Writing long conversations

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Writing long conversations

Post by Elowen-Astrid on Sat Apr 09, 2016 6:09 pm

I have reached a point where Maerwynn and Oliver have a long conversation about, what (a) what happened to Oliver when he lost his conciousness, (b) why Maerwynn was near him at the time he was attached by some dark creature ('duisterwezen'), (c) what these dark creatures are, (d) why her eyes glow, why she stayed so calm and what she is, and (e) how Oliver hid his powers from her, why he was looking for a mage, and how he was going straight towards her (what information did he have on her). 

While some of these points are longer than others I feel like they should be explained together. Then they will be interrupted by a concerned neighbour who gives them food. And she ultimately sends both Oliver (He is still injured and needs to rest) and Maerwynn (She is exhausted from caring for Oliver) back to bed. The next day they still need to talk about how Maerwynn healed Oliver, because he knows her main magic is not healing (and her home is a mess with books, potions and equipment all over the place). 

But to get back to my point. How can I write a long conversation without becoming repetitive in the "he said, she said, he answered", etc. I feel the info dump is necessary but I don't know how to handle it well. I am writing from Oliver's POV so I can tell you what he is thinking, what he is feeling and what is happening around him, but I can't tell what Maerwynn is thinking, only what she is doing (unless I make him read her mind, but then he can only get impressions from her, and not what she actually is thinking, and he at the moment is to weak to use magic)
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Re: Writing long conversations

Post by Sophie on Sat Apr 09, 2016 6:17 pm

I understand completely how difficult this point in the story can be - and I'm not that qualified to give advice since I'm also struggling with my own scene like this. But I find two things might make it easier.

1. Have them actually doing something while they're talking. Is he so weak that she has to help feed him? Or do they have long stretches of awkward silence where they are eating silently, or doing something.

For instance, in one scene I am (endeavouring) to write right now, my characters are walking through a tunnel so it is easy to interject dialogue with small actions to break it up a little. If they're sitting down motionlessly it could be boring... but I guess you have to remember that even when people talk to each other, no one is never totally still.

2. He can also concentrate on the fact that he can't read her mind properly/if at all, and maybe he's wishing that he could and/or trying to focus on small details of her movement to understand what she is actually thinking.

Anyway. Just some ideas from me!
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Re: Writing long conversations

Post by Elowen-Astrid on Sat Apr 09, 2016 7:14 pm

Sophie wrote:I understand completely how difficult this point in the story can be - and I'm not that qualified to give advice since I'm also struggling with my own scene like this. But I find two things might make it easier.

1. Have them actually doing something while they're talking. Is he so weak that she has to help feed him? Or do they have long stretches of awkward silence where they are eating silently, or doing something.

For instance, in one scene I am (endeavouring) to write right now, my characters are walking through a tunnel so it is easy to interject dialogue with small actions to break it up a little. If they're sitting down motionlessly it could be boring... but I guess you have to remember that even when people talk to each other, no one is never totally still.

2. He can also concentrate on the fact that he can't read her mind properly/if at all, and maybe he's wishing that he could and/or trying to focus on small details of her movement to understand what she is actually thinking.

Anyway. Just some ideas from me!

Thank you Smile  This is helpful. 
I try to make them do things, or give descriptions of things happening around him. It hard to think of appropriate activities for them to do. 

I actually just made Maerwynn get up to make some herbal tea (to lift the dark mood from talking about dark creatures) which made a nice bridge to the next subject: Maerwynn's magic. She heated the water magically as she found it to much effort heat the water the normal way, it was a lot faster as well.
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Re: Writing long conversations

Post by Poetic-Jessie on Sat Apr 09, 2016 7:48 pm

lol at Maerwynn's use of magic. It's always fun to get mages to use magic because they're too frustrated/tired to do it the 'long' way.

I think interspersing dialogue with actions helps break up the info dump and I agree with Sophie's advice. I'm not sure if I can add anything else.

But I will say that silly and random things can happen when interspersing dialogue with action. I usually plan the conversation and pants the action. I did this the other day and my character, who was in the front passenger seat of a car, met a kid's eyes in another car and the kid started pulling faces at her. She carried on the conversation and ended up pulling faces back at the kid. Meanwhile, the driver was oblivious to all of this and focusing on the traffic and changing lanes to take the exits. The front passenger kept looking at the driver to make sure that she wasn't caught pulling faces at a child. All of this was happening while they were having a pretty heavy and long conversation.
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Re: Writing long conversations

Post by Call Me Nefret on Sat Apr 09, 2016 11:43 pm

Sometimes if the scene has only two people speaking, I'll have a couple places where dialogue words like "said" dropped entirely. Usually I only do that when the conversation has been going on for a while, so you can still tell who said what.

I'll also add in some hand gestures ("waved her hand dismissively" is a favorite") and describe their tone or facial expression.
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