Starting a chapter with dialogue?

Dave Carignan

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What are your thoughts on stating chapters with dialogue?

The last chapter (6th) I wrote for my story ends with a cliffhanger with something taking over my character that he’s been avoiding since he first encounter in chapter 2. He had a mentor helping him though the process. It involves a relic that does something to him once his grabs it. The chapter ends with him grabbing it. If you read the story you know something important is about to happen.

I have the 7th chapter immediately start with dialogue as with how he is feeling about a drastic change happening to him.

Does that work for this example? Should I keep it started in this way or start with narration instead?

Hope I have enough info.
 

-K2-

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I'm curious now myself... because, if it is a problem, then I have a few myself to deal with.

K2
 

tinkerdan

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I'm assuming it's not first person narrative.
If it is not you could go with dialogue or with some experimentation put it in the closest of third narration with present tense for the most important part and return to past tense for the rest.

Same thing if it does happen to be first person POV.
 

Dave Carignan

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I'm assuming it's not first person narrative.
If it is not you could go with dialogue or with some experimentation put it in the closest of third narration with present tense for the most important part and return to past tense for the rest.

Same thing if it does happen to be first person POV.
Thanks for your feedback. It’s third person.
 

HareBrain

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You're saying there is some technical issue that makes this impossible or too much trouble doing?
If the publisher wants to start chapters with decorative dropped capitals (not just bigger ones but illuminated manuscript type), it might well be difficult. I'm not sure how they would include the quote mark.
 

Elckerlyc

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Ah yes, I can see that would be difficult.
So, there's your next challenge 'Do something creative with a quote mark!'
 

Luiglin

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If the publisher wants to start chapters with decorative dropped capitals (not just bigger ones but illuminated manuscript type), it might well be difficult. I'm not sure how they would include the quote mark.
I'm sure I've read a novel that does this and it didn't cause an issue. I'll see if I can find it tonight.
 

sknox

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Print is one thing, but an ebook is quite another for a quoted dropcap. You'd almost have to make it a single graphic.
 

Eric Lewis

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I'm almost certain I've seen examples where the quotation mark is just left off in that case, and you have to infer from context that it's dialogue (and the closing quote), but I don't remember having that much of an issue figuring it out.
 

Jo Zebedee

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I'm almost certain I've seen examples where the quotation mark is just left off in that case, and you have to infer from context that it's dialogue (and the closing quote), but I don't remember having that much of an issue figuring it out.
That’s the way I’d do it. I just remember having to whizz things round and - to answer the OP - they never felt right to me. I don’t often start with dialogue but when I do it’s for a reason (usually impact, or to break up prose patterns, or because the dialogue contains significant lead in)
 

Luiglin

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I've done it but only for comic effect and usually very short.

The key is to add in who is saying the dialogue.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Although no examples leap to mind, I am sure I have seen this done many, many times. I can't see any reason why, of itself, it would put readers off. It would depend, of course, on the content of the dialogue and how it is written. Who is talking to whom and how are they reacting? Is the person speaking passionate about the subject, and will the words they use to describe their feelings involve readers in those feelings, too? It could be like plunging readers directly into action, or it could, if handled badly come across as info-dumpy.
 

HareBrain

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I remember the first time I came across a chapter (indeed a book) beginning with dialogue, Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising (when I was 11) and it made a strong impression, as it felt so different.
 

Karn's Return

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Jo summed it up in the first few moments here. It's fine.


I think there are certain times when a chapter shouldn't be opened with dialogue, but for the most part, there's really nothing wrong with it. Conversations can be excellent openers, particularly if they're a little bit further into the story and there is some context behind the reason of characters starting up a scene with talking. It's not always a good idea for an entire story to begin with dialogue, but even then there are certain times when it can work out. Authorities giving orders, or making sure that context is clear within the conversation itself, can make sense, but remember here-and this is something I myself really need to work on-don't make dialogue your main tool for character development. The most personal and intimate moments of anyone, obviously, are when they are on their own, lost in their own thoughts or desires, and dialogue is generally out of place in these times, with a few special exceptions.

I think, one of the best examples of using dialogue to open up a chapter, or even a story, is when it deals with a character with some very serious developmental or mental issues-if the focus character of the chapter or MC themselves are insane in some way, or suffer from delirium, schizophrenia, DID, or some similar psychological condition, dialogue despite their isolation could be a good way of them not only showing that side of them that makes them more believable and human, but to also help them think things through and give the reader a potential window into how that character's subconscious works with or against them, strengthening any potential empathy or frustration at said character. But it's tricky, I think, and remember that the dose makes the poison.
 

Cory Swanson

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don't make dialogue your main tool for character development. The most personal and intimate moments of anyone, obviously, are when they are on their own, lost in their own thoughts or desires, and dialogue is generally out of place in these times, with a few special exceptions.
I've got to disagree. Dialogue is, in my opinion, the best tool for character development. So much can be told about someone with their speech patterns and how they interact with others. If your character is drifting and on their own, they should talk to themselves, have inner thoughts, and generally react to the situations around them. It's the best way to let someone in your character's head.

Also, I've been slapped on the wrist for opening with dialogue, but I still think it's the bees knees. It's a tool, though, and all your tools get dull eventually.
 
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