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 Spi's Random Fic Advice: Lesson One, discussing dialogue
Spiletta42
  Posted: Apr 1 2005, 05:18 PM


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I've suddenly decided to spew writing advice at random. I'm sure you'll all enjoy it immensely.

Today we're going to talk about dialogue.

Rule number one in fiction dialogue: It is supposed to imitate life, not mirror it.

Real people repeat themselves, ramble, change topics mid-sentence, and even preach about their personal pet peeves.

Fictional characters shouldn't do all of that. Trim your dialogue carefully, removing the repetition and unnecessary rambling. This will make your fiction read smoother.

There's a rule that confuses even the experienced writers:

When you're writing dialogue, and one character speaks for longer than a single paragraph, you leave the " off the end of the first, and then use them again at the beginning of the next paragraph. You should know this rule, but file it away in the back of your mind. Rarely, if ever, should you need this rule.

Actively avoid needing it.

When two are more characters are speaking, don't let one require two paragraphs. Even if he/she isn't letting the other get a word in edgewise, at least show us the other character's actions to break it up.

Then, you'll always be able to close ALL of your dialogue with " and you won't have any confusion.

Take the last scene you wrote with dialogue, and I'll give you a shiney cyber nickel for every word you can take out.

Later, if I feel like it, I'll ramble a bit about speaker attributes and beats, but that ramble is already on my website, and if you know me at all, you're sick of it by now.

Enjoy, and write! :beta:

This post has been edited by Spiletta42 on Apr 23 2005, 09:26 PM
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Jade
Posted: Apr 1 2005, 08:54 PM


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Thanks Spi, your ramble is informative and instructive.

I will remember your offer for cyber nickels the next time I write a dialogue.

Jadie :user:
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Trindajae
Posted: Apr 2 2005, 04:38 PM


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Hey Spi! I agree completely with everything you say except... the bit about rambling. It can sometimes be useful to show a specific attribute or emotional state of a character. But I completely agree that it should be used neither constantly nor universally. It's probably about as useful as leaving the ending quotation mark off of a paragraph in the middle of a single character's dialogue...
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Spiletta42
Posted: Apr 2 2005, 07:01 PM


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QUOTE (Trindajae @ Apr 2 2005, 04:38 PM)
Hey Spi! I agree completely with everything you say except... the bit about rambling. It can sometimes be useful to show a specific attribute or emotional state of a character. But I completely agree that it should be used neither constantly nor universally.

All rules and guidelines may be successfully broken at any time, provided:

a) you understand the rule

B) you know why you are breaking the rule


For example, in a recent fic I needed to illustrate Chakotay's jumbled thoughts while he dealt with an emergency situation while ignoring his own head injury. As a result, there's a sentence with the word "and" used four times.

When I only used one too many ands, it looked like I, the writer, was being sloppy. On the rewrite, I exaggerated it a touch more, and it worked better:

http://sky.prohosting.com/spiletta/36hours.html

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anne3rose
Posted: Apr 3 2005, 10:53 PM


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Interesting point about dialog imitating life not mirroring it. There are lots of things in real life that we don't include in fic.

- Anne Rose
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Intala
Posted: Apr 5 2005, 11:25 AM


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and there's sure a lot of things in fic we'd never experience in rl... ok, ok, what else is the point of fiction....

Love, Intala
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anne3rose
Posted: Apr 25 2005, 05:13 PM


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QUOTE (Spiletta42 @ Apr 2 2005, 07:01 PM)
For example, in a recent fic I needed to illustrate Chakotay's jumbled thoughts while he dealt with an emergency situation while ignoring his own head injury. As a result, there's a sentence with the word "and" used four times.

When I only used one too many ands, it looked like I, the writer, was being sloppy. On the rewrite, I exaggerated it a touch more, and it worked better:

Could you please paste the lines you're talking about?

- Anne Rose
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Spiletta42
Posted: Apr 25 2005, 05:46 PM


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QUOTE

The sentence in question, I think:

He needed to look at the bump on her head, and find an analgesic in the medkit, and locate some shelter, and -- .


Ah, yes, that really conveys the idea that he's being pulled in many directions at the same time. Too many #1 priorities in a survival situation.

- Anne Rose
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anne3rose
Posted: Apr 25 2005, 06:16 PM


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Ack! I think I edited spi's post instead of posting somehow. Darn these sneaky computers. They make me so mad I want to pinch them! {insert Marvin the Martian here}

- Anne Rose
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