How much dialog is too much?

#1
I cannot help but notice that my stories, no matter what my genre, are extremely dialog heavy.
It's still a habit I carried over from my short stories, as in there I didn't have the room for large inner monologues or descriptive paragraphs.
My stories tend to be character driven, and for me the best way to know a character is to let them talk.
Sure, I'm trying to branch out into internal monologues with my current work and cut down the dialog to the best of my abilities.
But still I find myself making chapters that are 80% dialog.
I mean, I do try to make my dialog interesting, using as many character tics as possible and inserting humor when I can, so it doesn't become boring.
Still, it's a lot of dialog to work with.

Re: How much dialog is too much?

#2
Quite a few great stories are chiefly dialogue. As long as it's interesting, feels believable, and moves the story along, there's nothing wrong with it. In stories where mind games are a strong component, the dialogue can be the action.

. . . that being said, RR tends to favor a stronger element of physical action, so if that's what you're aiming at, it might present a problem.

Re: How much dialog is too much?

#3
Dang, you're on the other side of the dialogue spectrum from me. I suck at dialogue, I know it, and I have found myself subconsciously straying away from scenes that kind of demand more dialogue. I have had to force myself to push through the dialogue-heavy scenes in order to balance out my story. On the plus side, I'd imagine you've gotten pretty good at it with all the practice. Not a bad thing to have that in your skillset, especially since you seem pretty self-aware of the potential issue and can work on balancing all the conversations with more action and world-building.

Re: How much dialog is too much?

#5
I think most of the time dialogue isn't noticed because of its presence or absence, but because of what it's being used for. A story can be loaded with dialogue, but if it's written well and used in ways that are actually enjoyable to read, then people won't even notice. The reasons for why a story is dialogue-heavy are the important part, in my opinion. If you're dialogue heavy because your narrative relies on characters interacting with and bouncing off of each other, than it's very easy to "justify" to the reader. However, if you're using dialogue to dump exposition, or explain something that's happening in a given moment, or anything else that could potentially be done more smoothly be done by the "narrator" (could also be referred to as "stage writing" or some other things) than it will feel like dialogue that's not really serving any purpose. It can also harm the character writing as well. If you have the easy-going comic relief guy inexplicably dump exposition about something, it can kind of "break the illusion", I suppose you could say.

Re: How much dialog is too much?

#6
Depends how you do it.  Reading is all about the imagination.  Can you imagine the dialogue being spoken.  If there's any specific ticks or traits required by  the dialog, they should be included as description.  You should be able to imagine every scene you are writing.  Your job is to translate that into written word.  That's not limited to dialog, but also the setting.  Of course, you don't want to describe every pipe.  Nor do you want to write down every stray comment.  

Your fiction has a plot and you should limit yourself to descriptions and dialog that contribute to the plot or character building in some way.  You should be able to state, if only to yourself, what this line is accomplishing.  Are you setting up an atmosphere for a grand battle?  Is the cup of coffee the protagonist prepared somehow relevant to developing his character?  

Connecting everything is what makes a fiction great.  Everything should build up to something that is more.  It's like building a house, I could throw an extension cord into a room and say "there's your plug" but I don't think you'd be too happy with me as your electrician.  The same goes with using a random villager as a side character.  Your fiction is like a 3-dimensional jigsaw where you have to craft the pieces by hand.  Do a good job and everything comes together seemlessly.  

Re: How much dialog is too much?

#7
Everything must serve the story. If you're writing 80% dialogue for a story, that means you're only left with 20% for POV character observation, external plot stimuli, description, and narrative dedicated to worldbuilding.

That feels a little lean.

I can't comment on what you should do to balance this out. Instead, I can only share what I tend to use.

Before I write a story, I need to know the ending. This gives me a target to write towards. Before I write a scene, I need to know how it will end. This gives me a target to write towards. With a goal insight, you need to help the reader understand the transition from point A to point B. Dialogue can do a lot of the work but it can't do all.

as an exercise, write a scene where your POV character is alone. Have a target ending planned and write toward it. Once completed, rewrite the scene with another character. Only add dialogue as necessary and see what the balance looks like.

Re: How much dialog is too much?

#8
If you really want to cut down the % of dialog, you could add more character thoughts or description in between dialog lines.

For descriptions, you could either have something happen that gets the characters distracted (bird flying by, car,...) and switch to describing that for a bit, or you could describe body language which will also help to convey emotions.

But in of itself having a lot of dialog isn't a problem. It's very prevalent in light novels, and if done right can help a lot with pacing and flow.