Saturday, October 12, 2013
Writing resource #8
Today, I'm going to talk about dialogue. These are two links that give the base idea of dialogue that I follow, and I'll expand on how I use them.
Dialogue from Write About Dragons
Dialogue from Writing Excuses
I'll also mention the stay away from said article from write about dragons:
Said doesn't play well with others
So, I wanted to go over some basic points about this first.
Before jumping into raw dialogue, the characters should be placed.
-Where is everyone at?
-Where are the things that the characters will interact with and where is it in relation to the characters?
-What is in the 'room' that the POV would notice? (This is one of the things that shows Character Voice)
-What is everyone doing? (This actually doesn't have to be very much and can be attached to how you place the characters in the room)
-What other senses are being used evoked in this scene, to help immerse the reader?
Having quick back-and-forth dialogue is great, but try not to go for too long without adding a beat. For me, I try to do no more than 4 lines of dialogue without adding a beat to one. Beyond keeping the reader locked into the scene and not drifting off into the 'white room,' it ensures the clarity of the dialogue, making sure that the reader knows who is talking.
When there are more than two people talking, tag to ensure clarity.
-When tagging, keep your tags close to the beginning of that character's dialogue in order to ensure the reader is not confused and attaches the character's voice to the words.
-Keep your tags to said and asked unless you absolutely have to. Remember that they are mostly invisible, and a reader will skim over it. Said-book-isms will pull the reader out of the dialogue and are tells. Sometimes that is good to use when you want to show the characters screaming, shouting, whispering. They are good for introducing in-world words such as curse words (aka he/she cursed). Most said-book-isms are actually repeats of what the dialogue is already telling the reader and should be cut for being redundant. Though, some are actually POV slips, telling the reader what another character is thinking/feeling when that character isn't the POV.
-When two people in a multi-person conversation begin to talk back and forth, and no one else is speaking, it is alright to use tagless dialogue. But again, I'd try and keep this to four quick lines to now drag the reader into a white room and forget about the other characters.
-Blocking and 'beats' are better ways to tag if they don't interrupt the flow of the conversation. Remember that said/asked are invisible and thus don't interrupt the flow, but using them too often will still drag the reader into the white room. Using too many beats will keep the reader from falling into the dialogue itself. As a balance, it's all about ones personal style, but if you're working on it and want a good number to try and follow (Note that this is just a base that I've been trying to follow and often fail to do so, but it is a good starting point) try: at least one beat for every three lines from a single character. Invisible tags where necessary, and blocking at least once every six lines of dialogue. Thus, if you have three characters talking, and we have nine lines of dialogue, there should be invisible tags when the reader doesn't know who is talking and 3 beats and one blocking attached. Thus, if you had to invisible tag every line that wasn't attached to the four, you would have five invisible tags and for 'action tags.'
-Direction tags are a useful tool to cutting down on invisible tags needed. A direction tag is when a character mentions one of the characters in the conversation by name and is addressing that line of dialogue to them specifically. (like: "What do you mean I can leave, John?" from here, we would know that the person who speaks next is John and thus there is no need for a tag)
And please, make sure the dialogue feels natural. Apply The ear test through these strings, pause at each of the beats rather than reading the beats aloud and see how it sounds to you.
I hope this helps. I'll try and do another one on dialogue soon.
Thanks for reading,