Discussion Board

Topic: Writing dialog

From: Kelly Marsh
Location: Camano Island
Date: 01/24/2012

Or rather punctuating and arranging it so it flows properly. Some authors do this quite well, others do not.

I find writing what the characters say to be relatively easy, compared to the above mentioned hurdles, and there seem to be many ways to approach it.

For example:

"That is a beautiful color for a car, I have always loved that shade of blue," said Jack admiringly. "Yes, I really like the way it looks, especially at this time of day," Bob replied.

Or: "That is a beautiful color for a car," Jack said admiringly, "I have always loved that shade of blue." "Yes, I really like the way it looks," Bob replied, "Especially at this time of day."

Then there are some authors who often don't bother to attribute the dialog to anyone; we readers are just supposed to know who is speaking from context and the order of sentences.

Jack, after looking admiringly at Bob's new vehicle said "That is a beautiful color for a car, I have always loved that shade of blue."

"Yes, I really like the way it looks, especially at this time of day."

"Be honest, did you buy it just for the color?"

"No, it's a great car, the color is just a bonus."

"Yeah, sure."

"No, really, it is."

And so on.

I don't really mind the latter, unless it runs on too long, and I lose track of who is speaking. Admittedly, this may have something to do with me getting older...

So, here is my question: Greg, does this sort of thing come naturally to you, or is it something you have to think about, write, rewrite, and so on? Either way, is this something regarding which you can give any helpful hints? For me your dialog always flows well; I never end up saying to myself "What? Wait a minute..." and going back to re-read in order to get a clear idea of what just happened, where I sometimes do with other writers. This, by the way, is something I find to be particularly annoying; it breaks the spell, and takes me out of the story.

Any pearls of wisdom you might impart will be most welcome.

By the way, when I was growing up a bit west of you in Edmonds, it was spelled "dialogue." :)




Re: Writing dialog

From: Greg Bear
Date: 01/30/2012

I like to think of varying styles as equivalent to varying meter and pitch in a song. James Ellroy or Jim Thompson will write a scene with dialog very differently than, say, Thomas Pynchon or Gene Wolfe. And different styles often point to the demands of prior markets and groups of readers--hard-boiled mysteries vs Henry James, to draw extremes! How would Henry James write this dialog? Raymond Chandler? Charles Dickens? (Scrooge is hauled far into the future...)

Re: Writing dialog

From: Roald Laurenson
Location: Islands in view
Date: 01/30/2012

Ah, yes. Raymond Chandler. Whom I have recently discovered -- what treasure, and not the least bit only for his dialogue(s).

Cheers, Greg. I keep up, even when relatively silent, and am always interested, you can bet. Wishing that you are having fun.

Clive

Re: Writing dialog

From: Greg Bear
Date: 01/31/2012

"Fun? Cracking wise now, are we?"

I twisted my lips and stared hard at the palooka. He did not look like the kind of guy who could ever have fun. I was being provacative, silly me. Soon enough, those big ham fists would come up and mash me in the jaw. Soon enough was too soon. I might lose the two or three teeth that were still mine, along with all those on loan from my orthodontist.

I turned as slowly as I dared and walked away on little cat feet. My neck muscles twisted like dyspeptic snakes.

"Huh! Fun!" the palooka coughed. His arms swished the empty air and his sausage fingers made little tapping motions. "This world ain't made for fun. Writing's hard work! And don't you forget it!"

I left him to stew, and what a savory stew it would be.

(Top that, Chuck Lorre!)

Re: Writing dialog

From: Roald Laurenson
Location: Islands in view
Date: 02/01/2012

His call after me apparently turned my steps, until I wasn't facing the door any more.

"Yeah, well, we get a lot of that from youse snipes...but let me tell you something."

"Ok, I'm listening."

"You see, me and the boys kind of favor brother Ray. Even if he does get a little pungent with us once in a while."

He fingered the chrysanthemum in his lapel, whose crisp red brightness wasn't doing any more than the tight hard weave of his expensive plaid sports jacket, to take the blur and dirt out of the room, or cloak his soft but massive aspect.

"Somebody has to be the one to educate his pal, once in a while, or maybe a little worse, to give that snoop his story. But what he never does is leave any of the rest of us only carrying a spear. You get what I'm saying?"

"Yeah," I said.

"It's like that speculative guy, I forget his name, and the lady with the sharp coat and complicated manners, on that generation ship which seems to have taken off without any morals aboard. Kind of like Kafka, that one -- you surprised I would know that?"

I let him roam.

"And that Jones in another place, full of cops worse than here. Like a voice out of an open pipe, and I can't get it out of my head, nor forget the poor guy."

"You see, you can't tell me that writer fellow didn't have his fun with these friends, nor in hearing them talk himself, on the page. It ain't all frustrations, is it...and on that, I'm really letting you go. Just this time."

Re: Writing dialog

From: Kelly Marsh
Location: Camano Island
Date: 02/19/2012

Is that dialog, or narrative?

Re: Writing dialog

From: Greg Bear
Date: 02/22/2012

We're heading right into a theme song!

Re: Writing dialog

From: Greg Bear
Date: 02/22/2012

Both! Playwrights and screenwriters get pure dialog, once they hide the stage instructions. The directors get to block and choreograph. Prose writers have to dance and talk at the same time!

Re: Writing dialog

From: Roald Laurenson
Location: wayward isles
Date: 02/23/2012

"We're heading right into a theme song!"

Haha.

Yes.

and Yes to the other observation, as well ;)

Respond to this discussion

May we post your correspondence on this site?
Yes
No
IMPORTANT: For form verification, type the following number in the box below: 75




See Also...

Archives: [Oct-Dec 2004] [Jan-June 2005] [July-Dec 2005] [Jan-June 2006] [July 2006] [Aug-Dec 2006] [2007] [2008] [2009] [2010] [2011] [2012] [2013] [2014] [Current] [Search Blog Archives]