Dialogue Heavy Narratives

Hello all, I’ve made my return to CoG and I’m glad to be back. Been doing some writing over the past few days and I’m hoping to keep it going until I actually get something done.

Anyway, I wanted to discuss something rather pertinent to my work; dialogue heavy narratives (as you may have guessed from the title). I’ve been writing for something like 10 years now, and across all of my works I’ve noticed that I have a tendency to write stories with lots of talking. Typically, scenes will contain a lot more text inside speech quotes than outside. I worry that this makes my work seem rather difficult to imagine, since all the reader sees are the words being spoken and some occasional descriptions of the characters doing the talking.

But often times I feel like if I tried to put in more descriptive text, it’d basically just be filler padding out the wordcount. I mean, how much does a person do (that is worth describing) while they are talking anyway?

I wonder if it’s simply the case that there is just a lot of talking going on. I don’t get the vibe from other works that I read that there is too much dialogue, but maybe I’m just treating my works differently because I wrote them.

With that said, I pose the following questions for you:

  • Do you write dialogue heavy stories?
  • Is there anything wrong with dialogue-heavy writing?
  • What can I do to better balance dialogue with descriptive text, without making a scene unnecessarily longer?
  • Do you need a sample of my writing to get an idea of what I mean?

Looking forward to your responses! Thanks!

I write with high talking even with internal monologues .
but does my theme its Normaly or sci fi or fantasy i create a internal companion . There are great writers with that tendency like Cervantes the Quixote is almost pure dialogue. the descriptions are there but are short and sharp trying to follow the irony of their story. Descriptions are totally needed in a game based in text you couldn’t choose if there is purely dialogue characters talk about they see but player is blind without description. My humble advice is you try answer the questions like a journalist What happen?
Where ? Who? How? in a little description don’t have to be a poetical verse only few lines that give context and ambient the story dialogue is easy and fast but without context and lamentation doesn’t make sense

I love writing long and involved dialogues.
One of my original inspirations was David Eddings, who got a lot of mileage from a very cliched setting and tired tropes by writing very snappy, snarky characters who grew on you because of how they spoke. That was the style I was aiming for when I wrote “Sabres of Infinity”, and that’s the style I’m still using today.

As for economising on the length of your text, I generally see the problem not as how long your descriptive text is, but where it’s positioned. A battle, or a conversation with few pauses should have minimal descriptive text, if at all. If your readers are supposed to be worrying exclusively about the dialogue, superfluous description does nothing save distract them from the important things in the scene. If you have to mention one character or the other doing something, then it should be minimal, to preserve the reader’s attention. More leisurely conversations demand longer snippets of description in between dialogue, and awkward pauses are great for more in-depth imagery.

@MaraJade Oh, don’t get me wrong, there is definitely descriptive text to be found in my writing, especially at the beginning of scenes. It’s just once two or more characters start talking, unless something specifically physical is happening, I just sort of flip back and forth between the people who are talking, writing enough to make it clear who says what but not a lot else.

It’s probably not as heavily dialogue-focused as I think, but I have been told before that I write dialogue-heavy.

@Cataphrak Good to know. I definitely have a similar view to you. I just seem to have this notion in my head that other people’s work that I read is infinitely more detailed and immersive than my own (or rather, portions of my own). But that could just be because I’m the one who wrote my work.

@CS_Closet Maybe I’m just in a similar position as you (the paranoia). When I think back on the times I’ve played Resonance, I recall it being extremely easy to picture the world you created for it, and the characters within it. I guess my concerns here could stem from reading others’ work and comparing it with my own.

I have submitted a demo here before, and no one had any complaints about too much dialogue. But that was just a demo, of course.

Still, interesting to see what everyone thinks about this. I doubt it’s as bad I as think.

I’m used to writing visual novels, so anything I write is going to be dialogue heavy. I also tend to be quite paranoid that it’s too much dialogue, but I’ve rarely ever heard anyone outside of my own head complain.

In character-centric works, a little bit of description is great to clarify what’s happening or add an emphasis on the dialogue. Just watch regular people while they’re having a conversation. They do things. Sometimes it’s subtle movements that convey emotions to the extra-observant, other times it’s full-on acting out what they’re talking about. Adding these sorts of things between the lines of dialogue can add another dimension to the conversation and give readers a little more insight into the characters’ personalities.

I’m very much against squeezing in description just for the sake of having description, though. Don’t force anything in if it doesn’t seem right or doesn’t flow well to you.

I think writers tend to notice more about their work than readers do. I’ve played around with purposely not describing things and noticed that readers will usually fill in their own details as long as they’re given a starting point with which to do so (As an example, Resonance had almost no description of anyone or anything. The only thing I did was not contradict whatever a reader’s own imaginings might be).

There’s probably a lot more leeway in what readers will accept as perfectly fine and normal than your brain is telling you.

A description im the middle of a dialogue serves as a dramatic pause:

-Tell me! Did you really?..

The inspector stood up, a smirk in his lips. He then slowly walked around his desk until he was in front of her.

-Yes. Yes, I did.

If you don’t need the pause, if the scene demands the dialogue to be more dinamic, then all those descriptions should be avoided, and added, if needed, after the action has died out:

-Confess! Did you do it?
-Yes! I did it! Please, don’t torture me anymore!

She smiled. She had his confession, and that was all that mattered to her…

Some people might not like it, but there’s nothing wrong it, and I think the majority *will* like it. It’s a difficult argument.

It’s like asking whether your story should be event driven or character driven, should it be mostly dialogue or description? There’s no right or wrong way.

The answer is always going to be, whatever you feel most comfortable with :slight_smile:


I actually was told once that I should write more descriptive background due to my stories being dialogue heavy. I did listen to that advice, however I found that I ended up writing MORE dialogue as well! So the balance didn’t really change, I just tend to write more words in general now.

I write dialogue heavy stories for the most part since I tend to focus on the protagonist’s thoughts and feelings, and the people they’re dealing with (Relationships, personal interactions, etc.).

I find writing about people (or monsters, or whatever) and what they’re doing is more interesting than the actual places that they happen to be at the moment. I mean if the story warrants detailed description of the surroundings then of course I write it in (Character interaction with surroundings for example), but I don’t tend to focus on it as much as dialogue.

Though when I do want to write more “background” I tend to make a separate looping link so if the reader wants to know more about a particular location they can, but if they don’t then they can safely ignore it as it doesn’t bog down the main story.

I’m biased of course, but I don’t see anything bad about writing dialogue heavy stories.

I definitely feel comfortable writing the way I do, and don’t want to force anything. I’m glad your comments support this.

Interesting discussion though. Seems like so far no one is really against lots of dialogue, which I’m perfectly happy with!

Once someone told me “Dialogues Are the story”. Or something like that. Oh, well, it had something to do with dialogues, I’m almost sure…

You have to be really good to keep your readers entertained if you write a story without dialogues, as it will become almost always in a tedious lecture. On the contrary, you can write a story with just dialogues, and maybe some exceptional description. Think about drama books. They’re all dialogues, and you still can read them with ease (though it’s not as fun as seeing the play).

@Aquila Very true! I didn’t think about drama books/plays etc. I like what I’m hearing.

I always thought that my writing was very dialogue heavy, but now that I think about it… It really isn’t?

You might just be hyper-critical of yourself. Even if you’re not, dialogue is my favorite part of stories-- to write and to read. Too much description seems to stop the flow for me… unless it’s done really well.

@potato Yeah I think so too. With my own writing I often know exactly where it is leading and I can usually visualise it in my head really well. Then I start actually writing it and of course, simple text can’t live up to the awesome image in my mind, so I get critical and more analytical of my work.

Whereas with reading the fiction of others, you don’t know where it’s heading and it feels like you’re in a completely different world. You get caught up in the mysticism of it all and suddenly everyone else’s work looks so much better than your own, when really it’s probably not as great a divide as you think.

@Saracenar Yeah, exactly! The thing you said with the image in your head, all the way. It never comes out right, man.

I have some jealousy issues when it comes to other writers. When I read something by, like, Peter S. Beagle (who is a description god), I get overwhelmed by how great everything is and go, ‘WHY CAN’T I WRITE LIKE THAT! UGH.’

But I’ve been told by people that they’re jealous of me. So… yeah. I’m sure there are people who read your work and go ‘damn!’, just like we do with others, haha. It’s like when you go on Deviantart and the artist is like, ‘ugh this is so bad but here’, and you’re sitting there like ‘um… no, this is fucking fantastic’.

Ah. The neighbor’s-greener-pastures syndrome, happens all the time.

But to get back on topic, I would say that yes, I can vouch for screenplays.
I think my attention span has been dwindling (and not in a good way) since the last time I could finish reading a whole book - it’s that bad; long paragraphs just lost me. While I’m not very familiar with traditional theatre format, I feel that reading movie scripts has helped me grow in dialogue development, which is basically instead of having my proverbial mouth frothing from delivering descriptions, I just let the characters do the storytelling with all the talking, along their respective bias/attitude, to introduce to the audience what is going on around them.

Personally I think it’s quite effective. Then again it’s probably worth paying attention to the kind/genre of content you’re working on; some might not benefit that much from the intense back-and-forth.

@potato Haha I know exactly what you mean. I wish I could draw half as well as some people I know, and they don’t think very highly of their skills.

@FcA Yeah same, I used to read pretty long books when I was younger, but the best I can do now is light novels that are like 300 pages at most. Generally though I’ll be reading comics or manga, which have even less text. It’s frightening how, despite loving some worlds so much, I can’t return to them because I just can’t be bothered reading all the way through :confused: