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I wouldn't say he's bland by any means, but this character is definitely talkative, and he's supposed to be. He's not the main character but does show up quite a bit. He tends to lecture and ramble on about things that don't really matter to the main character. What are the dangers of having a character like this? Is there anything I need to look out for or avoid doing when writing him?

Also: how much dialogue is too much dialogue for a talkative character?

EDIT: The character is a walking encyclopedia, particularly in the history department. He's also very strict with the rules, so he often sounds like a parent reprimanding his child whenever the main character breaks a rule. The story takes place in a fantasy universe, so he tends to ramble on about (1) the history of their people and cultural values or (2) how the main character needs to adhere to the rules of their society and think about the community.

He's pretty helpful in the beginning of the story where he does drop quite a few helpful pieces of information about the fantasy world that the characters live in. It's not an info dump; I scatter pieces here and there.

I guess you could see him as comic relief too. He's super oblivious to everything and could talk for an hour about rutabagas if he got into it ;)

  • Talkative in what sense? Like a teacher that rambles a lot during his lessons? Or is the character a self centered girl that keeps going on and on about herself during dates? Or is it a comic relief character that can't keep his mouth shut for the life of him? Or maybe he is an Casanova adventurer that keeps on talking about his barely real adventures to impress the ladies around him? Basically, to influence my answer, i need a bit more insight on what type of talkative character is him. If you could edit your answer to provided that information that would be good. – RazorFinger Jul 20 '16 at 11:03
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Your character can be boring, but your story shouldn't be.

Here's the golden ideal: every line of prose and every line of dialogue should serve a purpose. If somebody is saying a lot of boring stuff, most of that stuff doesn't serve any purpose - and should be avoided in your final draft.

But, there's a difference between being bored by a character, vs. being entertained by a character being boring. It's just a question of who is getting bored - boring other characters in the story is fine; boring the reader is not.

Here's some typical purposes of demonstrating a character being boring:

  • To establish character. Being boring, talkative, or chatty is part of who the character is; giving him a few characteristic lines helps you bring that character to life.
  • For humor. A talkative character can often offer comic relief, by going off on tangents, by hyperfocusing on some minor detail, or another dozen ways.
  • To ridicule the character. Sometimes you're deliberately mocking the character's talkative nature. Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit / And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes / I will be brief, says Hamlet's Polonius, and his inability to say things simply and straightforwardly is uproarious.
  • For others to be affected by it. Sometimes, the point is that other characters are bored, or exhausted, or amused, or engrossed. In these cases, it's much less important to report everything the talkative character says; instead you can gloss over the content, and focus on other characters' reactions.

So, in brief, whenever you're thinking, "OK, this character's going to go on forever now" -- consider how you want to portray that, and what purpose you want that to serve. Sometimes, you want the text. Sometimes you just want to write And then Malcolm went on for an hour about rutabagas, and we all nodded along politely.

In general, don't worry about it too much in the first draft; recognizing "boring areas" and places where readers might drift off is better suited for later edits - it's much easier to take a meandering bit of text and chop it down to something quick and snappy, than it is to write everything quick and snappy on the first go.

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    Sometimes you might even have a very talkative character without reproducing anything he's actually saying. In We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Fowler's protagonist is portrayed as constantly talking in childhood, but we hardly see any of it. Instead, she comments on it: Sometimes you best avoid talking by being quiet, but sometimes you best avoid talking by talking. Or: I remember often being told to be quiet, but I seldom remember what I was saying at the time. (...) Please assume that I am talking continuously in all the scenes that follow until I tell you that I'm not. – Standback Jul 20 '16 at 11:01
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Get everything out in the first draft. Let him ramble on all you like.

Put the first draft aside for a month or so. Go back and re-read, and be absolutely ruthless in your culling when re-reading his rambling.

If you still can't tell if he's talking too much, hand the ms off to a good beta reader with the explicit instruction that you need to know if/when Mr. Motormouth is overtaking the narrative.

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Heed Coleridge's admonition to Wordsworth: "it is impossible to imitate truly a dull and garrulous discourse, without repeating the effects of dullness and garrulity." So this may be one of those time to tell rather than show.

That said, it is possible to present a garrulous character who is highly amusing to the reader while clearly tedious to his audience. Dickens and Shakespeare both provide examples.

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