I have a supporting character who is a time traveler, and who is injured. He was captured and roughed up, and my MC is listening to a recording of the injured person. I'm trying to show the character short of breath, sort of gasping as he speaks, but also show that it REALLY hurts to talk. As part of the story, I even have the MC guessing that the supporting character has been hurt, so I want it to sound authentic. Right now, I am using elipses "..." to do this, but I have had several reviewers indicate that these were distracting and hard to read through.
A sample of what I have right now is below. Any suggestions?
This time, I heard a different voice. It was raspy, and sounded stuffed up. I also thought he might be injured. “Pizarro… was a prick. In case anybody… was wondering. After spending… eleven days here… I can’t believe… that things are going to… end like this.” With the way his phrases were coming out, this guy was hurting. I’d been in a few bar fights myself, but I’d never been roughed up this bad. If I had to guess, several of his ribs were broken – maybe his nose as well. “My name… is Paul… Paul Alkon. I first… arrived in Peru… the 11th of April… 1524. My intent… was to study the… ecological… anthropology of… the Incan culture. When it was fresh… Before Pizarro.”
It looks fine to me, Igwiz. Actually, I'd add MORE breaks. Have you ever been badly hurt? If you're gasping for breath, stringing three words together is often the most you can do (been there, done that, no fun, don't plan to revisit that experience!). When I write such things, the breaks are more frequent because I know when I've been in really awful pain, I could barely THINK three words ahead, much less speak a whole, coherent sentence (unless there was morphine involved . . .).
Ellipses in dialog are like italics in dialog. They should only be used so much.
"I've... got... a problem... with... my... heart... and need... to see... a doctor!"
"I've got a problem with my heart and need to see a doctor!"
The problem with using lots of ellipses (and italics) is it becomes difficult to read and readers like me will switch to "skim mode" where I start hunting for an end to the thing that is bothering me.
If ellipses are difficult to read then the answer is to only use them in moderation. A character can talk like that, fine, but only for a few lines.
If the character needs to discuss some major back-story where they will be talking for 1/2 or 2/3 a page then I would recommend finding some way for that back-story to be integrated without that character talking.
In your story, someone is listening to a recording. Why not have all of the back-story in the recording be the time traveler talking normal, he could be captured, roughed up a little but still able to talk normally (he could have a broken leg but still be able to talk normally).
Then the MC could fast-forward to the end where time traveler is out of breath and in major pain. That way you can incorporate all of the back-story in a normal non-ellipse voice and still show that the time traveler is in great danger.
We don't know the voice on the recording is hurt or out of breath. You didn't tell us that your protagonist thought he was scared, out of breath from running, or grunting from pain. That makes a difference. It doesn't take much mention of either to set it up so we (the readers) know how to take the ellipsis.
On my first read through--seeing all the ellipsis made me think that the recording was broken up, not that the voice was injured or short of breath. I expected to have to piece the information together over damages to the recording. Then, when the words weren't broken, it got very distracting.
IAB: Not trying to be difficult, just trying to understand. The example posted above is taken un-edited from the original. I thought I was pretty direct when I added description and MC reaction between the broken dialogue. I introduced it as sounding raspy, and perhaps injured. After the first broken dialogue, my MC thinks the guy has broken ribs and a broken nose.
I guess I'm not sure how to do more than that without belaboring the point, which I think will distract from the story more than the ellipsis...
Could you clarify your comment? I'm having trouble understanding whether you think I've fixed the problem or not.
I don't see how you could tell if someone had broken ribs or a broken nose from a recording. The ribs - that would be impossible to tell audibly, IMO. The broken nose - catch me on a bad sinus day, and I can sound like that too.
Posts: 415 | Registered: Jul 2006
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Maybe I was just tired when I read it. Maybe so much broken dialogue made miss the obvious, or distracted me enough to skim.
I can see how my comment would've frustrated you. WOW, did I miss the obvious:
quote:With the way his phrases were coming out, this guy was hurting. I’d been in a few bar fights myself, but I’d never been roughed up this bad. If I had to guess, several of his ribs were broken – maybe his nose as well.
However, I agree with Lynda, you can't tell what injuries he has from a recording, but you can tell if he sounds hurt: short breaths, grunts, groans, air being sucked in between someone's teeth, a strained voice, etc. If you're breaking up the dialogue by that much, I think you should interject these sensory elements in some of the spaces.
I must admit that when I first read it I interpreted the ellipses as static interference, like a badly tuned radio. I did wonder briefly how MC knew that in fact the supporting character was hurt. I think IB's last comment about how hurt might sound is very helpful.
[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 01, 2008).]
quote:I think you should interject these sensory elements in some of the spaces.
I think IB is about right here. You seemed to me to be more specific than is realistic about the injuries and it almost reads like an info dump when you refer to them. I'd scatter in comments like hearing him suck in his breath or he paused and moaned rather than only using ellipses. That way you can be sure the reader gets what your saying and I think that is more readable.
[This message has been edited by JeanneT (edited January 01, 2008).]
I also find the extended use of ellipses distracting and annoying to read. Kind of like transcribed dialect. I'd much rather be told (yes, the four-letter t-word!) that the sentences were hard for the MC to understand because they were broken by pants and groans, or something like that.
Posts: 2185 | Registered: Aug 2007
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Thanks all. I appreciate the feedback. It had definitely helped.
Here is the revision of the section posted above. No ellipsis... (man, I just love those dang things!).
What do you think? Do I do a better job of indicating the traveller is hurt? I guess I have to trust the reader here more than the previous version, but I'm willing to sacrifice the ellipsis if it will get read and if I don't let the reader lose the understanding that the Incas beat the crap out of the guy.
This time, I heard a different voice. It was raspy, and he sounded injured, often stopping in mid-sentence to catch his breath. “Pizarro was a prick. In case anybody was wondering. After spending eleven days here I can’t believe that things are going to end like this.” He stopped and sucked in a quick wheezing breath between his teeth. I’d been in a few bar fights myself, but I’d never been roughed up this bad. He groaned and let out a little gasp, then went on. “My name is Paul. Paul Alkon. I first arrived in Peru the 11th of April, 1524. My intent was to study the ecological anthropology of the Incan culture. When it was fresh.
[This message has been edited by Igwiz (edited January 01, 2008).]