I'm considering changing a bit of dialog in a story I am working on in which two characters are communicating through walkie-talkies with poor reception where static is masking some of the words said.
What I'm struggling with is how to write this in the dialog. Here is a snippet of dialog:
A voice awash in static erupted from the security desk drawer. “Marvin? I heard shots fired! What the hell is going on down there? I’m coming down!”
Any ideas on how I can present this with the 'static' in the dialog. I was thinking of something like this:
“Marvin? I heard <cht> fired! What the hell is going on <cht> there? <cht> coming down!”
“Marvin? I heard" -cht- "fired! What the hell is going on" -cht- "there?" - cht - "I’m coming down!”
I'm not entirely sure I want to do this at all, because it might be distracting, but I think it would help put the reader in the MCs shoes in trying to deal with the person on the other side of the communications.
So any suggestions? And would people find this distracting?
I should clarify that these aren't trained soldiers, one is a security guard at an office building, the other a zombie who was a lawyer in life.
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I'd go for ellipsis personally, the asterisks look more like you're censoring swear words.
Do you have to use dialog? Could you not for instance say that Stan thought Olly said something about a piano falling from the sky but the static chewed up half the words and he couldn't be sure. Then Stan looked up...
Obviously you would use much better prose than this.
I'd suggest the answer lies in what POV you're using.
If you're in one character's POV, then their dialogue will be complete, because they know what they're saying, and won;t know which words the other person did or didn't hear.
I think your <cht> approach is fine. I really wouldn't use asterisks or it looks like you're blanking out swear words or something. Ellipses could be misread as being pauses or silences, rather than bursts of static.
I would use ellipses or maybe "--" to signify breaks in communication and would also qualify it outside of the dialog. Astericks do not convey the right meaning and I do not like strange conventions like <cht>.
What Wordcaster said. Once you've mentioned that the transmission is breaking up (have some character complain about it) then you can use ellipses to indicate the lost words, and after that the reader will reasonably assume static ate them. This is how I've seen it done in the past as well.
I personnally like static...or at least I like to write it. I'd never really considered some might not like to read it. I would chime in for not using *** for same reasons. I'd favor elipses (but as someone pointed out it could be seen as pauses), so -- makes sense.
But, just came to me, would it be possible to have no showing of the static. Like "I hea ots fire wh ts ing up ere?"
On second thought, that looks like crap. I just chalk it up to brainstorming.
I like the the <cht> technique as done in the first example (inside the quotation marks). Ellipses are usually interpreted as omitted words or pauses; asterisks, as omitted profanity. And <cht> brings alive that staticky sound. I like it.
I think you could do it in the first occurrence, then leave it out in subsequent occurrences. But either way, in every batch of dialogue you'll need to omit the words that go missing as a result of static.
Another option is, perhaps, the dash:
"Marvin? I heard - fired! What the hell is going on - there? - coming down!"
I think I'd be inclined to use the dash, perhaps with open-and-closed quotation marks around it as well. To use the above example, "Marvin? I heard---" "---fired! What the hell is going on---" "---there?---" "---coming down!"
That'd probably look better with some narrative around it, though...