21

It's not that it's always a bad thing - and to directly answer your question it can be appropriate to use it. Where it's bad is when it is over-used, specifically when the writer relies on it to place the emphasis they "hear" on the words but without actually conveying the particulars of that emphasis to the reader. Imagine you're trying to show a ...


15

The "subtitle problem" is an extremely common one in stories with multilingual characters, and there are a few different approaches. Here are three suggestions for how you can do it. In most cases, you would do something like, "What's the deal?" I asked, sliding easily into my native tongue. "Did the package come or not?" This ...


15

We write best the things we love best. People are the real world model for characters, so if you want to write better characters, pay more attention to people. Try to see them as they really are, not just your image of them, or their demographic categories, or your judgements about them. If you can love someone because of their flaws, not just in spite of ...


15

There are several possibilities. Paring down the number of characters in the scene. Six to twelve means that most of them aren't doing anything most of the time. Using action tags such as, "John threw his hands in the air. 'What else could we do?'" Making their speech patterns more distinctive.


13

If your plot really does require throwing 12 people in a room together, and most or all of them must actually talk at some point, don't try to write out the literal sequence of dialog word-for-word. Instead, give the reader a high-level summary of (at most) one to two paragraphs describing the conversation as a whole, and its result. If it's just "...


9

One way to do this (which can be quite difficult to strike the balance on) is to ensure that your characters all have distinctive quirks and manners of speech. "When talking together, Yoda, Jar-Jar, Hagrid and Sasuke Uchiha are, determine the speaker, you can." "Take care you don' overdo it though. Yer gonna have ta keep it readable." &...


9

Item #1: Words are just tools First, writing is ultimately about conveying something. If your words convey to the reader what you want them to, they're good by definition. It's just a question of: is there a better way to get your message across? If not... then keep it how you have it! Item #2: You're relying on a (possibly inaccurate) proxy. You're ...


8

I think you're making things hard on yourself. Is the book intended for people who speak English? Then the dialog should be in English. Readers routinely understand and accept that this is supposed to be a translation of whatever language the character would really speak. Every now and then, I read a story where the author puts in a lot of text in a foreign ...


8

A few years ago, I came across this advice from Elmore Leonard: Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. It is perhaps a bit extreme, but since reading it, I've noticed that a lot of great dialog is simply attributed with "[character] said" or "said [character]", over and over. Rather than feeling humdrum, these ...


8

While in the process of typing up the question, I had a brainwave - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt.2 does the same thing, during the scene in which Hermione uses Polyjuice Potion to disguise herself as Bellatrix Lestrange. (The other Polyjuice Potion scenes from the previous films also count, but that was the one that sprang to mind.) The production ...


7

You could just have the action narrated: Webby squealed with girlish delight, "We can do actual Magic." Ultimately though, Onomonpedic exclamations are generally fine in books so long as they can be distinguished. "AAAAH" is a very specific sound that a person makes in certain circumstances. There are different reasons to squeal: Are you making an ...


7

I can understand how your dialogue would come across as unnatural, because... well, it isn't. You're trying to force your characters in a particular direction. Try to think less about what your characters need to say, in order to move the plot in the direction you want, and more about what they would actually say. Your characters' speech needs to convey ...


7

This is an awesome question and there are a lot of great ways to do this! Here are a few tips I've received from fellow authors that I really like. Consider their occupation, upbringing and background A computer scientist will speak differently, and make different references and cultural allusions, than an archaeologist or a biologist. Your grizzled ...


7

According to this article and other sources, there are four defined stages of culture shock that you could have your character experience. You could write them in any order, but this is typically the order in which they occur in the real world. 1: The Honeymoon Stage The character falls in love with the culture. She becomes infatuated with the language, ...


6

This is a big question, so I'm not even going to attempt to give a complete answer. Let me just mention a couple of points that I really notice when an author does NOT do right. One: In real life, people often have complex motivations. When making an important decision, a person will routinely have several reasons for deciding the way they do. I sometimes ...


6

This may sound odd but don't put yourself in a character's shoes. Put the character in uncomfortable shoes. What I mean is this: People are more different than you can imagine. I developed a neurological problem that gave me a taste of what it was like to be someone else. To filter out different things from the world; to form beliefs differently; to ...


6

Generally, no. The traditional editing process has three layers. In order, there's the substantive edit, the line edit, and the proofread. All three require a different set of skills. The substantive edit (this process goes by a number of different names) aims to address 'big-picture' elements such as plot holes, character arcs, pacing, etcetera. When the ...


6

I would recommend having A paraphrase C and D's dialogue instead of repeating it word-for-word. That way, you don't have to worry about nested quote marks, and you can summarise C and D's exchanges instead of having lengthy conversations inside lengthy conversations, which will get confusing and tiring. Your readers (and B) shouldn't need to know every ...


5

Warning: I'm going to go with a frame challenge. It's not the question you asked, but it's the answer I think will help. The problem isn't your dialog – which honestly seems good to me, it's the empty 'stage directions' and filler text between the spoken words that's draining the life from these scenes. I'll remove the dialog, and strip the sentences of ...


5

I'll address each of the criticisms you've received separately. The segue from one topic of conversation to another is not fluid. I'm not sure I see any problems with this in the excerpts you've posted. The main shift in conversation is in excerpt 3, which moves quickly from the orcs to the oath, but this sounds like a natural progression to me - Adam ...


5

I think you might be focusing too much on a plot device and not enough on character development. As Artichoke mentioned, your character doesn't need to fight. If your character is so weak that he would never fight, there's no way to force him to do so. You could make him run and hide. Even though the enemy might pressure him to fight (such as endangeringl ...


5

This has been touched on in other answers and comments, but I'd like to bring it out explicitly: You don't have to do anything. In fact, I'd argue you shouldn't do anything. It's a general understanding when reading English books that in any given scene, "English" is the stand-in for "language the POV character speaks and understands". ...


5

While its certainly easy to overuse both italization and bolding, if you take extra care to use it quite sparingly and certainly NOT multiple times with a sentence it can be ok. Oh, right that also applies to all caps which is bad vs While its certainly easy to overuse both italization and bolding, if you take extra care to use it quite sparingly and ...


4

I would do a little eye dialect when the character first speaks: Thash nuyor biznush! (Maybe not quite that dramatic, but maybe.) Then have your other characters react to it, asking the character "sorry? I didn't quite get that?" or echoing what they think they heard. Then, because all of this is tiring for the reader, switch from dialog to ...


4

Screenplays are production documents. Screenplays communicate things that are intended for production like who says what line, so casting agents, directors, and actors know who is present in the scene without second-guessing the author or discovering it episodes later. The producer/director/casting agent of the first episode may never read any of the later ...


4

Think about other people that you know, and how they would react in a certain situation. Think about memories that you have of things that have happened to them, and how they have acted. Consider characters from movies and TV shows that you have watched, and jot down some notes on how they reacted to situations, and classify their personalities based on ...


4

Perhaps, rather than just what people prefer, you should also work in what people are used to. If someone has only ever had creamy, sweet coffee, and they get served a strong, black coffee, it can surprise them. But over time, as they get used to it, they'll realise it's coffee all the same. Also, you could try to de-link the colour from the preference ...


4

Having heard what you should do, allow me to mention something that you should not do: If the character is speaking in his or her native language, and you are translating it into English for the reader's sake, then do not try to write English with the accent of the original language. Instead, write English that has the same sound/gravitas to English-speaking ...


4

As Mary stated Using action tags such as, "John threw his hands in the air. 'What else could we do?'" Mixing acion is the approach I prefer both in reading and writing. The characters do not need to be involved in Hollywood style action, they may be drinking tea. People communicate a lot more with their body and tone than with words Alice looked ...


4

Rather than designing the dialogue, you just need to make sure you have a really good grasp of the different characters - this task isn't really about how funny you consider yourself to be, it's about the characters' personalities. The dialogue can then be done in a step by step fashion - so something happened, who's going to be first to comment on it, and ...


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