Author Topic: Beginning a novel with dialogue  (Read 2251 times)

Offline BobbyD

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Beginning a novel with dialogue
« on: July 23, 2017, 07:12:54 AM »
Hello Everyone

Any opinions on this?  I have been studying for several weeks now on a variety of writing skills and I keep coming across the advice to NEVER begin a novel with dialogue. 

Thanks for looking

Bob

Jo Bannister

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Re: Beginning a novel with dialogue
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2017, 03:14:29 AM »
All I can suggest is that you NEVER take advice like this too seriously.

All these little self-imposed rules - don't start with dialogue, don't start with a prologue, show don't tell, don't switch POVs, don't use adjectives, don't use semi-colons, don't do this, always do that - are probably worth reading, understanding...and then largely ignoring. 

You can do all of these things, if you're a good enough writer and your book requires it.

My advice - and you can ignore this, too, if you want - is to stop studying writing skills and read books instead.  Good books by writers who have been successful.  (Both, please.  There are plenty of bad books by successful writers, and good books that no one's ever heard of, but they're not going to be much help to you at this point.)  Reading is how you learn what works and what doesn't, and how you can bend the rules and when you shouldn't. 

Offline hillwalker3000

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Re: Beginning a novel with dialogue
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2017, 04:45:08 AM »
Never take advice from so-called experts who tell you never to do something one particular way.

Oops.

H3K

Offline BobbyD

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Re: Beginning a novel with dialogue
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2017, 05:29:32 AM »
Thanks, Jo, I was hoping for an answer like that.  I HAVE been doing just that, reading books by successful authors in the genre I want to write in.  But I also have spent some money on  skill courses and so far I have realized absolutely nothing in return.   It seems there is an endless parade of "successful authors" who want to help me become a best selling writer for just ________ (fill in the amount, it varies widly).  The trouble is, I have so far not found a best selling book by any of them, just more writing books.

By the way, I read your post on prologue with interest.  I recently read Robin Book's "Contagion".  It included a ten page prologue that was never mentioned again until the last few pages of the book and didn't seem to have very much to do with the story at all.  I look at a prologue as part of the overall story which either sets up the main story or adds a surprising twist at the end  I was surprised to find such a successful author write a book with such a needless prologue.

Thanks again

Bob

Offline Vienna

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Re: Beginning a novel with dialogue
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2017, 01:46:21 AM »
On here you will be told: not to do this, never do that, that will kill your story. Then you go to your bookshop and look at the bestsellers and they have all done what you are not supposed to do.
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Jo Bannister

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Re: Beginning a novel with dialogue
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2017, 03:06:42 AM »
I was surprised to find such a successful author write a book with such a needless prologue.

One of the (few) downsides to success in this business (so I gather) is that people become wary of telling you what you're doing wrong.  People like your agent and your publisher, who should be as much a part of the editing process as they were at the start of your career, start worrying about offending you and the risk that you might take your best-sellers elsewhere.  This is why, sadly, so many prolific authors seem to go off the boil as their careers progress.

If there's anything to be said for being an unrecognised genius, it's this: that you know you need to produce your best work every time.

Lin

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Re: Beginning a novel with dialogue
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2017, 03:29:34 AM »
Never say 'never', Bobby.  Best to check through lots of books and see which ones have done that.  Maybe look at why.

Good luck.

Lin
« Last Edit: August 20, 2017, 12:31:56 PM by Lin Treadgold - Author »

Offline TomJoad

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Re: Beginning a novel with dialogue
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2017, 02:54:27 PM »
There are many times you have to be bold!

Be yourself! Try new things! (I could take my own advice here). Don't let someone tell you how not to do or even do something. There are times when you have to trust your gut instinct and make a mark for yourself. Shakespeare made words up in his works that are still used today.

My two cents worth.

Offline lamont cranston

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Re: Beginning a novel with dialogue
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2017, 06:10:41 PM »
I think when you are new to writing(which will be for a long time), you should follow the rules found in style manuals and advice given by the better writers and more knowledgeable editors and agents.

I'm not saying you should follow EVERY rule you read online, but rather look at who is giving the advice and learn who to listen to.  Editors, agents, other really accomplished writers, and some university professors who teach writing, based on their credentials and their success as writers.

But I disagree with many people here who say to ignore rules.  I feel that in general, yes, you should follow rules until you have really mastered the basic craft of writing and read a lot of great writers.  That means an awful lot of work on grammar, using respected guides like Strunk and White, etc.

Once you have a lot of experience and practice and are starting to be successful as a writer, at that point then you can selectively break a few rules and gradually determine what you can and can't handle.  It's important to have knowledgeable people read your writing and it's important to listen to their advice and take it seriously.

Most people who insist they must break the rules have not yet mastered the basic craft of writing: writing understandable sentences, not using trite cliches, spelling and basic grammar.  I'd start there.

Offline Shortcross

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Re: Beginning a novel with dialogue
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2017, 05:53:24 AM »
On here you will be told: not to do this, never do that, that will kill your story. Then you go to your bookshop and look at the bestsellers and they have all done what you are not supposed to do.

If you're old enough (and English enough) to remember Les Dawson playing the piano - this reminds me of that.

If you don't know him, he was a comedian that would occassionally play classical music on the piano as part of his act, except he'd intentionally play the wrong notes. It actually took a lot of skill to do that (and still make the piece recognisable), and he really was a very competent pianist. We do see all the 'mistakes' in published fiction that we tell people not to do on here, but it's a bit like Les playing the piano (i.e they know what they are doing with those mistakes).

Lynne Truss explanied it better than I ever could. Regarding comma splices, she said, 'Done knowingly by an established writer, the comma splice is effective, poetic, dashing. Done equally knowingly by people who are not published writers, it can look weak or presumptuous. Done ignorantly by ignorant people, it is awful.'

Offline Simple Things

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Re: Beginning a novel with dialogue
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2017, 11:11:25 AM »
Personally, I hate being told I can't do something with my writing. Caging what's meant to be free, never feels right.

Tuck

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Re: Beginning a novel with dialogue
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2017, 03:07:06 PM »
There are many rules, one says so and other something other, But we do not know where the novel begins and how we just write it, but what  too often happens with the style and the usage, it's too much similar with every other novel, why, because  the writer role has been taken as a higher  task of an educated people, keeping in main every rules and grammar . so it becomes sound and look like schoolmaster dressed in the same net suit with a tie, year after years, it's a time get something news and different to be heard and to read,

Jo Bannister

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Re: Beginning a novel with dialogue
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2017, 03:11:36 PM »
Hard to argue with that.  Hard to understand it as well.

Offline teenwriterlock

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Re: Beginning a novel with dialogue
« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2017, 07:15:11 PM »
i don't think there is a hard rule here actually. many books do this very well. the point of the first page is to get you to read the 2nd page in some ways. dialogue can do that very well. many of the best novels start in the action and don't do a ton of worldbuilding. in those cases i think this angle is totally fine
huge anime fan. find my anime work here: https://commaful.com/play/anime/  planning to post alot more there soon

have a lot of writing that i haven't published yet but will soon. stay tuned! may post some here and others on wattpad or something