Dialogue Noises

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Laurence, Jul 13, 2018.

  1. Laurence

    Laurence Grandmaster

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    Do you guys write dialogue noises such as "ugh!" for disgust, "agh!" for surprise, growls, sniffs etc?

    I think I'd like to avoid any such sounds in my writing or at least in more sombre scenes. Is that just asking for too much tell and not enough show though? I'm guilty of that issue as it is, so perhaps I should just chill out and grunt.
     
  2. Geo

    Geo Lore Master

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    Using the onomatopoeia of a sound is a common practice but by no means you're obliged to use it. If you don't feel comfortable including such expressions in your dialogue of prose, don't do it. Nonetheless, in my opinion, using them well doesn't rest from the seriousness of any situation may be describing.
     
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  3. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    Often, if these are used liberally in a novel, the novel feels "light" to me—not necessarily comedic, but simple. How do I describe this? A simple adventure tale might be one case. Nothing wrong with that; I can (and do!) enjoy tales where the focus is more on the adventure than...Hmmm. What is the antithesis? I don't know heh.

    That said, I think there are cases where inserting something like this works even in the darker or grittier fare. Say, your MC hears "Ooomph!" behind him and turns to see his companion doubled over and a heretofore unknown enemy holding the handle of the dagger that is now submerged in that companion's gut. Sometimes the onomatopoeia is exactly the right thing to use.
     
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  4. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    What these sounds do is pull attention from the action to the dialogue.

    "ARGGHH!!! I'm going to KILL YOU!"

    "I'm going to kill you!" he roared.

    These two are very different statements, I find. The first is more about the character, and without context I picture maybe a teenage boy yelling at his sister, or some similarly exaggerated moment. For the second, I see something more dangerous like a fighter about to run through an enemy.

    That's not to say you can't use them even in that about-to-kill moment, just that (other things equal) it changes the context and perception of the scene. Of course the final outcome is the product of a lot of different elements to judge it based only on this one.
     
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  5. Hallen

    Hallen Journeyman

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    I would typically use them in the context where the character actually said them.
    "Ugh, it really stinks in here," said Sheila as she wrinkled her nose.

    Verses, if the character did not use the sound as part of a comment.

    "Rooooaaarr. I'm going to kill you!"

    I would prefer something like:
    Jason let out a strangle screech as he rushed forward. "I'm going to kill you," he yelled.
     
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