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Staggering dialogue, is it acceptable? (1 Viewer)

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EternalGreen

Senior Member
If I pull this off, am I an automatic pariah to publishers?


“Hello.”

[tab key] “Hello!”

“How are you?”

[tab key] “I am fine.”
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
I remember seeing the witches' dialogue from Hamlet formatted like that:

THE FIRST WITCH: "Shew!"
THE SECOND WITCH: [tab key] "Shew!"
THE THIRD WITCH: [tab key] [tab key] "Shew!"


and I thought it might not be appropriate for prose.

I was joking about the being a pariah part. I just wondered if it look professional and modern in short stories and novels, rather than plays.
 

TheManx

Senior Member
I was joking about the being a pariah part.

Yes, yes. I knew that was a bit of hyperbole. But seriously, what's the advantage of that formatting? Is there something specific you're trying to get across? I'm sure there are conventions with writing plays or scripts that make sense to actors and directors etc. But how would that apply to writing fiction?
 

TheManx

Senior Member
Possibly -- but I think it would be a bit jarring. Probably not worth asking people to make the adjustment. I think there are pretty good and established ways of making the attributions -- and there are plenty of other things to consider if you don't want your story binned... :)
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
If I pull this off, am I an automatic pariah to publishers?


“Hello.”

[tab key] “Hello!”

“How are you?”

[tab key] “I am fine.”

Do it. What's the worst that can happen? Some betas kick up a fuss, or you get a few rejections? Pfft, even normal-formatted MS's get that. I'd be okay with it personally. There's some interesting examples of experimentally formatted literature knocking about.

Just remembered: in one of my own WIPs I have some bits of text - usually songs - italicised and justified way over to the right. Apart from one instance where one song threatened to on for some time (it did veer towards 'protracted wigout' territory, to be fair), no-one's complained about it and some of the lines have even garnered the occasional positive response. That said, not published yet, so ... I dunno. You never know 'til you try.
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
To show who's speaking more clearly.

But line breaks already indicate different speakers? If further attribution is needed, why not add a dialogue tag?

To me, this is a stylistic choice that doesn't seem to add much while potentially making you look like you either do not understand or do not care about standard formatting. I'm not saying that's true, I'm just saying that somebody reading your work for the first time who does not know you may well make assumptions based on this kind of thing. Because why wouldn't they?

Do it. What's the worst that can happen? Some betas kick up a fuss, or you get a few rejections? Pfft, even normal-formatted MS's get that. I'd be okay with it personally. There's some interesting examples of experimentally formatted literature knocking about.

Just remembered: in one of my own WIPs I have some bits of text - usually songs - italicised and justified way over to the right. Apart from one instance where one song threatened to on for some time (it did veer towards 'protracted wigout' territory, to be fair), no-one's complained about it and some of the lines have even garnered the occasional positive response. That said, not published yet, so ... I dunno. You never know 'til you try.

While I think this kind of advice usually comes from a good place, I disagree with it.

What's the worse that can happen? That's easy: A rejection which could have been an acceptance.

Does that matter? Depends on how important it is to you to get your work accepted within a reasonable time period and by a publisher who shares your values, I guess. Does the publisher in question often accept 'experimental' work? If so, no worries, you're good to write according to 'their rules'. If not, it may be worth reconsidering.

It's easy to understate the importance of that, or to brigade the fickleness and stuckism when it comes to this stuff, but ultimately people do judge and, in my great experience of rejections (lol) it's as often over things as formatting, spelling, grammar 'errors' (which may be choices that simply fail to resonate as choices -- perception is reality, not intent) as it is 'the writing itself'.

Normal formatted MS's get rejections, but they don't get rejections because they are conventionally formatted, as far as I know. So it's a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison, I reckon.

Many agents and publishers will say that when reading an unsolicited manuscript they are looking for a reason to reject it. Imagine their relief when they see somebody who 'doesn't even know basic manuscript style'.

How many 'experimental' novels get laughingly tossed in the trash each year? We don't know that. When we don't know something, it may be a good idea to be conservative, especially with something that -- as far as I can tell -- isn't functioning as a crucial linchpin of the story, isn't 'adding' to anything much, and where a conventional alternative (dialogue tags) exists already?

If the preponderance of preferences were in favor of 'experimental' formatting then most novels would be 'experimental' in format. If the preponderance of preferences were in favor of weird indentations on dialogue, they would not be weird and this thread would not need to exist. How many readers read to encounter experimental features of format versus, well, just to read a book? Of those who just want to read a book, how many of them may find off formatting disruptive or distracting? These are the calculations, right?

Other's mileage may well vary, but I don't think pointless risks, even super minor ones, are a good move myself.
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
That seems offensively stuffy of editors, but it also sounds about right.

I suppose I shouldn't have long stretches of conversation between two people without tags and blocking, anyway.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I haven’t seen it in my own genre, no. But I’ve seen it it older books a time or two. It seems like a great way to avoid confusion.

Personally - I don't like offsetting dialogue as you have illustrated, and also feel that it's unnecessary. IMO - when in doubt go with the convention within your genre.
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
I misunderstood this at first; I thought 'What's so staggering about that?'

I think I might find the additional indentation a little off-putting, mainly because that's not what I'm used to. I can see why some might prefer it though.
 
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