1. compmend

    compmend New Member

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    Feedback: Screenplay character introductions in a novel.

    Discussion in 'By Writing Form' started by compmend, Oct 22, 2016.

    I was looking at the formatting for a Screenplay and obviously each character's name is given before their dialog. For instance:

    [Anna]
    Who are you?

    [Bob]
    I am the exterminator.​

    In a novel I have noticed that when quoting a character you will generally do something like the following:

    "Who are you?", Asked Anna.
    "I am the exterminator." Answered Bob.
    I was playing around with the rules a little bit and came up with this snippet:

    Even for Florida it was hot, the heat reflecting off the white panel van, made it feel like John Doe would be well done on the inside soon.

    John Doe: “How long do you think the repairs will take?”

    Mechanic: “It will be another three hours at least.”

    John Doe: “If you get it done in two I will give you a five-hundred-dollar bonus.”

    Mechanic: “You got it boss.” His back straightened and white smile cracked his brown leathery face.

    Eddie Jones picked that precise moment to enter the garage. “What’s this I hear about a bonus?” He appeared angry and looking for a fight.

    Mechanic: “Hey” He placed his palms in the air. “Ask John Doe over there.”​

    I haven't personally seen a novel that uses the convention I used in my snippet, but, in checking out the rules for using a colon, one of the common accepted uses is to use it preceding a quotation.

    In my opinion the snippet I wrote makes it easier for me at least to keep track of my character dialog and even re-reading it, I know who is speaking and don't get lost.

    This whole idea was inspired while reading a Patricia Cornwell novel. I noticed that sometimes I had difficulty keeping track of the characters in multi-line dialogs and was constantly backtracking to clarify which character was actually speaking.

    Yell at me if you like, call me an idiot or Heretic, but, I would like some feedback on using the format above in a full length novel to help me and my readers, keep track. My story has a lot of characters and a lot of dialog. Note: I am going to be self-publishing to Kindle, not submitting my story to a publisher, if that makes a difference.

     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Do it if you like, but... My 2p: This feels a little like a snazzy gadget invented to alleviate the "impossible" task of boiling pasta. You've seen the commercials; you know what I'm talking about. ;) I've never once had the slightest difficulty keeping track of who is speaking in a novel that makes use of more traditional attributions.
     
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  3. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    I recently wrote a short story in which the main POV character is severely depressed and feels disconnected. I used the format you showed for just the telephone conversations because I liked the scripted feel of the format to mirror how the MC feels. Although, I didn't use quotation marks with the colon.

    For regular dialogue, I wouldn't use this, because, as Wreybies pointed out, it seems superfluous. It could be superfluous in my story, too. I don't know whether or not other people would like it. But I felt that I had a good enough reason to employ the format which went above just doing something different. I just don't see why you would do this without a justifiable reason.

    But if you like it, go for it. You can always change it back if you get a lot of negative feedback about it.
     
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  4. compmend

    compmend New Member

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    It may just be my knee jerk reaction to the Kindle style of reading books. I have always preferred the feel of paper on my hands while turning the page, but, my wife and I recently invested in a couple of Kindles and it seemed that it was easier, at least for me, to lose track of my place in a book. With the most recent novel I read, by Patricia Cornwell, it was a bit irritating as she uses a lot of long multi-line dialogs that sometimes splits over multiple pages. I was toying with the writing style as a way of dealing with the problem, but, I can see how it could be seen as kitschy and I like Spencer1990's idea of using it sparingly, for instance my story has a few radio calls, and this might be a way to contrast those from normal dialog. Thank you very much for the feedback it is very appreciated.
     
  5. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I would never read a novel in that format. I'd find it so distracting that I doubt I could get past it to enjoy the story; it just reads so choppy and disjointed to me, when ideally dialogue should flow organically.
     
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  6. compmend

    compmend New Member

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    Firstly, I want to thank you very much for your feedback.

    I haven't written anything in that format beyond the snippet above. It was an idea that came to me and though it technically appears to fall within the rules of writing, well maybe bending them a bit, I can tell by the replies I have gotten so far that it probably would not be a well received idea. Currently I am just using the standard indentation and quotations to mark the dialog in my story. As I mention in my reply to Wreybies above, I may use the format sparingly to differentiate radio calls, from regular dialog.
     
  7. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Contributor

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    I tend to make use of character beats to tell who's talking when he said/asked doesn't feel right.

    “How long do you think the repairs will take?” John asked.

    The mechanic rubbed his neck and frowned. “It will be another three hours at least.”

    character beat ^

    Also, you don't always have to put "he said" when someone talks, especially if it's only between two people. If the characters have already been introduced, you really only need to mention who's talking every third quote or so.

    Even for Florida it was hot, the heat reflecting off the white panel van, made it feel like John Doe would be well done on the inside soon.

    “How long do you think the repairs will take?” he asked the mechanic.

    “Another three hours at least.”

    “If you get it done in two I will give you a five-hundred-dollar bonus.”

    The mechanic's back straightened and a while smile cracked his brown leathery face. “You got it boss.”
     

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