Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Four Person Conversation

I like to write dialogue. Seriously, my writing is like 90% dialogue, 5% dialogue tags and 5% everything else. Which is fine by me. Others might disagree and say that there should be a lot less dialogue, but I think it's the best part of a novel. It's where the characters come alive.

In fact, the only part of writing dialogue I don't like is when I have three or more participants in a conversation. Three isn't so bad as long as you're using first person, then you can have I, he and she said. If you're not writing in first person, you hit a barrier. You have, in most cases, two people of the same gender. Now, some people will tell you this is why the characters all need to have distinct voices, so that the reader can tell who is talking without a dialogue tag. These people are right, of course, but it's a lot harder to do than they make it sound.

And then we hit the four-person conversation. In my work in progress, there's a scene where four of the characters are bowling. And talking. I thought it was going quite well, then I realised that one of the characters hadn't said anything for two full pages. I'd completely forgotten about him because he just didn't have anything to say. Because that's the real problem with multi-person-conversations - finding stuff for them all to say. It has to be interesting stuff, boring bits get cut out eventually and you're probably left with a character not saying anything if you've just made them talk for the sake of it. Not everyone has something worth saying in a conversation.

In the end, I claimed that poor Kimble had gone to find some different bowling balls to explain why he'd been silent for so long, but that kind of feels like cheating. Suggestions??



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