Dialogue 101: Talking Heads

#1
This guide denotes the subject of Talking Heads Talking Heads is a metaphor for the common mistake many author’s make when they write dialogue. Basically, talking heads consists of dialogue without descriptives. This will be explained further below.

Writing dialogue can be difficult, we all know this. This guide does not deal with that. If I have time later, I will write one for that. Talking Heads, on the other hand, are easy to fix.

Ex 1. Basic

“My love, I thought I lost you forever.”

“Nonsense.”

“But you knew about Jenna!”

“Who is she to me?”

“No one, that’s who.”

This is a basic example of Talking Heads. Now, I know that this is the bare bones of a conversation. It makes little sense which is exactly what Talking Heads are. They are Talking Heads. They lack descriptives, an environment, and a general understanding.

Ex 2 Conversational Tags

“My love, I thought I lost you forever,” Patrick said.

“Nonsense,” Mark said.

I’ll stop here because you probably read one of the voices in a woman’s voice. The lack of conversational tags can lead to confusion about who is speaking when and for what purpose. If it is not clear, add them. Otherwise, you mind end up having readers think your Yaoi romance is a generic rom-drom. Though, it would probably work out better if that was the case.

Ex 3 Descriptives

“My love, I thought I lost you forever,” Tom said as he clasped his wife’s hands in both of his. They felt warm in his grip as he sat hunched over her.

“Nonsense,” Amy said as she removed her hands with a jerk. There was a hint of annoyance in her eyes as she looked down at him from under her long lashes.

“But you knew about Jenna,” Tom cried. There was desperation in his voice as he attempted to grasp onto the few wisps of the relationship that remained.

Let’s stop here. Again, the context of the conversation changed with the addition of descriptives. What might have been a scene where a couple gets back together turned into a scene where a relationship was about to end.

Descriptives help to add a flow to your dialogue that is absent when Talking Heads exists.

Ex 4 Setting

This is the last one I will go into. If I think of more later, I will add them. This is the minimum of what a reader should expect when reading dialogue. This is the absolute minimum. It provides a basic setting, descriptives, and an understanding of the dialogue to the reader. This effectively removes, from the reader's purview, the problem that is Talking Heads.

Fire bloomed in the sky as that dragon, thick-scaled and azure-eyed, hissed in discomfort as the chains under its wings pulled tight. Men, a-hundred strong, grunted with effort as they held the dragon back from its prey. In juxtaposition, they were. Supple and lean, they were. One was defiant, the other petulant.

“My love, I thought I lost you forever,” Tom said as he clasped his wife’s hands in both of his. They felt warm in his grip as he sat hunched over her. He knelt, frightened out of his mind, and he held onto the only thing that made any sense anymore. Even if she despised him.

“Nonsense,” Amy said as she removed her hands with a jerk. There was a hint of annoyance in her eyes as she looked down at him from under her long lashes. Her amour gleamed in the mid-day sun as she turned away from Tom. His cowardice, her bravery, they were one in the same. He still lived in the past while she lived for the future.

“But you knew about Jenna,” Tom cried. There was desperation in his voice as he attempted to grasp onto the few wisps of the relationship that remained.

Amy smirked to herself as she walked toward her fate.

She was ready.

As she hefted her sword in an iron-grip, she called back to Tom who lay crumpled on the ashen surface of the arena. “Who is she to me?”

There was a sardonic edge to her voice as she slammed her visor shut.

Tom turned in on himself then. Despondent. This was his fault. Only his.

Jenna. What a mistake.

In a voice, no louder than a whisper, he stated, “No one, that’s who.”

As of this moment, this is all. I hope this helps.

RE: Dialogue 101: Talking Heads

#3
You might have to mention that there are times when talking heads are necessary, when you cannot afford to break the flow of a dialogue. Plus, having descriptions every time the character says something would bore the readers 4 out of 5 times <-- statistics estimated from my personal experience with going overboard.

It might be better to get done with the descriptions and setting at the start, or use very few of them in-between dialogues just to remind the reader that they are reading about moving characters.

RE: Dialogue 101: Talking Heads

#4
In my opinion, if dialogue is just a few lines, with only two speakers, and no other action is taking place in the scene, it's fine to do a 2-4 lines of dialogue without tags. Writers should keep in mind that this creates a calm, somewhat dry atmosphere, which makes sense for things like polite conversation, but is not appropriate for emotionally charged scenes.

There is also the special case of just one line of dialogue that comes with no dialogue tags. Combined with italics, it can be even more powerful. Some examples:
"Begin."
"Die!"
"Enough!"

In fleeny13's examples above, I would say that it makes no sense to graduate to the third level of descriptive setting without first starting to modify the verbs used in place of "said".
"Said" is kind of an invisible word that readers automatically gloss over when reading. Sometimes, when you just want people to know who's talking, that's the desired effect, but in highly emotional scenes, change things up. Here's my take on it:
“My love, I thought I lost you forever,” Tom declared melodramatically.
“Nonsense,” Amy replied brusquely.
“But you knew about Jenna!” he cried.
“Who is she to me?” she asked coldly.
“...No one, that’s who,” Tom whispered in a broken voice.

EDIT: Oh, and this should definitely be under the "Guide" section.

RE: Dialogue 101: Talking Heads

#6
6/12/2015 7:11:09 AMunice5656 Wrote: [ -> ]In my opinion, if dialogue is just a few lines, with only two speakers, and no other action is taking place in the scene, it's fine to do a 2-4 lines of dialogue without tags. Writers should keep in mind that this creates a calm, somewhat dry atmosphere, which makes sense for things like polite conversation, but is not appropriate for emotionally charged scenes.

There is also the special case of just one line of dialogue that comes with no dialogue tags. Combined with italics, it can be even more powerful. Some examples:
"Begin."
"Die!"
"Enough!"

In fleeny13's examples above, I would say that it makes no sense to graduate to the third level of descriptive setting without first starting to modify the verbs used in place of "said".
"Said" is kind of an invisible word that readers automatically gloss over when reading. Sometimes, when you just want people to know who's talking, that's the desired effect, but in highly emotional scenes, change things up. Here's my take on it:
“My love, I thought I lost you forever,” Tom declared melodramatically.
“Nonsense,” Amy replied brusquely.
“But you knew about Jenna!” he cried.
“Who is she to me?” she asked coldly.
“...No one, that’s who,” Tom whispered in a broken voice.

EDIT: Oh, and this should definitely be under the "Guide" section.


Ithoug   we were supposed to avoid words being in -ly

RE: Dialogue 101: Talking Heads

#7
@cloud

Not really. They have their uses, just don't use it for every sentence. To put it simply, make sure that your writing always changes to some extent, whether it's a shorter sentence or a different type of description - if you keep everything the same, the reading experience becomes stagnant and readers lose interest.

Unless you're using semi-colons. Then spam that shit cause they're fun. (sorry unice)