Twin Faces of JoyaTazz: (Un)Necessary Dialogue Challenges

@joygirl and @razzatazz join forces in an article/debate regarding dialogue challenges in comics that may or may not be worth it.

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"In terms of writing style the story is absolutely the most important thing. In my experience of talking to other writers, it is not the characters that they have trouble with, nor the setting. Those things come easy, it is usually that the story cannot be resolved in a way to provide a proper amount of inspiration to keep writing. In the terms of a character like Etrigan, where the rhyming is part of the story, this can serve as a hindrance in terms of story development. If the writer has to focus on how to work dialogue into a story while at the same time trying to develop the story, it is an unnecessary encumbrance to the overall development. So many times when I have been writing the choice of words at a key juncture has to be both realistic and powerful. If the framework of a different form of dialogue has to be worked into the story in addition to other developments it can add unnecessary complexity which might drive the story too far into the absurd. As an extension of the premise, imagine if characters instead of having to speak in rhyme had to speak in haiku or some other more advanced form of poetry. The end result would not justify the means and the writer's effort might be wasted as well as the character's development might be stunted."


"Quite true. In the case of rhyming characters like Etrigan the Demon (or even Thor, who has to speak in ye-olde-butchered-norseish), it's a complete layer added to the difficulty of storytelling. However, I can think of a few reasons why it works.

1. As I've mentioned a few times before, sometimes when you're writing a character you aren't deeply familiar with, you can "fake it" by utilizing a gimmick. Using a character like Etrigan, you don't even have to have too solid a grasp on his actual character -- if you can consistently write in a sinister rhyme, the majority of readers won't know the difference.

2. While the challenge is blatantly apparent, the stakes are raised, and a lesser writer may stumble against the added difficulty, the reward can also be greater. You mentioned needing to have strong, punchy dialogue in dire moments, and that's a very serious concern. But imagine if you could still have that same kind of strong dialogue... but you also manage to make it rhyme, or fit whatever other gimmick the character you're working with uses. I get chills when I read stuff like that."


"While the format might indeed challenge certain writers to raise the quality of their work and the same time it does not mean that it is a worthy extension of their craft. For whatever the writer may feel like writing, or for whatever their inspiration might be, the use of rhyming is likely not meant to be their main focus, and therefore it would have two effects. The end result will be affected by how the reader grasps it, and the creative process will be clouded by the need to adhere to the format. In my own writings I once had the characters interact over their favourite song lyrics, which I ended up writing. The process of writing the lyrics was not a normal one for me, the words could not easily flow out, instead I had to carefully consider what it was that I wanted the song to say and how to say it. If the same process needs to be repeated over and over in a fictional work, it is going to make a huge distraction for the writer.

Additionally I will point out that Etrigan and Thor are both fantasy based characters, which seems to be another limitation of the gimmick. There are never rhyming robots...."


"No rhyming robots, no, but speech patterns are in no way restricted to fantasy characters. Consider, for instance, Bizarro. Bizarro has to use Bizarro-speak, which in itself is an enormous challenge that no writer can get completely right no matter how hard they try. You can only reverse things so much before they become incomprehensible.

However, some writers can make this work, such as the fellow who did Bizarro's origin story in the Countdown event (note that I'm not endorsing Countdown! It's still horrible! I only read it for the Harley bits!). That fella (wish I could remember his name, forgot to check) managed to make it work, by telling the story backwards and using just the correct amount of "bizarroization". You understood exactly what was supposed to be said, while still getting the perfect feel for it. And I was grinning like a maniac all the way through -- that effect would have been completely abandoned if Bizarro-speak hadn't been a part of the character. It would have just been any old mini-origin all over again -- boring, trite, and barely-informational."


What are your thoughts on this possible writing handicap? Is it a hindrance, or merely a new possible reward? Post your ideas in the comments!