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Too much Dialouge in chapters/paragraphs

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Archunt3r, May 30, 2020.

  1. Archunt3r

    Archunt3r Acolyte

    Hi everyone,

    Not sure if this is the right spot, but how do you all know if there is too much dialogue in your paragraphs? I am rewriting chapter 1 of my novel and there seems to be a lot of talking, and I'm not sure if it should be lessened or not, what are your thoughts?
  2. Gospodin

    Gospodin Minstrel

    This is hard to address, but I can think of a couple of scenarios.

    Are your characters infodumping at the reader via the dialogue? It's a kind of narrative intrusion, when we use a character to spew information in a way that feels unnatural or out of context, perhaps because the narrative mode (narrative POV) one has chosen doesn't really allow for the deployment of said information unless some character literally spits it out. That can certainly be one situation.

    Another is when a character is pretty much monologuing, and perhaps the monologue has a purpose that is reasonable, but we fail to break it up. Just one long monologue with no actions, no movements, no tossing of hair, no changing of seats, no bringing of a cup of wine, etc. The setting starts to fade in the mind of the reader. That's another instance that comes to mind.
  3. Archunt3r

    Archunt3r Acolyte

    yeah, when I look at what I've got there are story elements, as say person A has asked something along the lines of, can you tell me what you know of x people. and then person B goes yes, something about them, but then goes and asks have they got what they needed for a job.
  4. Gospodin

    Gospodin Minstrel

    Well, depending on how it's deployed and into how much detail Person B goes, I feel like this could possibly, maybe be what I mentioned in the first situation. I've not read it so I've no idea how into detail Person B goes with respect to describing People X in question, but if he's delivering a short ethnography concerning People X, that could be a culprit. It pushes the line of plausibility and could be (all conjecture here) what's making you question.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    >there seems to be a lot of talking,

    "a lot" of talking isn't necessarily a bad thing. When you say "a lot" are you really saying there is too much? What about the dialog is making you think that?

    What is happening in this dialog? You said, someone asks someone else about a people and there's a reply. Is that the whole of the dialog for chapter one? Let's assume it is. The next question is, what's at stake in this? Does Person A need to know this in order to avoid death? To know how to arm themselves? Just curious about people? What purpose is the dialog serving?

    It's rarely about too much, whether of dialog or description or narration. It's more about moving the story along, engaging the reader, and serving the needs and goals of the characters in the scene. If that's being done, you can have nothing but dialog, at least in theory.
  6. Vaporo

    Vaporo Inkling

    I don't think that too much dialogue is necessarily a problem in and of itself. I think the problem is learning to properly break it up with dialog tags and intermittent actions. (He said, She replied, Martin began to absentmindedly pull at a loose thread in his shirt, etc.) Your main goal should be sure that the dialogue is interesting and properly contextualized for your reader.
  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Sometimes scenes are dialogue heavy. Other times it's narrative heavy. Other times, still, it's more balanced. There's nothing wrong with any one of those. It's not necessarily amount of each ingredient you put in. It's putting in the right amount and using it in a way to achieve what you want with the scene and have it feel natural.

    A few things you should be careful of.

    1- Talking heads. Be careful about having two characters standing/sitting there spouting dialogue to one another and not be doing anything else. It makes it tougher to make the scene interesting because things are very static. There's less to work with to engaging the reader's imagination. Have the characters be doing something. If that something directly relates to a specific pieces of information you need to get across to the reader, all the better, but it doesn't necessarily have to relate.

    For example, it's more natural for information about the warp drive to come out while doing maintenance on the warp drive rather than while baking. Though, the latter can work, too. You just have to be more creative in order to make it come out feeling natural and not like the info is dropped in out of left field.

    2 - Watch out for as-you-know-Bob type dialogue. This is where one character asks a short question that they already know the answer to in order to tee up an info dump. OR in some cases, worse, the info dump isn't even prompted with the short question.

    For example.

    "Hey, Ted, how about those Jeffyeries Tubes?"

    "Yeah, how about them Bob. They run a thousand feet in either direction and crisscross through all the decks. A great place to hide if we are ever boarded by Romulans. We could fight a guerrilla war using these if we had to, using them to enter the armory undetected and gather supplies. No one could ever track us through them. We know them best.

    These are signs that maybe the writer isn't being thoughtful/creative enough in designing their scene, and/or not getting into the POV character's head and using introspection to get things across in a more natural feeling way.

    There are probably more things to be wary of, but these are the two most obvious in my eyes.
  8. I think, if this is your opening chapter, you also have to consider if your conversation/exposition balance works to achieve the important functions of a good first chapter. That is, to hook readers into your story and to create an interest of some sort that connects them to your MC.

    I'll assume here that one or both of the people talking are your MCs. So, off the top of my head, here are ways dialogue heavy openings can hook me as a reader.

    Do they make me wonder about the situation/object/event they are discussing or that is happening around them and create a sense off wonder without info dumping?

    Is their conversation relatable enough but still lead me to ask questions about what will happen next/and or create some sort of mystery?

    Is there conflict between the characters? It can be subtle, a life long dislike one hides from the other that is revealed through internal thoughts and subtle physical beats. A friendly street corner conversation without some sort of friction or foreshadowing is not great for a first chapter unless it leads to something big at the end of the chapter. So, say two blokes are having a chat where the MC reveals their internal distrust of the other character all throughout, even though the other character is being ever so gracious, complimentary and kind. This can work when, at their parting, the MC realizes his coin pouch is missing or, better yet, that looking at the clock tower, what he thought surely could not have been more than a five minute chat, actually took three hours.

    Stephen King is a master at this. I can't think of any one story off hand but he has more than few that begin in the midst of the daily life of his characters interacting before the other shoe drops. It's never exposition though, just setting scene and characters dispositions and relationships before the shoe drops.

    Maybe that's my point, If there is a conversation like that, something should happen, am eye opening moment for the reader that is not an info dump, but creates mystery and makes them turn the page to read on.

    Between the back and forth of dialogue, am I given enough of the MC through either (depending on the POV) their own thoughts or the narrator's telling to draw me in further than their conversation alone could? Am I shown aspects of some of the MC's traits: empathy, betrayal, self loathing, self-righteousness, a class division, piousness, shame, arrogance, etc etc these can be achieved in physical beats and internal dialogue during the conversation.

    Hoping any of that helps! Good luck!
    Archunt3r likes this.
  9. Archunt3r

    Archunt3r Acolyte

    Thanks all for the help and ideas, I'd like to post the first 500 odd words of what I've started with the rewrite which brought up this question but I am not sure if there is a place for me to do that here?
  10. KaeSeven7

    KaeSeven7 Dreamer

    It depends on what the writing includes.

    An argument, for example, would be great if there was a lot of back-and-forth short sentences.
    Introducing/explaining part of your story's history may need that bit of explaining through dialogue that you can't avoid, but as long as you keep an eye on how much is necessary and how much can be revealed in more secretive and surprising ways, this can be easily allowed.
    Generally I'd say if your scene is fast-paced, remember your character won't be taking in everything or maybe even thinking properly enough to speak. If your scene is quite slow at the moment, they may take in more than usual from their surroundings, and maybe then they'll notice things that don't need explaining via someone else.

    Also, if you are finding yourself getting bored by rewriting it - or you are very obviously noticing the amount of dialogue as you've mentioned, consider that your reader would pick up in this too. So unless you are extremely self critical and always see your writing like this, yes, there probably is too much dialogue.

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