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I wanted to know How Much Dialogue Is Too Much Dialogue ? I'm writing chapter and i can't really seem to trim my dialogues since my all 4 of my characters are to talk to each other and interact with their surroundings as well.

For example the current scene i'm writing is that Lord Cutler is meeting with his rival Lord Graham. As they both start a fencing match they repeatedly start to insult and ridicule the other person while their squires cheer them on while insulting their opposition.

How do i mix dialogue and describe the thrilling match between the 2 lords.

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You're probably too close to the scene to tell. My suggestions:

1) Write the scene with whatever dialogue you think is necessary. Put it in a drawer and don't look at it for at least a month. Then pick it up and read it cold. Make notes of where you can't tell who's speaking.

2) Hand the scene to one or more friends. Ask them to tell you what they can and can't follow, or where they feel it needs more narration interspersed with dialogue.

3a) If you're still struggling, find four friends and cast them as the lords and squires and have them ad-lib the scene. Record it on your phone. Play it back and write down not just what they say, but what the actors are doing. How often do they stop trash-talking and just whack at each other?

3b) If that's not logistically possible, watch old swashbuckling films like The Adventures of Robin Hood or Captain Blood — early stuff from Errol Flynn is great — and pay attention to the sword-fighting scenes. Flynn and Basil Rathbone have a great extended sword fight at the end of Robin Hood. Watch how they dance around while also trading barbs. Spend some time transcribing the entire scene as if you were writing stage directions. Do the same with Pirates of the Caribbean, particularly when Jack Sparrow and Will are fighting in the smithy.

(Fun facts about Robin Hood: Rathbone was such a good sword-fighter that he had to be told to tone it down, because Flynn was an amateur; and that kind of swishy-swashy-swashbucking flailing around with swords for film purposes is now called "flyinning" in Errol's honor.)

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I think it entirely depends upon the pacing you require from the scene.

If you're writing it with the action in mind, I would have around a single line of dialogue for every action that takes place.

However, if it's comedy, you can be more liberal with the conversation, and intersperse it with summaries of action sequences.

"You, sir, have the posture of a dog that has just learned that it has hind legs!" cried Lord Cutler, leaping forward and thrusting his blade directly at his opponent's face.

"Aha!" responded Lord Graham, deftly jumping to his left to avoid the blow, "your insults are more likely to cut me than your sword!"

He returned with an arcing strike downwards, which was met with a clean riposte from the prepared Lord Cutler.

His squire watched the neat block, and joined in with the chorus of barbs over the sound of clashing rapiers, "have at him, m'lord! You shall win this fight with ease!"

The two fighters danced back and forward, clearly evenly matched in skill.

When this is compared with:

"You, sir, have the posture of a dog that has just learned that it has hind legs!" cried Lord Cutler viciously at his opponent.

"Aha!" responded Lord Graham, "your insults are more likely to cut me than your sword!"

His squire joined in with the chorus of barbs, "have at him, m'lord! You shall win this fight with ease!"

Lord Cutler leaped forward and thrust his blade directly at his opponent's face, which Lord Graham avoided by jumping to the left.

He returned with an arcing strike downwards, which was met with a clean riposte from the prepared Lord Cutler.

The two fighters danced back and forward, clearly evenly matched in skill.

These two bits of action + conversation have the exact same things happening and being said, but reading gives them a different impression.

Having the action alongside the dialogue draws out the fight sequence, making it feel as if the fight is lasting longer, whereas grouping them separately has more focus on what the two are saying to each other, with some action involved.

There should be as much dialogue as needed, but where you are putting it is the important part. If you want the fight to feel fast-paced, but there are three interactions of dialogue for every movement, then cut down on the quips.

If you're looking for more focus on the talking, then just add in a few actions between every chunk of dialogue to break up the conversation, which will help it to flow instead of just being a wall of speech.

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Keep in mind that your reader wants to read the story, and doesn't care to hear every detail about everything that happens during an event. Therefore, try trimming all of the dialog except the bits that contribute directly to moving the story along. (Read your favorite authors to see examples of this.)

Having said that, there are stories out there that are nothing but dialog.

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According to Mark Twain, dialogue should end the moment the participants have nothing more to say to each other.

However, this needs to be qualified. Ready? Here goes:

If you're really talented, there's no limit. The entire book can consist of nothing but dialogue. If you're really talented, that is.

If you're not really talented, you shouldn't be writing fiction.

  • I'd add that dialog should begin when the participants have something to say that the reader wants to know. That is, leave out all the "Hi" "How are you?""Fine, and you?" – Ken Mohnkern Nov 9 '15 at 13:51

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