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  1. #11
    Derek Wayne

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    Elena is right. Dialogue should never contain things already known by the characters.

    "What are you doing out here at our small little ranch in the middle of Kansas, James?"

    "Sam, as you know I am teenager from New York City, here to partake in an emotional coming-of-age story."

    (just my opinion, feel free to ignore)


  2. #12
    Elena Solodow

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    Thanks for the support, Derek.

    I've found that when I prevent my characters from giving out-right information, it gives me really concise, believable dialogue. I'm not saying NEVER provide information, but when you have two characters repeating facts to one another that are known by both, what's the point? That's easy to do, but much more difficult to figure out how to give information to the reader without doing an info-dump. The writing gets better for it, when you really pare away the excess.

  3. #13
    Jeanne Gassman

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    Ha! Derek's example is almost exactly the kind of thing I use when I show my students how NOT to write dialogue!

    Watch a soap opera! They do this all the time:

    "Blade, I can't believe you've come back into my life after seven years."

    "Yes, Dakota, I've been lost in the jungles of Colombia and held hostage by rebels, but I've never forgotten our true love and that one night of passion we shared under the magnolia tree."

    "But, Blade, I'm about to be married to Shem, the father of my daughter, Applelet. Shem is my father's mother's cousin by marriage and has been at my side since you disappeared so mysteriously seven years ago when we were going to announce our engagement."

    And so on...

    In dialogue, characters should never tell each other what they already know. Dialogue is coded speech. What is unsaid can be just as important as what is said.

    Just my thoughts...


  4. #14
    Rogue Mutt

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    I think Elena's technique is a pretty good one. I remember this argument I got into with someone who'd written a line of dialog that went something like, "You fly the [ship name]; that's the most powerful ship in the galaxy!" No matter how many times I said that was a bad line the author refused to change it. Using what Elena was saying in that case the characters would already know that whatever the ship is is the most powerful in the galaxy so it really is just telling the audience. If only I'd mentioned it like that...he still would have left that line in. It's funny that people do that in writing where you can narrate what's not said, but then maybe people are so afraid of omniscience anymore that any kind of narration smacks of "head-hopping" or maybe they've watched too many soap operas. I know I have.

  5. #15
    Elena Solodow

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    I think there's also this "idea" that we need to tell the reader everything, when we don't. That's where all of those adjectives and adverbs end up spoiling the page - it's the writer trying too hard.

    Let's face it - most of us are insecure about our writing (at least at first), so we feel the need to over-explain things. That can happen especially in dialogue. Dialogue is like an open opportunity to say what's what and who's who. There's something about dialogue that invites telling, because it's not narrative.

    As long as it's not in the narrative, it's not bad writing, because my characters would actually say this!

    Easy excuse, I think.

    It's amazing what comes out of your writing when you try to prohibit yourself. You try to find ways around things. So instead of Sue telling the reader that Bob is her brother by saying, "Hey brother, how are you?" How are we going to let the reader know that they're related instead? It makes you think further into the scene.

  6. #16

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    Although I agree with the general consensus about dialogue given here in the feedback of others, I think that at times it's okay to give information that both people would know in the right context. Take Rogue's example here:

    "You fly the [ship name]; that's the most powerful ship in the galaxy!"

    It may seem like a case of giving information that both parties would already know, but in reality, people make statements like that all the time.

    "You got accepted to Harvard; that's one of the best schools in the country!"

    "You're an air traffic controller; that's one of the most stressful jobs in the world!"

    Statements like that are made all the time in everyday conversation. It's often a way for the person saying it to allow the weight of the information to sink in, as well as almost asking an implied rhetorical question to express their surprise or minor disbelief.

    Take each piece of dialogue in context to the conversation and the individuals involved. If it sounds like something someone would occasionally say, feel free to keep it.

    But like others have said, if it seems like an unnatural statement that is forced, toss it.

  7. #17
    Anthony Ravenscroft

    Re: Critique my chapter?

    Statements like that are made all the time in everyday conversation.

    SixForty, we're not talking about one or two infodrops scattered through a book or even chapter. We're trying to bring up that, given the go-ahead to use infodrops "once in a great while," the typical new writer will turn it into an infoFLOOD with two or three of these zingers PER PARAGRAPH. (Seen it.)

    The excuse is almost always either "Real people talk like that!" or "Rowlings does it!" In either case, the facts are that (a) citing exceptions doesn't defeat a sound rule, & (b) there's a big difference between someone trying to get a first publication & someone whose laundry lists would make NYTBS sales. New writers should not assume that, just because they've got a hammer, everything OUGHT TO be a nail -- & the fact that all they've got is a box of hammers doesn't do anything to justify it.

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