1. CharlestsWhitfield

    CharlestsWhitfield Member

    Jan 17, 2014
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    Conversations with more than Two People

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by CharlestsWhitfield, Jan 30, 2014.

    I have a part in my novel where three characters are having a conversation. The problem is I want to let the reader know who is speaking, without the "she said" or "he said" at the end of the dialogue. To me it seems slightly annoying.

    I'm reading a novel right now and using it as reference. In it, the author chooses to use "he said" or "she said" in the first two lines for dialogue, and then proceed without it until the end of the conversation.

    Is their any other way I can differentiate between three character's speaking?

    Any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2014
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

    May 1, 2008
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    Puerto Rico
    Unless the logic of the individual trains of dialogue keep it clear who is speaking at any time, it may be necessary to give the occasional dialogue tag or beat to keep the logic strait for the reader. It takes surprisingly few to keep that train integral if you focus on stronger, more representative dialogue.
  3. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    with more than 2 people speaking, i see no alternative to using dialog tags and 'bits of business' to let readers know who's speaking... as an example:

    that shows how you can use both methods and avoid having to use a dialog tag for each speaker's lines, while still making it clear who says what...
  4. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
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    Ralph's side of the island.
    'A said, B said' is probably a lot less intrusive to the reader as it appears to the writer. Breaking the discussion up with imagery is not only important, it can also eliminate a few of the 'saids'.

    "I like you both." Jenna's face contradicted her words.
    Mike took a sip of tea and waited for me to answer.
    "No you don't, you aren't fooling anyone."
    Tea sprayed onto the table and I thought Mike would choke.​
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  5. Thomas Kitchen

    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

    Nov 5, 2012
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    I'm Welsh - and proud!
    This. I'm currently reading one of Lee Child's novels, and he uses loads of "he said, she said"s, sometimes with no particular reason or necessity. But it does work, in this particular instance. If you're still concerned about it, give part of the manuscript to someone and see what they have to say - but don't mention the speech tags. If they find it annoying, they'll pick it up; if you tell them about it, then they'll pick it up anyway and their opinion will then be of no use to you.
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  6. JayG

    JayG Banned Contributor

    Sep 27, 2013
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    Philadelphia PA
    The purpose of "he said," is to clarify when other methods are not useable. Much of the time it's clear whose turn it is to speak based on turn and who a given remark was directed to. We can often tell by antecedent and by language choice and the personal tics of a given character that show up in the dialog they speak (and how they speak it). Something like having a character say, "So Chuck, what do you think?" or: "she extended a hand toward Sam and said..." gives a prompt that says who is going to reply.

    People think we learned how to write in school. But that's only the very basic level. There are hundreds of tricks like this that are part of a writer's education. Yes, like you do here, you can ask. But there a lot of questions you should to ask but won't, because you don't yet know the problem exists. And that's why we should dig into craft, and add new skills, as well as practicing our existing writing skills.
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  7. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    Dialogue tags and/or beats are usually necessary, but sometimes what each person says can be sufficiently distinctive to identify the speaker.

    Here's an example of a multi-party conversation I did for the challenge of it: Table Talk - A Dialogue Exercise.
  8. Keitsumah

    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

    Aug 7, 2012
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    If you don't like the "he said" "she said" i would first say don't drop it entirely because it does work, just intermix it with actions. Like:

    "I told you this was a bad idea!" Timmeus glanced warily between Daxiim and Batos. Out of the two, the latter was definetly not happy to discover that he'd been spied on.

    Love using quotes from my novel, lol. Anyways, see where I'm going? You don't want talking heads. Just have them keep doing something and make sure that the setting is always noted at some point; though not too much.

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