astronomeralways said: I have a character explaining something to another character. But what he's saying is very long, almost like a speech. I'm worried about that being distracting or annoying to the reader. Do you have any advice about characters having sudden, long dialogues?
- Don’t forget who’s speaking… I think that one of the most common mistakes I’ve seen done in fiction, when it comes to situations like the one you described, is that writers tend to forget who is speaking because of the long chunks of information. We tend to see explanations like these happen as though the narrator was speaking, instead of the character, even if they are the same person. If your character is known for overusing a certain word, or speaking in a specific style, or having a particular accent, make sure those are found in this explanation as well.
- …And that they are speaking! Remember that the spoken language is often different from the written one, and if you want your readers to be reminded that this is something that’s being said to another character and not just something the narrator’s telling the reader, make sure you use the spoken language. Try watching videos of people saying long things to each other, or simply eavesdrop on conversations at public places (be discreet!), and you’ll find that people will leave sentences unfinished, repeat themselves, use slang and contractions, lose their train of thought, have to pause for a while to catch some breath, etc. If you write this explanation as though the narrator was giving the readers an information and nothing more, your readers are likely to be confused or distracted.
- Don’t forget that there’s someone listening. Even if it might seem like a monologue, this should still be a dialogue. When you’re listening to someone saying something long to you, you’re likely to show emotions through your facial expressions, or try to interrupt them to ask something that confused you or show signs of impatience, etc. Little interruptions (even if the other character shuts them up and asks them to wait until they’re done talking!), as well as bits of information on how the explanation is being received by the other party might be good ways for your readers to keep in mind this is still a dialogue and to be less distracted.
- Avoid anything unnecessary. These explanations are often necessary, and they happen in real life, so don’t have a problem including them in your writing if you feel like you ought to. However, try not to get too carried away. If there is anything you think isn’t 100% crucial for the sake of the conversation and/or your plot, consider leaving it out. The more information you have, the harder it is to keep it sounding realistic to your reader.
- If possible, act out this explanation. I know this may seem a bit ridiculous, but listening to yourself saying the things you wrote will give you a better idea on whether you’re actually doing this well or not. If anything sounds forced, or like it wouldn’t be something “real people” would say, consider changing the way it’s worded.
Try not to worry much about it. There’s also this little note on how to format long dialogue, which you might want to check out. Good luck!