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How to Write Dialogue

Discussion in 'FanFic Discussion' started by Amerision, Aug 22, 2008.

  1. Amerision

    Amerision Galactic Sheep Emperor DLP Supporter

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    B-b-but I like fellatio!

    ..

    Seriously, though. I hope this is helping at least some of you write dialogue. It really makes or breaks writing for me.

    On another note - Americans brought up outside of New England show a disturbing tendency of spelling dialogue as 'dialog'. No. Fail. Spell it the right way. I know your teachers said that was how it is spelled, but it's not. -_-
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2009
  2. Fuegodefuerza

    Fuegodefuerza Minister of Magic

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    Your cruel regional stereotyping offends my brethren and I. So I raise you with this:

    New England is cold and filled with rude, angry, pale people. :mad:
     
  3. Iztiak

    Iztiak Heir

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    Dialogue. D-I-A-L-O... Yeah, I've got it.

    Though now I can't remember which way I spelled it before I read that... /: I'm leaning towards the correct spelling.
     
  4. WEUer

    WEUer Seventh Year

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    Yes! Epic! That is one awesome site, people.

    I absolutely loath the bad grammar used in nearly all fics; especially when the writer (they don't qualify as authors) screws up the paragraphing! I mean, don't they know to switch paragraphs when there's a character change and not after a character change?
     
  5. Cappadocian

    Cappadocian Fifth Year

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    Just calling in to inform that the page has gone missing. Does anyone have a backup? I'd dearly love to read this. Dialogue is something I struggle on allot.
     
  6. wordhammer

    wordhammer Chief Warlock DLP Supporter

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  7. Cappadocian

    Cappadocian Fifth Year

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    Ah, thank you very much. I apologize for necroing this over nothing.
     
  8. Henry Persico

    Henry Persico Groundskeeper DLP Supporter

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    While I was reading the thread, I observed a universal writing rule that hasn't been noticed. Dark Syaoran almost mentioned it, but followed other path, the same with The Sour Kraut.
    When the author makes a dialogue, he/she is utilizing what in literature is called Direct Speech (here I apologize, in Spanish it's called "Discurso Directo", and I tried to translate it for you with my Tarzan English Language, I may be wrong, and in England it's called by other name).
    You may notice this by the utilization of quotation marks. What is written between said marks is what a character says. It is highly obvious, but many writers don't pay attention to that particular rule. So, what the character says can have: bad spelling, slang, accent, utilization of a word many times, etc. You, as a writer, can make a character say whatever you like, however you like, and nobody can criticize you.
    That doesn't make a good dialogue by itself; you need to write a lot to elaborate a dialog that it isn't mediocre.
    Another basic rule: When the dialog has passed 4 lines, don't repeat to much the names of the character dialoging. We know who you are mentioning. It makes the text dull and repetitive. You can reintroduce names when the dialog requires it, or when you mention another character that 'pops' in the conversation.
    Anything else was mention pretty much by various forum colleagues in this thread.

    P.S: I know I’m breaking the necro rule, but I believed this to be necessary a valuable for beginners.
     
  9. CheddarTrek

    CheddarTrek Set Phasers to Melt Moderator DLP Supporter

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    Wow -- I actually had this thread on my subscribed threads list. I wouldn't be sorry to see it revived for another page or two.
     
  10. Joe's Nemesis

    Joe's Nemesis High Score: 2,058 Prestige

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    I came across this link on another site. It's to a 14 page PDF that is very succint in explaining dialogue, including proper use of ellipsis, placement of tags, some common contractions to help dialogue, and a few words on character voice (not sure I agree completely with his list of contractions, nor will some others, I think).

    It's probably review for most of the people here, but it's a nice, quick, easy PDF that I thought would be helpful, especially to people here who are beta'ing others.

    http://www.crayne.com/articles/Dialogue--How-to-Punctuate,-Use-Tags,-and-Vary-the-Structure-of-Your-Dialogue.pdf
     
  11. CheddarTrek

    CheddarTrek Set Phasers to Melt Moderator DLP Supporter

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    I liked the PDF. I was expecting something more along the lines of how to write interesting/good dialogue, but it only touches on that nearer the end. It's most about punctuation and whatnot... which is extremely useful as well, so thanks. Grammar has always been a weak point of mine.
     
  12. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    Re-reading this, I disagree with the OP.

    I agree with the original article. Beats are capitalised, speech tags not.

    What I disagree with his Amerision's interpretation of what counts as a speech tag. I think he's taking the prescription that it has to be about speech too literally. The phrases "he glared" "he smiled" etc. are directly about how the speech was delivered. Maybe they don't relate to sound, but they do relate to the speech itself.

    There's a big difference between:

    "I hate you," he glared.

    And

    "I hate you." He glared.

    In the first, the speech is being delivered with a glare. The "he glared" modifies the speech. In the latter, it is a beat, which means it takes place after the speech. Because beats are chronological, the words "I hate you" aren't delivered with a glare in the latter sentence. The glare comes after.

    Examples:

    "I'm going to put my glasses down," he said. He put the glasses down. "Now I'm going to take a drink." He drank deeply. "Now I'm speaking with a smile on my face," he smiled. "And now I'm struggling to speak through my laughter," he laughed. "And now I'm speaking normally, but will laugh after I finish speaking." He laughed.
     
  13. Nauro

    Nauro Headmaster

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    And now English makes more sense once again.


    Where do you learn nuances like that? Cause I have't really seen that in any guides about dialogue. Specialized English grammar books?
    Or, a liberal application of force, interpretation and reasoning?


    Also, like in many languages, I'd guess that there are writers who get away with some stuff that's substandard. Does anyone know any list of 'some writers use that, but avoid it unless you're making thousands'?
     
  14. Swimdraconian

    Swimdraconian Denarii Host DLP Supporter

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    You can make a justification for that type of writing, but I find it to be very clunky and more than a little sloppy. It tells me, the reader, that the writer lacks the skill - and creativity! - to say more than simply he glared/she glared when designating the who, what, or how the speech is delivered. It screams inexperience and laziness.

    I've seen too many beginning writers abuse speech designations when they would be better off using the traditional designations of speech (he said/she said) and then elaborating on how the action was done.

    Stylistically, yes, it does flow with the cadence of English. I will give you that.

    But seeing "I hate you," he glared is one of the quickest ways to get me to exit out of a story or put a book back on the shelf. It doesn't bode well for the rest of the story quality. If the writer is willing to take this kind of shortcut in their writing, what else are they going to take shortcuts on?
     
  15. Uncle Stojil

    Uncle Stojil Auror

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    He glared. "I hate you."

    And

    "I hate you," he said, glaring at him/her.

    There you have it. A not-lazy (well, it is a bit lazy but in a different way) and 100% grammatically correct way of saying what you mean.

    You can't just bend syntax/grammar/logic, and that's what you are suggesting in your post, IMO.

    "I hate you," he said.

    "He" = subject
    "said" = verb
    "I hate you" = object

    You can't "glare something" - well, you can probably "glare a glare" like "grin a grin" but that's stretching it, too - but you certainly can't "glare something you say". That's incorrect. Or that's how I see it, anyway.

    Note - this is coming from an Italian guy with only an okay grasp of the English language, so I may be completely wrong. I can tell you, though, that in my first language your opinion is simply wrong.
     
  16. Nauro

    Nauro Headmaster

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    What Taure is talking about, at least how I see it, is not the way of bending the grammar to adhere to your wishes (although it might bet somewhat that, I cannot be 100% sure), but more of a using a more open mind with words, thus giving you that last drop of freedom you sometimes need to get through while trying to relay what's in your mind.

    I'm going to try a half-assed example, because I'm not from England. :D

    When you are trying to write a fast paced the scene, you can write
    "Duck," he said leaning to cover the child. The bullets narrowly missed him, as he fell on the ground with the child in his hands.
    it might be correct, but say you're trying to go faster.
    "Duck." He leaned to cover the child.
    seems faster, but then, it implies actions taken after the words were said - and that's kind of a bit of a brake.
    So you can consider
    "Duck," he leaned to cover the child.
    The point isn't that any of these is really much better or worse, but that you can choose them. And having this choice while writing the scene might allow you to choose the best variation from these available.


    I was somewhat lacking to find the reasoning as to why some authors do the exceptions in these cases, and Taure did give me a logical explanation for their usages - the "Maybe they don't relate to sound, but they do relate to the speech itself." bit.

    Unless Taure (or anyone else, for that matter) provides some kind of source, though, I am interpreting these as substandard stuff. And with it, it's always - "remember it's there, but use only as a last resort."


    So there.
     
  17. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    Stojil: I think you're demanding too much literal correctness from the language. Much of language - if not the greater part - makes absolutely no sense if you try to interpret it literally. Any learner of English who has had to study phrasal verbs, verb patterns and idioms will understand this. And of course it's the same with all languages.

    @Swim: I agree, but I think that comes down to the "said vs. other speech tags" issue, rather than the use of punctuation and beats.

    I'm not sure what you mean when you say shortcut, though. Brevity is an important part of good writing. E.g. "he said with a glare" is more likely to make me stop reading than "he glared". Of course, neither is perfect. Ideally, the author would convey the character's anger without using so blunt a means. "He glared" is only marginally better than "he said angrily". It falls heavily in the tell part of show vs. tell.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2012
  18. Joe's Nemesis

    Joe's Nemesis High Score: 2,058 Prestige

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    If you want to have an action happening at the same time as the dialogue, would you prefer the tags as Taure as written them, or would you rather see participle clauses and "as" clauses on a tag? From what I've been reading, editors/publishers see that as hack writing (to a certain degree, at least).
     
  19. Nauro

    Nauro Headmaster

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    Ah, just remembered a question that has been in my mind since forever, but didn't think it was enough to revive the thread.


    What happens when there is a sentence said aloud, and there's Beat that exists in the middle of it? What's the good/correct/right way to handle it?

    Which are right and which are wrong:
    1. "Watch the face, I don't want to," she caught the ball and threw it back, "get it bruised."
    2. "Watch the face, I don't want to." She caught the ball and threw it back. "get it bruised."
    3. "Watch the face, I don't want to..." She caught the ball and threw it back. "...get it bruised."
    5. "Watch the face, I don't want to" -she caught the ball and threw it back- "get it bruised."
    6. "Watch the face, I don't want to-" she caught the ball and threw it back "-get it bruised."
    7. "Watch the face, I don't want to." She caught the ball and threw it back. "Get it bruised."

    If I want her to catch a ball while speaking, do I have to to use something to make it into a speech tag for most of these to work?

    Just - I haven't seen a straight answer, only some examples somewhere, and I'm not sure which ones are crap.


    p.s. yeah, the example I tired to construct a few posts back is kind of wrong, since leaning isn't really a word that says that much on the way the words are said - even though it's enough to signify that they're said mid movement - you're free to ignore it.
     
  20. Uncle Stojil

    Uncle Stojil Auror

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    Personally, I would alternate it, use different ways (yes, even "as" clauses). If you don't like them, I'd suggest writing the action before the direct speech.
    No need for "he said", either.