1. The Bishop

    The Bishop Active Member

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    Writing between dialogue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by The Bishop, Jun 23, 2020.

    I have an inner conflict where I feel like I need to write a little bit between when character are talking.

    I.e. "Whattup, man," said Josh. He walked over to Tom. "How you been?"

    And in my mind, it gives clearer visuals to what I'm writing, like the scene and stuff. However, I do it a lot, and I feel like I do it too much. Maybe not though. But the reason I do it is to break up what people are saying and because I really want to show how the characters are moving around during the conversation. I don't know if this is bad when it's almost every line of dialogue, so that's why I'm asking. I don't do it for every word spoken, but I do it often enough.

    So what do you think? More or less stage direction?
     
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  2. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    I think that kind of stage direction is fine. I do a bit of it, and I find it often enough in the books I read.

    Maybe try different formatting?

    1. "What's up?" Josh said, walking over to Tom. "How you been?"

    2. Josh walked up to Tom, arms open for an embrace. "What's up man! How you been?"

    3. "What's up? How you been man?" Josh walked over to Tom and gave him a hug.

    I've found that any of these variations (and I'm sure there are other ways one could format this) convey the same essential meaning. I would keep in mind that it isn't always necessary for the reader to *exactly* imagine in the precise, specific order the events occurred. Whether or not he said it *while* walking over to Tom, before walking over to Tom, or after he walked up to Tom, might not even matter. In which case any of these variations are fair game, and you can change things up to avoid being monotonous or repetitive on a superficial level.

    Sometimes you can imply an action by detailing the next logical thing, such as: Josh sat beside Tom and ordered two beers. Clearly he had to walk from the door, unless he can teleport. This means that leading up to Josh sitting down beside Tom at the bar, you can describe the bar in a couple sentences, details about the environment that a person would take in as they walk to the bar. Is it a dive-bar? Is it loud? Empty? What kind of music is playing? Smell?

    Of course, context depending. If you think you do it too much, just ask yourself how necessary or important it really is. The weight of this detail would matter a lot more if, say, Josh is normally not the kind of guy to get up and walk over to greet somebody (for whatever reason, I don't know), so this action would actually stand-out and indicate something different about their relationship.

    Regardless, it clearly indicates that the two characters are well acquainted. So its perfectly serviceable.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2020
  3. Xoic

    Xoic Senior Member

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    Do it sometimes, but you also want to have pure dialogue at times to counterbalance that. Use your judgement about how much is too much.
     
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  4. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Cormac McCarthy omits these almost completely in his book The Road. But then he doesn’t use speech marks or dialogue tags either.

    Take from that what you will.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2020
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  5. Aceldama

    Aceldama Senior Member

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    I do it to add to the reading, but if you put too much salt in your mashed taters you mine as well throw them away.

    Good, pure dialog can have more impact then one might imagine.
     
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  6. Ted Catchpole

    Ted Catchpole Member

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    Nice!
     
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  7. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    The only thing I would point out is that you have used a voice tag and a line. Not sure if there is a need for both, although your example works well. Maybe if you used one or the other as a style choice? I was just thinking, how about if he called him Josh? So like line 2 or 3 that @Foxxx suggested. Maybe drop direct voice tags where possible.
     
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  8. Proficere

    Proficere New Member

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    I think it's perfectly fine to explain action. It lets you learn about the character and their behavior on a more personal level. I feel like, without this, it would be the equivalent of someone mashing the skip-dialogue button in a videogame where the characters just awkwardly stare at each other.

    I do worry I go overboard sometimes. Once something about them has been established (personality/relationship wise) I prefer not to mention it again unless it's significant in some way.
     
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  9. Cloudymoon

    Cloudymoon Member

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    He doesn't want the reader to understand the book? :read:
     
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  10. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    In actual fact it's incredibly easy to follow, which kind of backs up his logic. He argues that if written well enough, it should be perfectly clear who's speaking, and in what tone.
     
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  11. Cloudymoon

    Cloudymoon Member

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    That's clever. I'll have to grab myself a copy. :brb:
     
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  12. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    It helps that the book is written in bite size chunks. Every scene is almost like a chapter of its own. Sounds weird but it makes for a very easy read.
     
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  13. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

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    If you leave the action tags out altogether, the reader can become detached from the scene and read the dialogue as if it is a textbook in their hands. Ideally, you want the reader to be so drawn into the scene, they forget they're reading a book. Action tags will facilitate this. Also, think about the pace of the scene. Each action implies a pause in the dialogue which is fine if the scene is relaxed or the conversation disjointed. If it's a heated argument, too many action tags may give the wrong impression.
     

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