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Cafe Doom  |  The Critique Crypt  |  General writing chat  |  Dialogue rules
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Author Topic: Dialogue rules  (Read 22584 times)

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Offline Ed

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Re: Dialogue rules
« Reply #15 on: April 22, 2010, 04:07:03 PM »


I was told by an editor years ago to not begin a new paragraph with dialogue because he felt it was "weaker." So in the end you have to go with what they wish as they are buying.

Yeah, that's a strange one, isn't it, Frank? Was that a pro market editor, or a FTLO type zine? I expect you're the same as me - the more a market is paying, the more notice I tend to take of the editor's suggestions, or if the editor has a good reputation then obviously they're worth listening to. Sadly, the higher up the food chain we submit, the less feedback we seem to get, though.

There were a couple of editors of small webzines at the Borderlands Bootcamp I went to a couple of years ago, and some of the advice they had been dishing out to people submitting to them was completely wrong by any standards. Much of it revolved around the old show vs tell thing, rather than technicalities like grammar and punctuation, layout, etc., though. I remember being alarmed by just how out of whack they were.
Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

Offline Pharosian

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Re: Dialogue rules
« Reply #16 on: April 22, 2010, 08:27:35 PM »
Here I am...  ;)

I read this thread this morning when there were only 3 replies. Both Del and Delph had stated positions that I thought were right on, so I didn't think it needed another voice chiming in. The guideline that I think makes the most sense is to keep each character's dialogue and actions within a paragraph, and where another character responds either verbally or non-verbally, that starts a new paragraph.

As far as starting a paragraph with dialogue or starting it with description of some kind, I think they're both fine and abundant examples can be found. I agree with delph's point that the example given by Norman Mailer would have been better formatted with different characters' dialogue on separate lines.

Offline desertwomble

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Re: Dialogue rules
« Reply #17 on: April 22, 2010, 09:05:23 PM »
For what it's worth, I imagined this was something I'd written and edited accordingly:

“Sorry squi..., lad,” said the clown. With an audible crack of the knee joints he crouched low. “I didn't mean to swear atcha.  I'm just cranky in the morning.  Friends?”

He grinned, revealing perfect teeth.

Josh nodded, his eyes still wide.

“Great stuff,” Bungle said, standing up.  He bowed awkwardly and gave another tip of his hat. “Do accept my humblest apology, Mr Jackson.”

“Thanks,” Sam said, even though he suspected the clown was taking the piss.

Mister Bungle smiled and slunk away, lighting up a fresh cigarette as he did so.

____________________________________________________________________________

I trimmed down the action since it was getting a bit in the way of the dialogue, especially the knee-cracking, which doesn't happen twice in succession so quickly - it's due to a fluid build-up that takes time to re-occur.

Anyhow, that's my penny'sworth!

DW :cheesy:


Offline Ed

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Re: Dialogue rules
« Reply #18 on: April 23, 2010, 01:52:04 AM »
I wish you'd tell that to my knees, Paul - mine crack and pop every time I stand up from kneeling. If I was to do squat-thrusts it'd sound like somebody splitting firewood :afro:
Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

Offline delboy

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Re: Dialogue rules
« Reply #19 on: April 23, 2010, 02:30:37 AM »
Sure it's not your work trousers, Ed? Might be time for this year's wash?

Derek
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Offline Frank Menser

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Re: Dialogue rules
« Reply #20 on: April 25, 2010, 08:40:46 AM »
That bit by Crichton is one person speaking about bread, taking the bread and finishing the speech, so it's really just one piece of speech and should not be split. It doesn't break the rules. Nothing to do with preferences.

The editor who told you not to begin a new paragraph with dialogue was talking through his backside, frankly.

Delph,

I used that example because it was brief and I am nursing an injured hand. There are much longer examples that prove my point and they are easily found.


Offline Ed

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Re: Dialogue rules
« Reply #21 on: April 25, 2010, 09:35:58 AM »
I suppose if you do start a new paragraph with dialogue it might not be immediately obvious who is speaking, which would weaken the narrative and be distracting in some cases.

What's up with the hand, Frank? Nothing serious, I hope. Backalong, I accidentally fired a nail gun nail through the pad on my index finger and up through the nail. Put my typing out of action for a week or two.
Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

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Re: Dialogue rules
« Reply #22 on: April 25, 2010, 10:05:40 AM »
ouch!  :shocked:

Offline Ed

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Re: Dialogue rules
« Reply #23 on: April 25, 2010, 12:28:27 PM »
ouch!  :shocked:

Yeah - the worst part was that it went through the architrave at the top of my bedroom door, then ricocheted off something inside the wood and curled out through my finger, leaving a kind of tepee-shaped non return valve of fingernail gripping the inch of galvanised steel protruding through through it. So my choice was to stay pinned to the door frame there and wait for my wife to get home to fetch me some sidecutters to snip it off with, or just brute force it out the way it went in.
Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

Offline Frank Menser

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Re: Dialogue rules
« Reply #24 on: April 25, 2010, 12:48:20 PM »
I suppose if you do start a new paragraph with dialogue it might not be immediately obvious who is speaking, which would weaken the narrative and be distracting in some cases.

What's up with the hand, Frank? Nothing serious, I hope. Backalong, I accidentally fired a nail gun nail through the pad on my index finger and up through the nail. Put my typing out of action for a week or two.

Just paying for a bit machismo from a few years back.

I actually broke this hand three times according to the Doc. Never realised it except once when a 1,500 pallet shifted and crushed muhand on the truck frame. The bone my little finger was attached to tried to push its way out of my skin. As I was unloading boxes of frozen food by hand off a truck I couldn't stop, so I set it myself and then wrapped duct tape around it to keep it in position. Then I unloaded the truck.

Every so often I bump it the wrong way or forget and try to heft something too big at the gym and then it's swollen and stiff for a few days. I did the nail gun through the thumb too, but I missed the nail. Thanks for the concern. :smiley:

Offline digitaldeath

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Re: Dialogue rules
« Reply #25 on: May 13, 2010, 10:21:24 AM »
This has been fairly well covered. Only I sometimes wonder why anyone bothers. I tried to read 'Narrow dog to Carcassone' a best seller allegedly. I repeatedly threw it aside but tried to understand why I hated it.
One paragraph had three different people speaking, descriptive text and not a quotation mark or sensible punctuation mark anywhere.
Maybe I was missing the point. Being an illiterate man who left school without qualification the published author was allowed different guidelines.
AM I being bitchy?

Offline desertwomble

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Re: Dialogue rules
« Reply #26 on: May 13, 2010, 11:56:41 AM »
AM I being bitchy?

lol

"I see from your avatar you have claws," noted Desertwomble.

But seriously, I read 'The Road' which throws most punctuation rules to the wind, but still found the book highly readable. I think it all depends on who the author is, and whethter he can get away with it on a literary level rather than on how big his name is.

DW :cheesy:

Offline jsorensen

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Re: Dialogue rules
« Reply #27 on: November 14, 2010, 09:22:58 PM »
As a standard rule it is usually best to use a new paragraph line per speaker as everyone has said--but one thing I think was missed in the replies is the speed of reading.  I mean, readers equate fast reading with good stuff--must have been good, I just sped through the whole thing.  Vonnegut would use excessively short chapters to do this--most of us read till we get tired and decide that at the end of the chapter we're reading we'll stop there, but if the next chapter is just a page or two, why not knock it out and so on.  Another sped element is dialogue--we read it faster and the story moves quickly in real time.  By adding a new paragraph line to each speaker we are also moving faster down the page--subconciously telling us that it is a fast read and therefore a good one. 

Well, maybe not always, but it seems to work for me at least most of the time, but then again I'm a beginner at all of this. 
He had something to say. He said it. . . . He had summed up—he had judged. ‘The horror!’

Offline Ed

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Re: Dialogue rules
« Reply #28 on: November 15, 2010, 02:40:04 PM »
It's not just that we read dialogue faster -- it's a fact that people don't tend to skip or skim dialogue, whereas they will happily avoid reading big blocks of text and chunks of description. You can convey tons of information concealed in dialogue that the average reader would tire of it was delivered in the form of a narrator's info dump.

Another cheat for making a book unputdownable, is ending each chapter with a question, like Dan Brown did with the DVC. It soon wares thin as a ploy, though, IMO. It began to irritate me because I felt like I was being duped or manipulated.
Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

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