Telephone DialogComplications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Game, TV, and Screenwriting Blog

Baby Name Voyager graphs baby name frequency by decade.

Social Security Administration: Most popular names by year.

Name Trends: Uniquely popular names by year.

Reverse Dictionary Search: "What's that word that means....?"

Facebook Name Trees Match first names with last names.


April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

November 2014

December 2014

January 2015

February 2015

March 2015

April 2015

May 2015

June 2015

August 2015

September 2015

October 2015


Monday, April 28, 2008

I could swear I'd written up a whole post about this, or possibly read one, but I can't find it, so...

JDC asks me how to format telephone dialog when you aren't meant to hear the offscreen character's voice.

Really, this is all about making sure the reader feels the amount of time your onscreen character isn't speaking. I'll usually go with something like this (and forgive the HTML):
Joe picks up the phone.


He listens.

No, I don't think so.
I SAID I didn't THINK so!
He listens, pacing, getting progressively more nervous.

Can't you for once gimme a break???

He slams the phone down.
You can use a line of action just to delay ("he listens") or to characterize the delay ("getting progressively more nervous").

If you just want a little delay, use a parenthetical -- (beat) or even just an ellipsis (...) works fine.

Note that just embedding an ellipsis in the dialog itself doesn't work well:

No, I don't think so. (...) I said I
didn't THINK so.

It doesn't really hold the eye long enough to give the effect of someone else talking. One key to writing transparently is not requiring the reader to think too much. He should just be swept along in the read. So often you'll find yourself unpacking moments on the page just so that they take longer to read -- white space is your friend there. When it comes to dialog, don't be afraid to make pauses where you need them. The reader isn't acting the lines out for you in his head, he's just reading like you'd read a book. So you have to make the performance happen for him in the blacks.

UPDATE: Ahhh ... alert reader Jason Sanders points out that John August recently answered this very question. And with much better formatting than I, I must say.



John August actually did a question just like this a few weeks ago:

It's really interesting to see two different approaches to the same problem.


By Blogger Jason Sanders, at 5:43 PM  



By Blogger John, at 11:20 PM  

Do you have to write:

(into phone)
I'm talking into the phone.

Putting the (into phone) after every line of dialogue into a phone? A professor of mine absolutely requires that I do that.

By Blogger BoCoPoCo, at 2:41 PM  

Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.

This page is powered by Blogger.