you have an issue with and it would work fine

    I'm fine. What are you talking about? I'm alright. The booze hasn't even kicked in yet,"
    "You look pathetic," his wife scolded.
    "Come on! Can you stop being so uptight and come dance with me,"

    We already know that hes drinking, and that his wife things he looks pathetic, the reader can fill in the gaps and conclude that hes drunk without being explicitly told
     
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  12. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Active Member

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    Folks, is it so bad to say "stagger drunkenly"?

    What do you think about this?

     
  13. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'll do my best to answer your question and avoid giving you a Workshop-style critique in the wrong place.

    George dancing with his hands in the air is the right kind of thing to show his drunkenness, especially if he's not in the habit of it when he's sober. You can have the mother say, "George, you're drunk!" but I don't think you need it in the narration.

    One thing you can add is to have him say "The bottle is empty" as if lamenting the worst tragedy in the world. Drunks can get sentimental over the stupidest things. Believe me, I recall what it was like to drink too much rum and wax morose or ecstatic over something or other and be unable to stop. And there'd be the less-drunk friend I was babbling to, practically laughing at me to my face. It's one of the reasons I gave it up.
     
  14. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Active Member

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    I think wail would work as a verb for that.

    "Oh! Look! The bottle is empty," he wailed as if lamenting a great tragedy.
     
  15. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Your writing generally suffers from over telling.. having told us that he's wailed, you don't need the second half

    The same is true of your example paragraph

    She opened the door to her dimly-lit apartment to see her son in the corner of the living room. Her eyes wandered around from his blonde hair to the pile of clothes on the sofa, resting finally on the bottle of wine on the kitchen counter. The last bits of wine swirled around in an otherwise empty bottle. George was drunk, lost in the music and dancing with his hands up in the air. He saw his mom in his periphery and staggered drunkenly toward her. "Oh, look who's here. My dear mom," he slurred. George then grabbed the bottle and took the last swig straight from the bottle. "Oh, look, the bottle is empty now."

    She saw George dancing, hands in the air, as he staggered around the dimly lit apartment. Her eyes flicked from the clothes strewn on the sofa to the nearly empty bottle of wine on the counter. "Having a good time, son?"
     
  16. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Active Member

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    Fair enough. This is the first part of the story. I need to mention that she was outside and arrives home. That's why I had that open the door at the beginning.
     
  17. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    fair enough but do it briefly

    Sue stopped dead in the doorway, George was dancing...

    I mean look at your last sentence for an example of redundancy

    George then grabbed the bottle and took the last swig straight from the bottle. "Oh, look, the bottle is empty now."

    There are lots of different ways to write this, but try to avoid repeating words and unnecessarily detailed description of every action

    George grabbed the bottle and upended it into his mouth . "It's empty" he wailed

    Grabbing the bottle George, took a last swig "all gone" he moaned

    "there's none left" George dropped the empty bottle on the couch and sobbed
     
  18. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Active Member

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    Maybe the reason that I tend to overwrite is that I'm an English teacher in my own country. I prepare my students for international English tests like TOEFL. In those exams, learners need to speak a lot and embellish everything. My students usually end up getting good results.
    At the beginning of the class they are not talkative at all, but we develop a habit of overspeaking!

    But I will work on this problem.
     
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  19. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    Go to some bars, watch, and listen.

    It's great entertainment, and you'll also be doing some productive research.

    Show drunk. Don't tell drunk. *hic*
     
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  20. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Active Member

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    It's funny you should say that. I come from Iran. There are no bars in this country at all!:dry: :-D
    People do get drunk in parties, but they ain't thrown these days thanks to Chinese wet markets.:blech:
     
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  21. Vince Higgins

    Vince Higgins Active Member

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    Try writing in a drunk accent. for example;

    "I'm fine. What are you talking about? I'm alright. The booze hasn't even kicked in yet,"


    Becomes;

    "'M'fine! What'r you talkin bout." He paused. His head lolled drunkenly. Suddenly he perked up. "Tha booze hasn evun kicked in yet."

    In the novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, R.A. Heinlein creates a twenty second century lunar accent for his protagonist. Anthony Burgess did it in A Clockwork Orange.
     
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  22. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Active Member

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    I was thinking about this. Is it possible to dance with your hands in the air and stagger around? Is it something that could potentially confuse the reader?
     
  23. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    Since you've already established that he's drunk, toss out the word "drunkenly." The reader already knows why he staggered.
     
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