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Break All The Rules In Dialogue (1 Viewer)

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TheMightyAz

Mentor
One thing I've noticed, because I do it all the time, is the inner editor sometimes applies the same rules to dialogue as it does the exposition or chosen syntax. This is a difficult habit to break. I've been wanting to discuss this for some time but never got round to it. The reason I've decided to do it now is because of Vranger's excellent critique of Apparition.

One particular critique caught me off guard though. Sarah says 'You're absolutely soaked through'. Now, if you've got your editor head on, 'absolutely' must go ... no question about it. But this is dialogue and we have two vocabularies: Reading/Spoken. The two are entirely different and the one thing I can remember distinctly from my time on writing courses is certain people would just continue their reading vocabulary and simply put speech marks around it.

How do you switch between the two though? I mean, you're typing away, flowing like a dream (oh I wish) and suddenly you're asked to break the rules in dialogue. Do you do that automatically? I would suggest you don't. If you do you're likely already published! It's damned hard.

Where can you practice the skill of breaking those rules while still retaining your style when doing the business in stories? How can I waffle on without even thinking of those stupid rules? It would be really great if there was some place we could natter on and not worry about syntax, rules and all that stuff.

Well ... there is. Welcome to it!

Don't just see this as a flippant post, consider the real implications here for practising different character voices. Do you need to prove anything in an internet chat? Do you need to make sure it's as perfect as your manuscripts? Do you need to make sure no rules are broken? What better way is there of practising one of the most important elements of writing: dialogue.

Break those rules. Chat.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
How do you switch between the two though? I mean, you're typing away, flowing like a dream (oh I wish) and suddenly you're asked to break the rules in dialogue. Do you do that automatically?

My writing tends to be character-driven so the narrator and any other characters are just ... fundamentally very different people, so their speaking habits and styles will naturally vary. It would be odder and out of character if they weren't, if they sounded the same. I'd go "why are you suddenly talking all posh? You usually can't string a sentence together." :)

I actually enjoy writing dialogue. It's like socialising but without the real people. I could have characters gab away all day. Now, getting them to do something dramatically interesting. Actually getting them to do anything at all - if I could figure that out, I'd be sorted.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
My writing tends to be character-driven so the narrator and any other characters are just ... fundamentally very different people, so their speaking habits and styles will naturally vary. It would be odder and out of character if they weren't, if they sounded the same. I'd go "why are you suddenly talking all posh?" :)

Plus the fact you're a damned fine writer ... that helps. What I'm trying to point out here is you can use chatting on this forum to improve your dialogue. :) Instead of writing how you would write, give in to the inner stupid and mess with words more while chatting. Imagine yourself one of the characters from your latest story or invent one as you go.
 

Matchu

Senior Member
My wife is addicted to 'Made In Chelsea.' Boggling. Beef-cakes gathered wearing fluffy gowns sat down the spa-sauna club:

'Hey Charles!'

'You hooked up with Jasmina last night. Did you french kiss? Haw haw, honk.'

'French kissing is so wowsers to me, and so great how we can sit about, discuss feelings and our relationships for thirty minutes.'

'I've been meaning to ask about your SAS regiment?'

'Combat will be as challenging as Chelsea.'

'Quite, Eclair goes horse-riding again, I worry when she's with Boris.'

'Her saddle sores?'

'Yes I shall order ointments from my butler. Loving her my passion; I suppose we all love our girlfriends so much, shall we talk about our girlfriends?'

'Lets!'

'Absolutely, I adore Pixabel.'

..

[email protected], dr2 less bollocks
 
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EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
"WTF? I wrote this totally important book on Modern Grammar, and it shouldn't be my fucking job to keep trying to get people to read it, but here we are, ONCE AGAIN." I'm ready to scream. "It has a whole kickass chapter on repetition, and another on disfluency. It discusses fragments. And you are asking . . . you are actually asking . . . how to make dialogue more natural? Gosh, let me think." I stop to try to take a calm breath.

Hi Az. I like how you think through all of the issues in writing. Posting here in dialogue style is, in a way, unnatural, and in a way natural. Anyway, I tried.

When I write dialogue, I'm not thinking about the best way to write, I am trying to think of what that character would actually say in that situation and how that character would say it. Kind of like daydreaming. Which kind of means ignoring plot, though I can't do that completely.

But I had one scene where my dialogue seemed stilted and I added repetition and then I liked it. I had another sentence that I must have read 15 times before I realized it worked 5 times better as a fragment. So I suspect writers do not naturally use all of the techniques for making dialog sound natural.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
How do you switch between the two though? I mean, you're typing away, flowing like a dream (oh I wish) and suddenly you're asked to break the rules in dialogue. Do you do that automatically?
Well...yeah. I do. I don't really notice if I'm "breaking rules" because I'm writing down what the character is saying. It's important for me to capture what I hear in my inner ear. Since everything I'm writing while in this flow-state is due to be edited later, I can worry THEN about whether I'm writing an accent right, too much, or whether to leave it alone. I can decide later how to refine what the character has said to suit the story and maybe even bring the character out even more. But on the first write, I don't worry about it, I just capture it.
I would suggest you don't. If you do you're likely already published! It's damned hard.
Well...you suggest wrong, then! LOL. And being published doesn't have much to do with this. If this is hard to do then maybe a paradigm shift is in order?
Where can you practice the skill of breaking those rules while still retaining your style when doing the business in stories?
In the editing and revising steps.
How can I waffle on without even thinking of those stupid rules? It would be really great if there was some place we could natter on and not worry about syntax, rules and all that stuff.
There is. It's called the first draft. It's also called 'your brain'. It really sounds like you're having a terrible time getting the inner editor to shut up and sit down until you need it.
Don't just see this as a flippant post, consider the real implications here for practising different character voices.
Okay, to offer a thought back to you if I may...can you hear your characters? Like you can 'hear' in your memory, in your mind, how someone told a funny story at the dinner table. That kind of 'hearing'...can you do that with your characters? I don't want to assume that everyone does things the same way but if it's something that you're not really letting yourself trust, that's all I'd like to get you to consider.
Do you need to prove anything in an internet chat? Do you need to make sure it's as perfect as your manuscripts? Do you need to make sure no rules are broken? What better way is there of practising one of the most important elements of writing: dialogue.

Break those rules. Chat.
I'm confused, aren't we already doing that?
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Well...yeah. I do. I don't really notice if I'm "breaking rules" because I'm writing down what the character is saying. It's important for me to capture what I hear in my inner ear. Since everything I'm writing while in this flow-state is due to be edited later, I can worry THEN about whether I'm writing an accent right, too much, or whether to leave it alone. I can decide later how to refine what the character has said to suit the story and maybe even bring the character out even more. But on the first write, I don't worry about it, I just capture it.

Well...you suggest wrong, then! LOL. And being published doesn't have much to do with this. If this is hard to do then maybe a paradigm shift is in order?

In the editing and revising steps.

There is. It's called the first draft. It's also called 'your brain'. It really sounds like you're having a terrible time getting the inner editor to shut up and sit down until you need it.

Okay, to offer a thought back to you if I may...can you hear your characters? Like you can 'hear' in your memory, in your mind, how someone told a funny story at the dinner table. That kind of 'hearing'...can you do that with your characters? I don't want to assume that everyone does things the same way but if it's something that you're not really letting yourself trust, that's all I'd like to get you to consider.

I'm confused, aren't we already doing that?

I'm suggesting people could use the forum to practice their dialogue. :) It's not about ME. lol. I already do what I'm suggesting. :)
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
I'm suggesting people could use the forum to practice their dialogue. :) It's not about ME. lol. I already do what I'm suggesting. :)
If this is true then your post doesn't make sense to me anymore. You've laid out a problem complete with "oh I wish" and "this is hard" and then assure me that you're already just fine, no problem, you're already doing it. I'm not sure what you're after but this is frustrating so I'm out.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
If this is true then your post doesn't make sense to me anymore. You've laid out a problem complete with "oh I wish" and "this is hard" and then assure me that you're already just fine, no problem, you're already doing it. I'm not sure what you're after but this is frustrating so I'm out.

It's just something I do and thought it might help others to think of it in the same way. If you read through my OP, you'll see I get less strict as I go, adding in words like 'even' and 'really' and ending with 'Well ... there is. Welcome to it.' (meaning the forum) It's just a fun way of suggesting it. :)
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
I was tempted to start a thread in the Tavern in which people are only allowed to respond to conversation in one of their character's voices. I reckon that would be fun.

That could be fun. But we poets would then likely take over the Tavern if we speak only in character voices. Let's see, some recent characters I've been most playing with being . . . I'd be talking like a flitting fly, like Gertrude Stein, like Edmond Jabes, like an Aztec or Mayan, Hecate, Atalanta, E.E. Cummings, Theodore Roethke, Adam, Eve, Serpent, even God! These and others in the last month alone! Yep, we poets would likely swarm the Tavern with our assumed personalities and speech.:-D
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
That could be fun. But we poets would then likely take over the Tavern if we speak only in character voices. Let's see, some recent characters I've been most playing with being . . . I'd be talking like a flitting fly, like Gertrude Stein, like Edmond Jabes, like an Aztec or Mayan, Hecate, Atalanta, E.E. Cummings, Theodore Roethke, Adam, Eve, Serpent, even God! These and others in the last month alone! Yep, we poets would likely swarm the Tavern with our assumed personalities and speech.:-D

Naaa, that would be great! I'd learn a lot from hearing other people's voices and I'm sure others would too.
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
But alas, AZ, gone would be my spontaneity! It's awfully hard work to try to talk like someone else! Wish I did have the energy to arrive with my gang in the Tavern one day. They are definitely a rowdy and exhausting bunch! Yeah, poets could take over the Tavern turf.:-D
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
But alas, AZ, gone would be my spontaneity! It's awfully hard work to try to talk like someone else! Wish I did have the energy to arrive with my gang in the Tavern one day. They are definitely a rowdy and exhausting bunch! Yeah, poets could take over the Tavern turf.:-D

https://www.writingforums.com/threads/193606-Character-Chat?p=2347977#post2347977

giphy.gif
 
To the OP, switching between dialogue and narration isn't jarring because it's all part of the same "movie" or "dream" in my head. And in a first-person, highly voice-y piece, the narration and dialogue actually blend for me quite a bit:

Mr. Deadmouth, basking on the front porch of his cave, looks at me keen-eyed when I ask this question. His neck-folds crinkle under his crocodile smile and he says, Oh, yeah. Bones Lonely rode skeletonback after them longfingers, just the other day, said they was gonna find the Floodwaters.
 

Terry D

Retired Supervisor
"Narratin' ain't no different from writin' dialogue, least not for me. See, I keep my editor hat on all the time, I just edit dialogue a bit different from the bits between the times when folks are talkin'. Narration has its job, and dialogue has its own, so I gotta work just as hard at both. Kinda' like I write a descriptive scene different from how I write an action scene. Different pacing, different word choices, different sentence length, whatever. Each one needs to accomplish a specific task, you know? And I gotta make sure that job gets done."

"Lots of new writers -- and some that aren't so new -- make one of two mistakes with dialogue; first off they try to make their dialogue sound too much like real speech and they forget that dialogue needs to do a job, not just sound like people talking. They lose track of the content and start to ramble, like folks do, but, in fiction, dialogue needs to have a purpose. It needs to move the story forward in some way. Now, I hear you thinkin' 'But my dialogue reveals character,' and it might, but, too often, newbies don't realize that a little bit of that goes a long, long way. The other common mistake is when the writer hasn't yet developed his/her/their 'inner ear' and the dialogue comes off too formal and stilted (which is what I think the whole purpose of this thread is meant to be). Fixin' that isn't about shutting down that editor inside your head, it's about training them/her/him in the subtleties of fiction writing. Teachin' different tools and figuring out when to use them."
 
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