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Thread: Between narration and dialogue.
March 3rd, 2012, 05:55 PM #1
Between narration and dialogue.
What in your opinion is the preferred method to interject dialogue sequences in between narration/prose to not lose reader interest? Every 2 pages, 5 pages, 10 pages?
March 3rd, 2012, 11:21 PM #2
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There is a fine balance that must be struck between dialogue and prose. It is different, however, for writers and readers alike.
Personally, I like giving descriptions of what a place looks like. How a character looks, I can generally care less, except when it is important to the story. Hair color and length, height and stature, for example, are important to me but that is about it. When I first introduce a new character, I try to describe them fully but succinctly. If they are wearing a uniform, or are an important person attending a formal function such as a ball , then I will give a description of their clothing as well. Though, again, in a short and succinct manner. When it comes to descriptions, I know readers minds are going to imagine settings and characters in the way they want to. All I want to do is give them a framework with which to build upon.
Other prose: Your character is walking down the street, thinking about things, watching something happening, etc. Personally, I try not to Tell the reader what is going on. I try to Show them. I write in third person limited so, while at no point am I using the word 'I' in my prose, I am inside my pov character's head for the duration of his/her scene. Everything is viewed from their point of view.
There is no right length at which to change from prose to dialogue. As I said above, every writer and reader are different in what they want. In fact, every story is different in its requirements, as are every pov character and the different situations they find themselves in. Running to the post office to drop off/pick-up a package could be a solitary pursuit for a character and, thus, there is little to no dialogue happening. But it makes for a great scene for reflection or future planning or working out some problem that's going on in their lives. It might take pages and pages for that to happen. If so, spice it up with some scenery. Have your character pause in their musings and notice the world around them. Have them start thinking of something they are seeing around them that is completely unrelated to the reflective thoughts/planning/problem solving they were doing before. Sometimes when we are focusing on something other than the problem we are facing, those are the moments when we have the epiphany which solves the issue.
You'll find your balance the more you write. And, like your skill with telling a story, it will always be improving, even long after the critics are calling you a master at the craft. For now though (and it is always 'now', as we do, all, live in the Present) if you begin to feel that the prose or the dialogue has gone on a bit too long, then the answer is that it probably has. Go back, reread your scene and see where it begins to lose you. If you start looking away for no reason but feel yourself to be still captured and/or involved with the story, then that is probably the place where you need to change things up a little.
March 4th, 2012, 12:14 AM #3
I tend to write the dialogue first, then fit the narration in where its needed. Dialogue moves the story, narration explains it.
March 4th, 2012, 02:10 AM #4
March 4th, 2012, 04:06 AM #5
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March 4th, 2012, 10:54 AM #6
Thanks for the info everyone. I guess there is really no magic formula on when or how much dialogue you need to write before going back into narration/prose to move the story along. But I like the opinions of those that describe what works for them in regards to reading or writing.
March 7th, 2012, 07:00 AM #7
Back when I was doing my undergrad work, they'd discourage info-dumping, but we were always doing short projects of under 20 pages. The simple answer of "There is no magic formula" pretty well catches the spirit of it.
Speaking for myself, though, if you've got characters on stage, you're probably going to want to give them some lines. This isn't always the case, of course, but I suppose it depends on the author, the story and the audience. No doubt some stories could be written entirely without dialog and possibly be stronger for it.
On the other hand, a few lines of dialog could convey more than pages and pages of prose in some instances.
I blend narrative and dialog fairly intuitively, so I don't have any real conscious system for my own fiction. I do, however, try to avoid too much info-dumping unless I really think it's stuff the reader needs to know that couldn't be conveyed better some other way. And I've also done quite a few scenes devoid of dialog. It all just depends.
March 8th, 2012, 09:18 AM #8
March 8th, 2012, 11:33 AM #9
March 8th, 2012, 11:39 AM #10
March 14th, 2012, 10:11 PM #11
I try to do a bit of "setup" at the beginning of a scene, to cover all of the important details. Then it's on to the dialogue as quickly as possible. I prefer to try and fit the rest of the prose in there. Not too much though, because I don't want to lose the reader's attention from what characters are saying. Usually, when my characters talk, they have something useful to say. I don't want my readers to miss it! Although, I wouldn't want them to miss the scenery either. I try not to let one overshadow the other. It's difficult sometimes though.
March 16th, 2012, 08:59 AM #12
A good tip that's helped me out a few times is to read your own writing out loud. Problems with dialogue show up more readily when heard, but you can also get a feel for the narration is getting stale. This might not mean that it's time for some dialogue, of course. It might just be that your narration sucks.
The simple rule of thumb is that you should only put in what is necessary for the story.
March 16th, 2012, 09:40 AM #13