Writing Narrative vs Writing Dialogue

Written by Michael LaRocca

Writing Narrative vs Writing Dialogue Copyright 2001, Michael LaRocca http://free_reads.tripod.com

One ofrepparttar nice things about being an author is that we can break any rule we want. (I just did.) It’s part of our job description. Language changes through usage -- definitions, spelling, grammar -- and authors can help it do this. But onrepparttar 129756 other hand, we have to have some sort of agreement onrepparttar 129757 language or we won’t be able to talk to each other.

When we as authors break a rule or two, it’s not because we’re ignorant. It’s because we have reasons to break them. That’s one ofrepparttar 129758 joys of writing.

Having said that, now I’m going to explain some rules. There are two types of writing in your novel. There is your narrative and there is your dialogue. The rules forrepparttar 129759 two are notrepparttar 129760 same.

For example, comma use. In dialogue, it’s not so difficult. Put in a comma wherever your speaker pauses in his/her speaking. In narrative, you have to consultrepparttar 129761 style guides and hope that you and your editor, working as a team, can sort it all out.


A cop thriller like my Vigilante Justice has a simple set of rules forrepparttar 129762 narrative portion. Third-person, straightforward writing, light on adjectives and adverbs, easy to read and grammatically correct. Sentence fragments are acceptable if communication is achieved, and you’ll note that I use them often in this article. Why? Simply because it’s more effective that way.

To a degreerepparttar 129763 genre will help you identify what’s appropriate. For a cop drama, write inrepparttar 129764 dry style of a journalist. For horror, a bit of hyperbole may be acceptable inrepparttar 129765 most dramatic sections. For romance (not my genre), you can probably use lots more adjectives (swollen, heaving, throbbing, etc.) than you’d normally dare.

When I wrote Rising From The Ashes,repparttar 129766 true story of Mom raising my brother and I alone, I tried to adopt a “childlike voice” early inrepparttar 129767 narrative. Asrepparttar 129768 character of Michaelrepparttar 129769 storyteller grew older, I abandoned that childlike quality. (An entire book of that would get old fast anyway.)

When I wrote An American Redneck In Hong Kong,repparttar 129770 humorous sequel, I once again used first person narrative. Butrepparttar 129771 narrative of Rising is first person only in that it uses “I” instead of “Michael.” It still follows allrepparttar 129772 rules of “conventional” narrative. In Redneck, I threw most ofrepparttar 129773 rules outrepparttar 129774 window.

I used what one author referred to my as “conversational” tone to maximum effect in Redneck. This fellow author felt like he wasn’t so much reading my book as just listening to me tell some stories over a few beers. That’s exactly what I wanted.

In Rising, while I wasrepparttar 129775 “first person” character, I wasn’t reallyrepparttar 129776 book’s focus. In Redneck, I am. Center stage, inrepparttar 129777 spotlight. Using more of a “dialogue” style in what should have been “narrative” allowed me to focusrepparttar 129778 reader’s attention onrepparttar 129779 first person to a greater degree than simply describing him ever could. You may love me or you may hate me, but you’ll know me and you’ll laugh at me.

If you want to see such a technique used to maximum effect, I recommend A Monk Swimming by Malachy McCourt. (I read it after writing Redneck, byrepparttar 129780 way.) It’s about an actor who gets drunk and does very bad things to himself and his family, and it’s amazing just how much I laughed out loud reading about it. Doesn’t sound like a funny subject, does it? It’s not, and yet it is, thanks to his unconventional narrative style.

To tell yourepparttar 129781 truth, I don’t even think McCourt “wrote” that book. I think he just said it all into a tape recorder and transcribed it later. It reads that much like “a guy atrepparttar 129782 pub telling a tale.” If he usedrepparttar 129783 grammar checking function in MSWord, I bet it underlined every sentence. And, bright fellow that he is, he ignored them all and didn’t change a word.

If you’re going to use a more conversational tone in your narrative, don’t think that means you just write something down and don’t have to edit it. You still have to organize your thoughts, and that means rewriting. While your style may be unconventional, you have to makerepparttar 129784 ideas easy forrepparttar 129785 reader to follow.

(I’m not entirely serious when I say McCourt just spoke into a tape recorder, and even if he did that doesn’t meanrepparttar 129786 rest of us can get away with it.)

I originally wrote Redneck in chronological order. It worked for Rising, and it works for memoirs and novels in general, right? Well, inrepparttar 129787 case of Redneck, it was a disaster. Way too much “remember what I said before about…” and so forth. So while it was accurate, and while it was conversational, it stunk. I changed everything to more of a “theme-based” approach and that didrepparttar 129788 trick. Still conversational and accurate, but organized. The ideas are as easy to follow asrepparttar 129789 writing style, and that’s alwaysrepparttar 129790 goal. Ease of reading.

Inrepparttar 129791 case of narrative, you haverepparttar 129792 choice. If you want to spotlightrepparttar 129793 storyteller to maximum effect, you can go with first person and letrepparttar 129794 storyteller’s narrative and his dialogue readrepparttar 129795 same. If you’d prefer to “moverepparttar 129796 camera” back a bit, makerepparttar 129797 narrative conventional in contrast torepparttar 129798 dialogue. As a rule, this reader likes contrast, because he gets bored readingrepparttar 129799 same thing over and over again unlessrepparttar 129800 style is really special. Or perhaps you can find a point somewhere betweenrepparttar 129801 two.

Every story has a way that it should be told for maximum effect. Maximum effect inrepparttar 129802 author’s eyes, of course, as it’s a subjective thing. Keep it in mind as you write. Makerepparttar 129803 call, stick to it, change it if it’s not working. It might even be okay to be inconsistent, but only if you do so deliberately. Just keep stuff like “ease of reading” and “maximum effect” in mind and go be creative.


Have you ever read a book whererepparttar 129804 narrative andrepparttar 129805 dialogue readrepparttar 129806 same? I hope you haven’t. But as an editor I’ve seen such things, and they’re very ugly.

Do you know why they’re so ugly? Because they remindrepparttar 129807 reader ofrepparttar 129808 one thing an author does not want to remindrepparttar 129809 reader of. Namely, that every character onrepparttar 129810 page is a puppet underrepparttar 129811 author’s control.

As readers, we put that thought aside so we can enjoy reading. “Willing suspension of disbelief,” to quoterepparttar 129812 phrase an English teacher used when describingrepparttar 129813 performance of Shakespeare’s plays. Ifrepparttar 129814 author ensures thatrepparttar 129815 reader can’t suspend disbelief,repparttar 129816 book will not be read. Stilted dialogue is one ofrepparttar 129817 quickest ways to make that happen.

I’ve decided that writing dialogue isrepparttar 129818 hardest thing we do. It’s certainly notrepparttar 129819 something we can go look up in a style manual like Strunk or Turabian.

What arerepparttar 129820 rules? “Make it sound real.” But withrepparttar 129821 corollary, “not too real because people always say um and er and crap like that.” Oh yeah. That explains everything! End of my article, right?

Nope. I’m still writing it.

Ideally,repparttar 129822 greatest ofrepparttar 129823 great creators of dialogue will have every character “speaking” in a voice so distinctive that he/she need never identifyrepparttar 129824 speaker. Okay, that’s enough fiction. Back to reality. None of us are writing dialogue that well, are we?

10 Secrets For Writing Killer Complaint Letters

Written by Shaun Fawcett, M.B.A.

10 Secrets For Writing Killer Complaint Letters

Complaint letters aren't always fun, but sometimes they need to be written. Often, if people don't complainrepparttar problem agency (i.e. company or government) won't even know thatrepparttar 129754 problem even exists. Here are 10 strategies for writing complaint letters that I have developed that are guaranteed to get you attention and action.

1.Write torepparttar 129755 senior person responsible. It is important that you getrepparttar 129756 name and detailed mailing address of a very senior person responsible forrepparttar 129757 product or service that you are complaining about. I generally try to write torepparttar 129758 V.-P. level. Never go below Director level if you want a serious response. Name and address information can be obtained fromrepparttar 129759 organization's Web site or by callingrepparttar 129760 company and asking forrepparttar 129761 name and title ofrepparttar 129762 senior person who you should write to.

2.Don't send an e-Mail. When it comes to sending a serious complaint to a company, don't send an e-mail, regardless of what it may say on their Web site. E-mails are usually handled dismissively by low level "customer service" people. If you want serious attention and action,repparttar 129763 formal written complaint letter isrepparttar 129764 only way to go. (yes, by snail mail!). When it arrives inrepparttar 129765 V.-P.s office, it triggers a bureaucratic process that ensures that repparttar 129766 right people will see your letter, and will act on it.

3.Keep it as short as possible. Preferably no longer than one page, two atrepparttar 129767 most. When drafting a complaint letter there can be a tendency to go on and on just to make surerepparttar 129768 recipient getsrepparttar 129769 point. Keep it as short as possible, but without dilutingrepparttar 129770 facts of your message too much.

4.Give it a heading for identification. Place a heading atrepparttar 129771 top ofrepparttar 129772 letter with information that repparttar 129773 company or agency will relate to, such as your account number or customer number. Make it easy for them to find you on their computer filing system.

5.Clearly explainrepparttar 129774 situation. Make sure that you give all ofrepparttar 129775 specific details needed so thatrepparttar 129776 company/agency can verify your claim without you having to get into an endless game of telephone tag with them. Include specific dates, times and places, as well asrepparttar 129777 names of people you dealt with. If you're not sure of these when composingrepparttar 129778 letter, call them back and ask forrepparttar 129779 specifics. (You don't have to say it's for a complaint letter).

6.Use a positive and respectful tone. I have found thatrepparttar 129780 best approach is to use a positive upbeat tone. Remember, you are writing to a senior person who probably sympathizes with what happened to you. Your tone should convey repparttar 129781 message that you arerepparttar 129782 innocent victim and you understand thatrepparttar 129783 company wouldn't have done such a thing deliberately.

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