Posts tagged dialogue
Posts tagged dialogue
This post is not about whether said should be used as often as possible (it should).
I’ve noticed that a lot of people have trouble attributing dialog without sticking “he said” (or any other dialogue tag) at the end of every set of quotation marks, which gets repetitive. Ending dialogue tags are inelegant and often unnecessary, and should be used with prudence.
If I met you right now and we got to talking, I might steer the conversation towards humor and jokes, since it’s something everybody can relate to. Maybe I would share some of my favorite websites with you or have a lengthy discussion about books once we got to know each other. I would do these things not because books and websites and jokes are important things that you have to know about but instead because I’m the kind of person who naturally converses about such topics.
The same should hold true for your characters. You’re not expected to include every little conversation they make about the humdrum things in their lives, but when they talk, it should be them talking, not the plot. I’ve written earlier about how characters say things, but what they say is just as important.
When you write dialogue, you really need to ask yourself if your character would really say what you’re having them say. If they wouldn’t, there are better ways to advance the plot. There isn’t a single villain in the universe who would tell his plan again to a room of people who have already heard it and “excuse” his behavior by prefacing the plan with “As you already know.” The same applied for heroes: if your boyfriend already has a firm grasp on what your powers do, you aren’t going to explain them again when you actually use them.
Exposition and plot development are fine and dandy, but they should only emerge from dialogue if the character would actually say those things.
The follower of the day is mycurrentproblem.
While the others in the main group are still fighting the dragon, Joey is kidnapped by giant eagles. For a couple of days, the group wanders around without him. Later on in the story, Joey, who is ten like the rest of them and spends all of his spare time obsessing over martial arts, tells of his daring escape from the eagles’ lair.
Neither the fact that he is ten, the fact that Joey doesn’t read much, nor the fact that he usually has a distinct voice will factor into his storytelling. No, for the few pages where he details how he escaped, he will sound just like the narrator.
For some reason, when a character tells a story or a long memory, they seem to lose their distinctive voice. They recount it just as a professional storyteller would, never going back to something they forgot to include halfway through. When it’s a memory, they never take long pauses to recall exact details. A character remembering an important point later in the conversation could easily be played for either comedy or drama. Instead, they mimic the style of the text outside of the quotes.
To me, this compares to a play which has a narrator. In this hypothetical play, whenever a character is supposed to say more than three sentences, they lip sync while the narrator talks. It would look and sound ridiculous, right? By having the characters be incredibly good at storytelling, you’re basically doing the same thing.
You might think that readers won’t be able to take a long passage written in that character’s voice. In most cases, you’d be wrong. How a character tells a story can show a lot about him or her. If your character has a really bad speech impediment or some other reason that they can’t speak for extended periods without annoying the reader, than have them tell it through a dialogue with somebody else. In fact, if they have a really bad speech impediment, it will only make it that much more of a stretch for them to tell a story in the same voice as the narrator.
Unless they are actual storytellers, don’t have your characters be good at telling stories. Have them stay in character the entire time that they’re talking. Otherwise, whenever they tell a story, they’ll just be lip syncing to your own words.
The follower of the day is diao-chan.