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Up until now, I'd only written dialogues between two persons. I'm not very sure if this dialogue is flowing smoothly. Is there anything I can do to improve its flow?

Specifically, I'm wondering whether the conversation feels authentic and whether it's clear.

It can be difficult to simulate the interactions of more than two people. Is it clear who's addressing who, and who's reacting to what? Is the reader able to follow all the characters throughout the entire piece? Do all the characters stay aware of both their companions?

So, I ask, does this feel like a realistic multi-person conversation? If not, where did I go wrong? I realize it's a short excerpt, but do your best.

Disclaimer: I'm not a native English speaker

The moon looked bigger than usual, like a planet that had just appeared in the sky. All that could be heard was the sound of the wind blowing. Giant waves were crashing against the rocks in the beach.

"I think the rooms are interesting," Tom said, adding more coal to the fire. "The walls have some sort of surrealist paintings on them."

Anny nodded and took a bite of her steak. "The only bad thing is that they don't have TV nor radio."

"That's what I like the most about the rooms," Adele said, with a little smile.

They remained silent for a moment, lost in their thoughts. Adele gazed up and spotted a plane. It looked like a slow motion shooting star. Her eyes followed it as it disappeared in the sky.

"You know," Tom said, holding his glass of beer. "Lately, I've been wondering if anything really belong to us in this world."

Adele looked at him with her lips slightly parted. "If anything really belong to us in this world?"

"Yeah," he said. "For example, let's say I have a girlfriend. She's always there when I need her, and I'm always there for her. But does she really belong to me? Or is it that she just had been temporally loaned to me?"

The wind became slightly stronger and the waves bigger. Adele turned her eyes back to the sky. Anna had finished her steak, and now was staring vacantly at the beach.

"And I wonder if it is the same with everything else," Tom said, putting the last steak on the grill.

"You know, if you were to give a motivational speech, half of your audience would commit suicide," Anny said, with a mocking tone.

"Sorry, sorry. They're just random thoughts," he said, moving the coal with a stick.

"I think there are some things that do belong to us," Adele said, watching the little sparks float up and disappear in the air. "Wouldn't life be sad if nothing did?"

"I guess you are right," he said.

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Alex, our critique guidelines require that critique requests here need to have some specific questions about the work. (See that link for more information. I'm afraid that improving flow and word choice, as you mention, is something that can apply to any piece of writing.) I'm closing this for now, but if you could add some more specific questions about the work, we'd love to consider reopening. –  Neil Fein Apr 28 '12 at 7:25
    
@Neil Fein♦ Sorry, I edited the question. –  Alexandro Chen Apr 28 '12 at 9:10
    
You haven't introduced any specific questions. Other critique questions might help as examples. –  Neil Fein Apr 28 '12 at 16:56
    
@Neil Fein♦ Sorry man, I think I give up. I tried my best. –  Alexandro Chen Apr 28 '12 at 18:24
1  
@Aerovistae wrote up a good question clarification, which I edited somewhat. Reopened. –  Standback Apr 29 '12 at 10:19
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I think the flow of the conversation works fine. I found no confusion regarding who spoke, who listened, or why the characters participated the way they did. That being said, it wasn't really a three-way conversation. Tom spoke to two characters, both of whom listened. They took turns commenting without competing for ‘air time’, they didn’t hold different positions from each other, and never attempted to take the conversation in different directions. Both Adele or Anny wanted the same thing from the conversation (to listen to Tom). You could remove either of the characters and the conversation would require little change. This is not wrong for your story, of course. I can't know that. I'm just addressing the larger issue of conversation between more than two characters.

If you’re feeling that this dialogue isn’t popping, the reasons might be more basic. There isn’t any conflict here. Since drama is conflict, the exchange feels a bit flat (undramatic). Conflict doesn’t have to be big, it can be subtle. Really it just means divergent goals. Character 1 wants A, character 2 wants B. If they both can’t get what they want, you have a conflict. Since screenwriting is my thing, I tend to look for conflict in dialogue. Tom wants to convey his thoughts about possession. Adele and Anny want to listen. Everyone’s desires are served, thus no conflict. What if Adele was interested in listening, but Anny wasn’t. Maybe she just wants to relax and so resists the serious tone the conversation is taking. Now you have a compound conversation driven by conflict.

Finally there is subtext. Maybe I have too small a piece of your story to tell, but I detect no subtext. This is what screenwriters call ‘on the nose’ writing, which means that what your characters are talking about is all they’re talking about - there’s nothing below the surface with a different or deeper meaning. Only for reasons of making the point, imagine this. Anny loves Tom, she doesn’t want to hear him waxing about nothing belonging to anyone, because she interprets it as his unwillingness to commit to anybody romantically. Thus the comments she feeds into the conversation suggest this other take and further drive the conflict. I know I’m speculating a lot, but it’s tough to interpret small pieces of narrative.

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I did that intentionally. The conflict is already in Adele's mind. And it is suddenly revealed at the end: alexandrochen.com/existential-fiction/the-end-of-the-world –  Alexandro Chen May 14 '12 at 5:53
    
I'd find it easier to follow if either Adele or Anny's name started with something other than "A". –  Tre Jun 15 '12 at 23:49
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