A Place of Safety
I expect simple behaviours here. Friendship, and love.
Any advice should be from the perspective of the person asking, not the person giving!
We have had to make new membership moderated to combat the huge number of spammers who register
















You are here: Home > Forum > A Place of Safety > Literary Merit > Dialogue
Dialogue  [message #71509] Fri, 06 May 2016 08:35 Go to next message
timmy   United Kingdom

Has no life at all
Location: UK, in Devon
Registered: February 2003
Messages: 13454



I just want to open a discussion about dialogue.

For you, what are the rules?

Do you have examples of good dialogue you would like to share?

What about poor dialogue?

Examples may be given, and are allowed under "Fair Use" because they are for education purposes and discussion, but they need to be snippets, not breach of copyright of someone else's full story.

Maybe you would enjoy writing, but find dialogue hard? This may be a good way to work out how to do it.

How poor must the dialogue be before you abandon reading a tale?

Does good dialogue alone make a good tale?

Does a good story actually require dialogue?



Author of Queer Me! Halfway Between Flying and Crying - the true story of life for a gay boy in the Swinging Sixties in a British all male Public School
Re: Dialogue  [message #71547 is a reply to message #71509] Thu, 12 May 2016 03:35 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Smokr is currently offline  Smokr   United States

Likes it here
Location: the burning former USofA
Registered: July 2010
Messages: 399



Quote:
timmy wrote on Fri, 06 May 2016 04:35I just want to open a discussion about dialogue.

For you, what are the rules?

Do you have examples of good dialogue you would like to share?

What about poor dialogue?

Examples may be given, and are allowed under "Fair Use" because they are for education purposes and discussion, but they need to be snippets, not breach of copyright of someone else's full story.

Maybe you would enjoy writing, but find dialogue hard? This may be a good way to work out how to do it.

How poor must the dialogue be before you abandon reading a tale?

Does good dialogue alone make a good tale?

Does a good story actually require dialogue?

--
The rules of dialog are confusing and sometimes contradictory. And they vary as well. You can find them all over the web.
But above all, the dialog should reflect the speaker, his/her age, intelligence, region/nationality, and emotions.
A ten-year-old will not say, "No, Dad, I do not wish to remove the trash at this time. Perhaps later."
Obvious, but some authors, even 'professional' ones, do it. They use too formal a mode of speech.
Then others use too informal a mode.
"Nah, g'down dis street 'n take a'right 'n you'll see'er up on dat dere heel."
That works for one-off dialog, but if one of the main characters talks that way, it better be a short story, or the reader will leave.

I will stop reading an otherwise good story if the dialog doesn't fit the characters. I'll accept it if a precocious and erudite character speaks very formally, but if the character is supposedly just a typical middle-classer but talks like an English professor, I'm out. Especially when youngsters talk more formally and correctly than the adults in the story. Or when every character, despite differing ages and backgrounds and education, all speak exactly the same way.
Short stories can have characters that all talk alike. Longer stories really need the characters to develop enough that they should have their own vocal foibles from the start.
Excellent dialog cannot save a bad story, though a good story can be nothing but dialog. Nor can an excellent story carry on with dreadful dialog. And a good story does not require any dialog at all.

As you work on a story, or go through doing editing or rewrites, keep notes on each character, and make sure each one speaks somehow in their own way. Give them a favorite word or words, or don't let them use certain ones at all. Maybe Jeff hates the word "fuck" but uses the word "asshole" all the time. Maybe Tom never swears, but bites down on his lip and rolls his eyes. Maybe Kathy swears like a drunken sailor. Maybe Kyle is from Alabama and has a thick accent, and calls every one a 'douche bag'. Maybe Theresa's mom calls everyone 'dearie'. Maybe Chris uses very few words at all, and speaks in very short sentences. Maybe Dave talks on and on.

Mashall asked us if we wanted to go to the movies.
Mike said, "Yeah, okay," Mark asked "Why not?" Mitch said, "Cool," Marv said, "That sounds like a great idea!" and Murray shrugged, then added, "Sure."

As for myself, I hate seeing semi-colons and colons in dialog. They don't belong in my opinion. Pauses in speech should be handled with commas, periods, and ellipses.
Short pause, comma. Long pause, period. Really long pause, as if thinking or hesitating, ellipses. Colons and semi-colons are used to tie together clauses in text - not to tie together thoughts or ideas in speech. Speech is fluid and dynamic, not rigid and restrained by forethought and structure.
A prepared speech is different.




raysstories.com
Re: Dialogue  [message #71548 is a reply to message #71547] Thu, 12 May 2016 08:40 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Nigel is currently offline  Nigel   United Kingdom

On fire!
Location: England
Registered: November 2003
Messages: 1756



I'm just trying to get my head around the topic.  I agree with Smokr that large pieces of dialogue written in the vernacular are tiresome and a big turn off, even more so when it is not the reader's way of speaking.  Immediately you have a paradox or a double bind - speech, ie the spoken word, in writing.

One suggestion I made when looking through Chris 'n' Marcus for Paul Jamison was to change Yorkshire to 'Yarkshire' in one instance:

"Nah, it's okay.  He's a 'Yarkshire lad' and they're very thick skinned, you know... due to the awful weather they get in Wakefield, I imagine," I suggested.

The children I came in contact with when I was working were admittedly middle class and by and large spoke a good standard of English.  The rare exceptions were those who came from isolated rural areas, but even they eventually became bilingual in their spoken English, after 5 or 7 years.

In my own stories I sometimes give a flavour of the way a character speaks, then revert to standard English.

The other use I make of dialogue (apart from communicating speech) is as a lightener.  It breaks up the script on the page and makes it look less serious and more interesting.

Hugs
Nigel

[Updated on: Thu, 12 May 2016 08:44]




I dream of boys with big bulges in their trousers,
Never of girls with big bulges in their blouses.

…and look forward to meeting you in Cóito.
Re: Dialogue  [message #71554 is a reply to message #71548] Fri, 13 May 2016 13:53 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Nick Deverill is currently offline  Nick Deverill   United Kingdom

Toe is in the water

Registered: November 2012
Messages: 78



It's a difficult one this. I suppose the basic criteria is that of readability and credibility. Too much dialogue and you risk falling into 'he said, she said' territory and too little risks the story turning into an account of what people did with little opportunity for the reader to identify with a character.

Most if not all stories that use dialect risk making the end product hard to read and thus turning the reader off. I was certainly turned off by the language used in Anthony Burgess's book, "A clockwork orange" although it was a major success so clearly not every reader thought as I did. Likewise, although dialect could well be needed to define a character, an accurate rendition of the 'dialect' I encountered in a very poor area of Liverpool would stop the story even being read. Although the kids, 15,16 and 17 I guess, could converse among themselves, I had a very hard time understanding them and even basic concepts were hard to communicate. And before my deafness, I was better than most at picking my way through accents and dialect. Often rules exist to be broken, one would need to use the 'F' word a few times if you were writing a story about someone I sat near on a bus. He was the most prolific user of the word I've ever heard, at least once per sentence and if you wrote exactly what he said, you'd probably be accused of literary embellishment - you'd have to tone his speech down to be believable!

Nigel's example serves two ends, showing how a little dialect spelling can help to define a character without hindering readability and demonstrating the correct use of the ellipsis which may be the most incorrectly used punctuation mark of all.

It's an interesting subject, and probably the only correct conclusion that can be drawn, is, there isn't one!
 

[Updated on: Fri, 13 May 2016 13:54]

Re: Dialogue  [message #71592 is a reply to message #71509] Fri, 20 May 2016 08:53 Go to previous messageGo to next message
timmy   United Kingdom

Has no life at all
Location: UK, in Devon
Registered: February 2003
Messages: 13454



The part I find hard is when there are three or more people in a conversation at the same time. I detest an iteration of A said, B Said, A Said, D Said, B Said, C Said, etc

Sometimes you need more than one speaking, but the talk has to flow, like a ball on a volleyball court, but it also goes fast, sometimes faster than the he said, she said, they said, we said stuff. Think of kids mucking about, or at lunch in school, or a load of businesspeople interrupting each other at a meeting.

How do we keep the momentum while making it 100% obvious who is saying what and to whom?



Author of Queer Me! Halfway Between Flying and Crying - the true story of life for a gay boy in the Swinging Sixties in a British all male Public School
Re: Dialogue  [message #71593 is a reply to message #71592] Fri, 20 May 2016 09:52 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Nigel is currently offline  Nigel   United Kingdom

On fire!
Location: England
Registered: November 2003
Messages: 1756



This is hard to get across without writing copious examples, but the judicious addition of stratagems such as 'you two', names, 'you lot', 'all of you'.

Another idea is to write the scene as it comes out of your head, leave it for half to twenty-four hours, come back and re-read and you will easily see the clear bits and the ambiguities.

Think yourself into the real life situation.  How do you make it clear who you're talking to?  Everyone, an individual, two particular individuals.

The 'he said', 'she said' is boring and so use different verbs: speak, reply, answer, riposte, respond, exclaim, interject, ask, enquire, interrupt, explode, groan, moan, whinge, laugh, grin, smile, burst out and many others.  I think we had better leave 'ejaculate' off the the list for our type of literature, unless they actually did of course.

Change the position of the verb:  He said "Such and such."   "Such and such" said William.  "Such and such" William said.

Change the verb into the historic present, loved of French writers, not particularly liked by me, but as an act of discipline I am forcing myself to write my present work in the historic present in .  Easy to lapse.

More ideas will probably come.
Hugs
Nigel



I dream of boys with big bulges in their trousers,
Never of girls with big bulges in their blouses.

…and look forward to meeting you in Cóito.
Re: Dialogue  [message #71594 is a reply to message #71593] Fri, 20 May 2016 11:10 Go to previous messageGo to next message
timmy   United Kingdom

Has no life at all
Location: UK, in Devon
Registered: February 2003
Messages: 13454



I disagree greatly on the use of copious synonyms and alternatives for 'said', though accept that a few alternatives are useful. I would rather leave the descriptive verb out, more often than not, than use it one often, or to avoid resorting to an alternative.

Omitting 'said' (etc) is  fine, especially with a singles tennis conversation. The order and paragraphing makes it obvious who's speaking. But make it a doubles game and the problems arise. Who hit that last ball? How do we indicate it. Moved to a full volleyball team and the problems get magnified.

Use examples by all means.  How about a rapid fire conversation between Bob and Carol And Ted and Alice? At least we have two sexes. That differentiates a bit.

Then try the same with Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb. They're all firemen, all boys.

[Updated on: Fri, 20 May 2016 11:13]




Author of Queer Me! Halfway Between Flying and Crying - the true story of life for a gay boy in the Swinging Sixties in a British all male Public School
Re: Dialogue  [message #71595 is a reply to message #71594] Fri, 20 May 2016 16:04 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Nick Deverill is currently offline  Nick Deverill   United Kingdom

Toe is in the water

Registered: November 2012
Messages: 78



Quote:
timmy wrote on Fri, 20 May 2016 11:10
Then try the same with Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb. They're all firemen, all boys.

Ah, Trumpton... Severe danger of losing any readers not in the UK I think.
Re: Dialogue  [message #71596 is a reply to message #71595] Fri, 20 May 2016 17:05 Go to previous messageGo to next message
timmy   United Kingdom

Has no life at all
Location: UK, in Devon
Registered: February 2003
Messages: 13454



"Nick "

"Quote:"
timmy wrote on Fri, 20 May 2016 11:10
Then try the same with Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb. They're all firemen, all boys.

Ah, Trumpton... Severe danger of losing any readers not in the UK I think.

--
True, but with a pair of Pughs it makes a great challenge for fast flowing multi-person dialogue without loads of Pugh said, Barney McGrew Said, etc etc. I am genuinely interested in whether folk will show us the way. Fancy a crack at it?



Author of Queer Me! Halfway Between Flying and Crying - the true story of life for a gay boy in the Swinging Sixties in a British all male Public School
Re: Dialogue  [message #71597 is a reply to message #71596] Fri, 20 May 2016 17:54 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Nick Deverill is currently offline  Nick Deverill   United Kingdom

Toe is in the water

Registered: November 2012
Messages: 78



In most real life group conversations, there are two main figures, with others in the group taking secondary roles.

"After all" said Barney McGrew, "the issue is one of identification".

"True" remarked Cuthbert "you don't need to have words assigning who spoke when it's plain to see from the dialogue".

The others murmured their assent.

"But what do we do when there are two people with the same name?"

"That's easy, after all, we don't call the two Pughs the same thing do we, we have nicknames to use."


Now who are the last two voices and in what order? Given the dialogue has already referred to the Pughs and all the others it must be the first two voices. But the questioner is meant to be Cuthbert again with Barney providing the answer. A leading "But" is also a strong clue. Although in this instance, it does not matter greatly if you disagree with me.

In truth though, you'd not have this problem since very few stories of any type start with a group conversation between characters you've not already at least partially introduced.
Re: Dialogue  [message #71598 is a reply to message #71597] Fri, 20 May 2016 20:14 Go to previous message
timmy   United Kingdom

Has no life at all
Location: UK, in Devon
Registered: February 2003
Messages: 13454



"Nick "
In most real life group conversations, there are two main figures, with others in the group taking secondary roles.

"After all" said Barney McGrew, "the issue is one of identification".

"True" remarked Cuthbert "you don't need to have words assigning who spoke when it's plain to see from the dialogue".

The others murmured their assent.

"But what do we do when there are two people with the same name?"

"That's easy, after all, we don't call the two Pughs the same thing do we, we have nicknames to use."


Now who are the last two voices and in what order? Given the dialogue has already referred to the Pughs and all the others it must be the first two voices. But the questioner is meant to be Cuthbert again with Barney providing the answer. A leading "But" is also a strong clue. Although in this instance, it does not matter greatly if you disagree with me.

In truth though, you'd not have this problem since very few stories of any type start with a group conversation between characters you've not already at least partially introduced.

--
I like that. Anyone else want a go?



Author of Queer Me! Halfway Between Flying and Crying - the true story of life for a gay boy in the Swinging Sixties in a British all male Public School
Previous Topic: Just after announcements
Next Topic: A Matter of Perspective
Goto Forum: