So how much is too much talking in a story? Well, the simplest answer is there is never too much talking in a story. Now, this does not mean that a single character can’t talk way too much, in fact, this pretty much says that they can. Let me explain more, talking in a book has three very different types as far as characters are concerned. One is when the character is telling the story, in other words, they are the narrator. Let’s look at this first. Narrators in books can talk too much if your not careful when writing them. However, how the narrator talks too much is very different than when it’s just characters talking to each other. Seeing that when the narrator talks too much the story goes nowhere, or it can even go backward, or get completely derailed.
For example, when a narrator spends three paragraphs talking about the room the characters are in when it could have been done in one. The narrator is now babbling, and when this happens the reader loses interest in what is being said. Because the narrator isn’t adding anything to the story to help the progress. The good news is this is the easiest thing to fix, all you have to do is read over what you’re narrator is saying. Check and make sure they’re not repeating themselves, also check the descriptions to make sure they’re not over describing something to the point where it’s just unnecessary.
The next kind is very similar to the first and that is when characters talk to them self to give the reader some insight. It could be to reveal what they are thinking, or a way of calling attention to something that just happened, they could even be talking to them self for the sake of it. Each of these are very important in its own sense but can be overdone and have the opposite effect. These effects vary from making the reader feel the writer thinks they are above them, or the most common ruining a surprise or the suspense in the scene. For these instances, I find it’s best to keep them short, my motto on this is short and sweet is always best.
I’ll give a few tips on when your character should be talking to themselves to make this more clear. One is when you need to pull away from the scene to point something out. Such as pointing out something interesting that will be important later on. You can have a character ask themselves why something is in a particular place, or the lack of it being in a particular place. Such as “Now where did I put my knife, I guess that’s what I forgot today.” Now, because the character just said it in passing, the reader isn’t instantly looking for something to happen where they would need a knife. Also, that implies that it’s the usual thing for the character to carry, which can set up for the character needing a knife, without actually giving away too much. However, if you had written they walked out forgetting their knife. The reader is now looking for a reason that knife why you thought it necessary to put the knife in the description.
Now onto, My favorite way for characters to talk to themselves and that is to be funny. I find it to be a quick way to add some humor into your story without getting out of the scene. For instance, I often have my characters get mad at what’s going by complaining out loud, or just have a random comment on what’s going on from their perspective. For instance, my character is falling off a building right after being pushed out of a window, then he says. “This is why I hate this job.” It’s funny, but not too much and it adds a question to the reader’s mind of is this not the first time this is happening. Short and simple but carries a big impact. Now, instead of that, what if he had said. “I need a new job, I hate this job. This always happens to me every time I think I’m getting a good job it’s a bad one. I get thrown out a building and I get no overtime or extra pay for this. I’m going to get a new job.” Even though there is much more detail in that one, it can pull the reader out of the moment. And instead of having the reader think why is this happening so much, they might now be thinking why is he falling for so long. So for that reason, I prefer to stick to short and sweet.
Last is the biggest and hardest to get right, and that Is when characters are speaking to each other. This is the biggest and most important part of dialogue, and it is also the main driving force behind any story. The first question becomes, can characters really talk too much, and the answers are very strong maybe. Yes, talking is very important to any story, but too much can take away from the story. Now is there an easy way to tell when too much talking is being done. Surprisingly enough there is a way to do just that without too much work. To do this there are a few steps to take that will make it clear if the characters talk too much or even too little. The first thing you have to realize is that in your story as a whole can’t actually have too much talking.
Now with that being said, there can be too much talking going on in any given scene. And so the first step is to break down the story into scenes and analyze each by itself. During the analysis, you should make sure each seed has a clear goal. A scene should achieve its goal by the end of the scene, not in the middle. Whether this scene is designed to give the backstory or history of a character, or they are just two characters having a conversation. After you get the point of the scene clear your mind, it’s time to look at what’s being said. Does it progress the goal of the scene or not. For example, if you are giving the backstory of a character it’s important that you get your characters to ask questions and get answers. The character giving the backstory should be the one answering the questions, while the other character asks the questions. Another example would be if the characters in the scene are having a discussion about cars, now it would be completely random and unnecessary if one of the characters says how much he likes pools. That’s completely off topic and not necessary to allow that scene to continue smoothly. Now paying close attention to the purpose of each scene, it’s easy to decide if something a character says helps the scene, or if he goes completely off topic and should be removed.
After making sure each scene flows and has the right amount of speaking its time to see what scenes are not needed. This will clean up your story as a whole, and prevented from seeming that your characters are talking just to be heard. First, check what the characters are saying in each scene to make sure they aren’t repeating something from the previous scene. If they are repeating then consider removing that scene altogether, and if you think they’re saying it better in the second scene consider removing the first scene. This will help cut on unnecessary talking that comes off as rambling, and will also help your storyline flow more smoothly and faster. Remember, it’s very rare for a character to go back over what they just said unless it plays a vital part in the storyline.
Now remember if you’re characters are talking just to be talking they shouldn’t be talking, everything your characters say must drive the story forward and never backward. I think that sums it up pretty clearly for what makes good dialogue. Now it’s time to move on to how to build characters from the ground, I’ll be going over the process that I use when coming up with all my characters in the next few lessons.
So until next time remember to, Write like your life depends on it. Because it doesn’t.
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