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Favorite Writing "Trick" From Other Authors (1 Viewer)

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Tettsuo

WF Veterans
Mine was jacked from Nikolai Gogol.

He wrote a bit of dialogue that I immediately fell in love with. During one of the characters dialogue lines, the character responded to another characters facial expression during his speaking.

Example - "I would never speak to her again. What? Why do you look at me with such shock? We are far from friends."

I thought this was absolutely brilliant. Now I'm looking for spots to put this in. :)
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
I've never gotten the hang of that technique. I'd have to do it the long, traditional way:

"I would never speak to her again," said Joe Shmoe.

I widened my eyes in shock and puzzlement.

"What?" said Joe. "Why do you look at me like that? We are far from friends."
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
I think you can’t do that all the time. People do comment on each other’s expressions out loud sometimes, but mostly we just react. It would be nice once or twice in a book, but I don’t think you could do it more than that and get away with it, imo. Just because it is pretty strong/impactful.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
I'm sure I do this all the time, but the problem is I can never remember where I got it from till I happen back on the original example and then get showered in quite a lot of derivative feelings.

Is it plagiarism if you forgot who the source is?
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I'm sure I do this all the time, but the problem is I can never remember where I got it from till I happen back on the original example and then get showered in quite a lot of derivative feelings.

Is it plagiarism if you forgot who the source is?

I think it's only plagiarism if it is word for word, or the ideas that are portrayed are the same, for example paraphrasing someone else's words. This seems more like a writing technique.

Although I realize now. You were just trying to make point!
 
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EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
My favorite theft was from Justina Chen. She has a scene where too many things are happening at once, but when I reread it, I realized the MC is standing in front of the boy she loves, saying take me or reject me, and being completely defenseless and vulnerable. Or at least that's how I saw the scene.
 

Tettsuo

WF Veterans
My favorite theft was from Justina Chen. She has a scene where too many things are happening at once, but when I reread it, I realized the MC is standing in front of the boy she loves, saying take me or reject me, and being completely defenseless and vulnerable. Or at least that's how I saw the scene.
That sounds like complete chaos. How did she pull it off?
 

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
That sounds like complete chaos. How did she pull it off?

I am not sure what you are asking? She was trying to do something else in the scene, and it overshadowed the "vulnerability" moment and I didn't see it until a second reading. I knew exactly what I was trying to do so I could have a page set-up about how nervous she was, have a long description of the moment, throw in a twist, etc.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I can't remember where I first saw this, but I adopted it because I love it so much. Start a chapter with dialogue in the middle of a conversation. Example:

"I thought you weren't going to speak to her again!" Bruce immediately regretted his tone. She had looked happy for the first time in months.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
"I thought you weren't going to speak to her again!" Bruce immediately regretted his tone.

This stood out as something I do all the time ... dialogue cues instead of dialogue tags. I can't say I never use dialogue tags, because I might have slipped and used one here or there, but I avoid them. I write a lot of extended dialogue, sometimes with more than two characters. I use dialogue cues for two things. One is to make sure I keep the reader straight on the speaker. Two is to add richness to the scene. I use the cues to suggest the character's feeling about the conversation, or just add action to stage the scene.

"Ready to talk?" She asked this in a too sweet voice I interpreted as a ploy to lift my spirits. A sip of coffee in limbo, I nodded in lieu of answer. "You've been over how she's only going to lie."

I swallowed. "That's right."

This is a technique I've used for a long time, and didn't know there was a term for it until I just researched it for this comment. I'm sure I've often seen it in use, but didn't consciously note it as I did.

Here's a nice short blog giving examples.

https://onewildword.com/2013/07/30/write-dialogue-cues-like-a-bestselling-author/
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
This stood out as something I do all the time ... dialogue cues instead of dialogue tags. I can't say I never use dialogue tags, because I might have slipped and used one here or there, but I avoid them. I write a lot of extended dialogue, sometimes with more than two characters. I use dialogue cues for two things. One is to make sure I keep the reader straight on the speaker. Two is to add richness to the scene. I use the cues to suggest the character's feeling about the conversation, or just add action to stage the scene.

"Ready to talk?" She asked this in a too sweet voice I interpreted as a ploy to lift my spirits. A sip of coffee in limbo, I nodded in lieu of answer. "You've been over how she's only going to lie."

I swallowed. "That's right."

This is a technique I've used for a long time, and didn't know there was a term for it until I just researched it for this comment. I'm sure I've often seen it in use, but didn't consciously note it as I did.

The point I was trying to make is that you start a chapter in the middle of a conversation, but I hadn't noticed I used a dialogue 'cue', so thanks for researching and pointing that out. It can be effective for mixing up the dialogue.

You can also add an internal reaction from the other speaker if you are in limited POV: (Although, I'm not sure about the formatting here.)

"I thought you weren't going to speak to her again!" Bruce immediately regretted his tone. Claire had looked happy for the first time in months. She flashed back a 'mind your own business' expression.


 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
The point I was trying to make is that you start a chapter in the middle of a conversation
Yes, and that's a nice device. :)

Not in connection with your comment, but just on the topic of dialogue, I did something a bit different recently ... but something that happens in life. In the middle of a three-way conversation, the MC starts thinking about something else, and I just included snippets of the dialogue interspersed with his thinking. By the end of the scene, neither he nor the reader have much of a clue what the conclusion reached by the other speakers was, and he's reluctant to admit he missed it.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Yes, and that's a nice device. :)

Not in connection with your comment, but just on the topic of dialogue, I did something a bit different recently ... but something that happens in life. In the middle of a three-way conversation, the MC starts thinking about something else, and I just included snippets of the dialogue interspersed with his thinking. By the end of the scene, neither he nor the reader have much of a clue what the conclusion reached by the other speakers was, and he's reluctant to admit he missed it.

Sounds interesting, but I'm not sure I understand. Do you mean the conversation provides the reader with information from the other two speakers, but because the MC was distracted he missed what they said? Because, that could be an effective way to provide foreshadowing or other bits of information to the reader that the POV MC is not aware of.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Sounds interesting, but I'm not sure I understand. Do you mean the conversation provides the reader with information from the other two speakers, but because the MC was distracted he missed what they said? Because, that could be an effective way to provide foreshadowing or other bits of information to the reader that the POV MC is not aware of.

The reader's not getting it, either. The MC is going through his thought process, and I occasionally interrupt it with snippets out of the middle of dialogue between the other two characters ... out of the middle of sentences. There is some foreshadowing. He's suspicious that what he missed is important and it's going to come back to bite him. (It does).

Your point about giving the reader info the MC doesn't have is a good one. However, in this case I'm in first person so I can't do that.

I did it another time where the hero is captured by the villain. In the finest James Bond tradition, the villain plans to kill the hero, and so brags about his plan. The hero is busy thinking, trying to come up with a plan of escape, and isn't really paying attention. So by the time he escapes, he could know the villain's plans, but he doesn't. Again, I only included snippets of the villain's dialogue.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
The reader's not getting it, either. The MC is going through his thought process, and I occasionally interrupt it with snippets out of the middle of dialogue between the other two characters ... out of the middle of sentences. There is some foreshadowing. He's suspicious that what he missed is important and it's going to come back to bite him. (It does).

Your point about giving the reader info the MC doesn't have is a good one. However, in this case I'm in first person so I can't do that.

I did it another time where the hero is captured by the villain. In the finest James Bond tradition, the villain plans to kill the hero, and so brags about his plan. The hero is busy thinking, trying to come up with a plan of escape, and isn't really paying attention. So by the time he escapes, he could know the villain's plans, but he doesn't. Again, I only included snippets of the villain's dialogue.

That sounds clever!

I am absolutely obsessed with the use of dialogue. How to tell the story in conversations. I guess it's more like script writing, but the beauty of fiction is that you can lace it with thoughts. And it really is the best way to show personalities, education levels, and other details you want your reader to know. I use to think Jackie Collins wrote great dialogue. It was too bad that her characters seemed to get seedier and seedier over time. I was just re-reading The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown is a master at dialogue.

Are there any other authors that you think are brilliant dialogue writers?
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
That sounds clever!

I am absolutely obsessed with the use of dialogue. How to tell the story in conversations. I guess it's more like script writing, but the beauty of fiction is that you can lace it with thoughts. And it really is the best way to show personalities, education levels, and other details you want your reader to know. I use to think Jackie Collins wrote great dialogue. It was too bad that her characters seemed to get seedier and seedier over time. I was just re-reading The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown is a master at dialogue.

Dialogue often helps me to kickstart plot points I'm working on. I'll get two characters talking about what might happen, and I start to get ideas for it. One thing I do in dialogue is have characters ask questions about what's happening and how to solve challenges, and leave them unanswered. I'm hoping that gets the reader thinking about these questions and wondering what the characters will wind up finding out and doing. The characters will speculate on a few things, then the reader can worry about all the possibilities instead of only the one that's really happening. I think I learned that from kid mysteries like The Three Investigators. :)

Are there any other authors that you think are brilliant dialogue writers?

I was about to have trouble answering this question, and then it hit me:

Erle Stanley Gardner. I'm about halfway through the Perry Mason books (which means I've read just over 40 of them). He writes great dialogue, and is outstanding at differentiating characters with their dialogue. Some of his courtroom scenes are chuckle starters, as Mason makes monkeys out of witnesses or the DA. He had lots of practice at it. Mason has frequent and long conversations with Paul Drake, Della Street, clients, witnesses, and suspects. It would have been easy for him to write "generic DA" dialogue, but he didn't. Each DA has a recognizable personality. He frequently uses dialogue to--as you mentioned--tell the story.

He's also good at setting scenes, especially outdoor locales. I've read knocks on Gardner claiming his writing is sterile, which is unfair. He doesn't set scenes constantly as some authors do. He sets them when he thinks he needs it, and when he does he immerses the reader.
 
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EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
That sounds clever!

I am absolutely obsessed with the use of dialogue. How to tell the story in conversations. I guess it's more like script writing, but the beauty of fiction is that you can lace it with thoughts. And it really is the best way to show personalities, education levels, and other details you want your reader to know. I use to think Jackie Collins wrote great dialogue. It was too bad that her characters seemed to get seedier and seedier over time. I was just re-reading The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown is a master at dialogue.

Are there any other authors that you think are brilliant dialogue writers?

What do you mean by brilliant?

My memory is being impressed by how well John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) could tell so much of the story in the dialogue. Right or wrong, I tried to imitate that for a few short stories. Now I almost take that for granted and my stories tend to be conversation heavy.

Or did you mean clever repartee? Or special techniques, like two conversations occurring at the same time?
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Dialogue can be tricky because written dialogue isn’t like chatting in real life, but should seem to be.

in real life, dialogue bounces from subject to subject, wandering seemingly aimlessly - which would be really difficult for a reader to follow. There are also visual queues that are difficult to describe in text. It’s difficult to write when two characters are speaking but gets much tougher when three, four, or more involved.

Before writing a conversation I map it out so it follows a coherent path (unlike real life). It also helps to have given your characters favorite phrases, or ways of speaking.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
What do you mean by brilliant?

My memory is being impressed by how well John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) could tell so much of the story in the dialogue. Right or wrong, I tried to imitate that for a few short stories. Now I almost take that for granted and my stories tend to be conversation heavy.

Or did you mean clever repartee? Or special techniques, like two conversations occurring at the same time?

No, I just mean that the dialogue is more effective than narative. There are a lot of different ways to do it. That's great that your stories are conversation heavy. Is there anything you keep in mind when writing dialogue?
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Dialogue can be tricky because written dialogue isn’t like chatting in real life, but should seem to be.

in real life, dialogue bounces from subject to subject, wandering seemingly aimlessly - which would be really difficult for a reader to follow. There are also visual queues that are difficult to describe in text. It’s difficult to write when two characters are speaking but gets much tougher when three, four, or more involved.

Before writing a conversation I map it out so it follows a coherent path (unlike real life). It also helps to have given your characters favorite phrases, or ways of speaking.

What are the visual queues that you speak of? Can you give an example?

Yes, multiples are harder. I like the idea of a conversation map. I think I'll try that!
 
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