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conversations in novels.


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#1 A.S Altabtabai

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 04:31 PM

Hello all.. i know there is no specific percentage for the amount of conversations in a novel but when can we say that a novel is heavily based upon conversations?  and would that negatively affect the quality of the book? ( despite the fact that descriptions and other fundamental things are present ) 



#2 Tom Preece

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 05:10 PM

Read George V. Higgins,
The Friends of Eddie Coyle and you'll have an answer to your question.  It's not the quantity or lack of dialogue but the quality or lack of story telling.



#3 SC_Author

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 11:54 PM

^What Tom said.
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#4 Aightball

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 03:08 PM

My books are mostly based on dialogue...why? Because I'm better at dialogue than description. My books do *have* descriptions, but often, the characters tell the stories through dialogue. So, write what works for you. No real write or wrong here.


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#5 shaynnicely

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Posted 20 February 2014 - 10:05 PM

Assuming the dialogue is good (believable, conveys information, etc), the more the better, I think, because it means that you've got your characters together and they're working things out the way people really do, it's not all happening in the main character's head while they walk around. Though that is genre-dependent, some things are better revealed in other ways. For example in a mystery I don't think you'd want all the big reveals to be via eavesdropping...but those are special cases, overall I really like fiction that is mostly in-scene and active with multiple characters. So, dialogue.



#6 Tom Preece

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Posted 20 February 2014 - 10:50 PM

And let's not forget...  Dialogue heavy books are more easily translated into film.



#7 peiwang

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Posted 21 February 2014 - 12:30 AM

Dialogue done well, bring it on. I like to check on what "jobs" my dialogue is getting done in any given scene; if it's more than one, great. Dialogue is obviously a very convenient way to advance plot -- be sure not to fall into using dialogue as a crutch for exposition. If it can reveal additional layers to a character, his/her motivations, contribute to the tone of the overall work, build tension between characters or in the story arc, drop some key information to the reader, add deeper meaning, tell us something about the context-- fantastic. I would beware of doing too much "telling" through dialogue that you should be offering through other, indirect means.

 

All that is to say that I think dialogue is a vital tool, but it's important to make it earn its place (just like anything else in a story needs to pull its weight).


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#8 Andrew Nelson

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Posted 05 March 2014 - 10:33 AM

I agree 100% with Tom. It is about the quality of the writing, not the quantity. Personally, I like writing dialogue. I think that when you have quality banter between the characters it advances the book in the readers mind in an enjoyable way. To me it makes the characters more real and helps to bring the book alive.


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#9 Tom Preece

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Posted 05 March 2014 - 09:23 PM

One of my flinch points on Sunday during the Acadamy Awards was describing Elmore Leonard only as the screenwriter of Joe Kidd...

 

If you want to write dialogue that snaps, study this man!

 

Tom P



#10 Dayspring

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Posted 06 March 2014 - 04:03 AM

I also feel that books that favour dialogue over description also favour showing over telling, so that's good. My last (excellent) CP repeatedly advised me to "ground" the dialogue by interspersing spoken lines with setting, character actions, etc - building up a sense of place and mood as well as just relaying what's said.



#11 Qwijebo

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Posted 06 March 2014 - 09:32 AM

I find it necessary to have on hand several novels when I am writing, merely to get a sense of the pace and structure. Even though I have been writing for years, I always find it a useful tool.



#12 Eli Ashpence

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Posted 06 March 2014 - 11:11 PM

As everyone else said, quality matters more than quantity.  HOWEVER, be careful of spending the entire book sitting at a table, talking about stuff that happened somewhere else.  You don't want your entire story to become second-hand 'telling', instead of allowing the reader to experience events first-hand.

Example:

 

"Wendy went into the house," Betty said.

 

versus

 

The porch creaked under Wendy's feet as she slowly walked to the front door.  With a gentle tap to annouce herself, she pushed open the heavy wood door and entered. 


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#13 wildworks

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Posted 07 March 2014 - 11:00 AM

like every one else has said, dialog heavy is good if you have good dialog, and you keep your focus in the best place for telling the story. But, what makes good dialog? All good dialog has a certain level of tension or conflict. Whether it's five-year-olds playing in a sand box, besties in math class or arch-rivals, there always has to be tension.

 

There can't be any:

 

"Hi, how you doin?"

"Hey there, I'm bob?"

"Nice to met you, I'm Tim."

"What are you guys up to?"

"Oh, just watching the game."

 

Or any other dialog that utterly lacks tension.

 

If your dialog always maintains conflict, a believable level of conflict, people will keep reading no matter how much of it you have.



#14 Tom Preece

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 05:23 PM

And dialogue in fiction is different than dialogue in film.  You've got to provide some evidence of who is speaking.  My film director friend, Rowdy Harrington, always critiques me when ever a character addresses another character by name.  "Rowdy, you're full of it." isn't something I would say in real life, and certainly would not need to use in film where you can tell who is speaking by whose mouth is moving.  It maybe something I have to say while writing to tell the reader not who Rowdy is, but that he is being spoken to and not speaking.



#15 RSMellette

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 05:39 PM

Dialogue also gives you a great chance to develop each character's voice. When I'm reading a screenplay, I never look at the character name above the dialogue. If I can't tell who is saying something by what they say and the way they say it, then there isn't enough separation of voice.


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#16 Niambi

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Posted 19 March 2016 - 12:54 AM

I will second and third everything everyone has said.  

 

Quality exposition works as well as quality dialog as well as quality world building, etc. etc.  

 

I work a lot in film, and as RSMellette said, good dialog that moves the story forward is essential ... crucial in filmmaking.

 

I use Castaway as an example of this, pointing out that "Wilson" is in fact a character in the film, that gives Hanks someone to talk to.

 

The big no no is to stay away from too much dry dialog.  Characters talking just so they can say something, only to have the story moved forward by more exposition.  Like the Martian.



#17 RSMellette

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Posted 24 March 2016 - 05:08 PM

Good ways to stay way from bad dialogue:

 

1) Never have one character tell another character something they either already know, or should know.  If you're typing, "As you know," then stop.

2) Never have a character tell another one what they (either of them) are feeling. Feelings create actions, not words.

 

Anyone else?


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#18 S.H. Marr

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Posted 31 March 2016 - 03:10 PM

Good ways to stay way from bad dialogue:

 

1) Never have one character tell another character something they either already know, or should know.  If you're typing, "As you know," then stop.

2) Never have a character tell another one what they (either of them) are feeling. Feelings create actions, not words.

 

Anyone else?

I agree whole-heartedly with number 1, and have espoused it for years.

 

2, though, seems to be more acceptable in plots where miscommunication is a key plot device. Characters are allowed to share how they're feeling. Just don't rely on it to be the only exhibition of the emotion.






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