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Thread: Writing Arguments

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Springs's Avatar
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    Writing Arguments

    So, I might not be the best dialogue writer in the world, but I like to think that most of what I put between those all-important quotation marks is pretty solid. However, when I get to an argument, I feel like everything falls a little flat. Maybe it's because I'm not a very argumentative person and therefore don't have a lot of regular practice at the art, but since my MC doesn't seem to take my weaknesses into consideration when she charges headlong into fights with people, I was wondering if anyone could give me some argument-writing tips.
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  2. #2
    Seashell Seller Layla Nahar's Avatar
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    I think it's case by case. You have 100 posts. Have you considered putting an excerpt on SYW?
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    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    Tyrant King jeffo20's Avatar
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    I agree with Layla. Without an excerpt, it's hard to offer advice, or give the right kind of tips that would be helpful.
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    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    Read some published novels and see how they do arguments. SYW is also an excellent resource.
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  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW
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    When I'm writing an argument I keep the dialogue short and snappy. Tension and depth is done through my characters' behaviour and gestures, more than through what they actually say.

    Also bear in mind that when people are arguing over something in particular, in reality it's really over something else, something more deep rooted.

    For example, when a couple argues over one of them leaving the toothpaste lid off, more often than not are arguing over a much bigger problem. They just don't say it.

    Hope that helps x

  7. #7
    Psychopompous AW Moderator RichardGarfinkle's Avatar
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    The biggest question in an argument is why are these people arguing?

    Are they engaged in dialectic (that is arguing points of view in order to reach a synthesis)? If so they are unlikely to consider the particulars of their positions important, hence they would be willing to change them as they go along.

    Are they emotionally or ego invested in their positions? If so they are likely to consider the particulars important and be less likely to change their positions.

    Are they trying to sway each other?

    Are they trying to sway an audience?

    Does the outcome of the argument have some other consequence? (for example, is this argument the basis of a legal trial).

    What will happen to them if they win or lose?

    Do the participants react well or badly under pressure? How quickly do they think? What to them are convincing positions and what are unconvincing?

    If you frame the argument in your own mind in terms of the personalities of the character and consider how each participant will think or feel after each statement and counter, you'll probably have an easier time making the argument work.
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  8. #8
    Super Procrastinator Kallithrix's Avatar
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    I like writing arguments, maybe because (and most people would agree, I'm sure) I am just an argumentative person

    I write emotional arguments with lots of body language, so it's not so much about what is said, but what's not said, and how the characters emote that physically. There may be glares or gritted teeth or other signs of anger, frustration etc.

    When it comes to arguments about a certain point, and both parties are trying to persuade the other to accept a certain viewpoint, this is much more tricky, IMO. It's no longer about letting off steam and laying blame, as so many relationship arguments are, but about what is actually said. I find it hard to write these without making my characters sound like mouthpieces for an academic essay! But saying dialogue out loud helps me see where I'm getting too carried away with the symbouleutic rhetoric
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  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW gell214's Avatar
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    I am a very argumentative person really, but I find writing arguments difficult as well.

    I guess what would be helpful is to make your characters your basis. Would this person be the type who can slash your ego with a sword by only using a few words? Or is this person one to go on and on and on about why he is upset, making the other person simply bored already? Or, maybe, is this person passive-aggressive in that you can only tell what he is really feeling through gestures and such?

    I hope this helps .
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    The One Ring? Teinz's Avatar
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    The person I had the best arguments/rows with is my mother (luckily not anymore and I love her to death). Usually I go back to my dark teenage years and picture myself on one of my most unruly days. Then I bring in my mother and take it from there.

  11. #11
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Springs View Post
    I was wondering if anyone could give me some argument-writing tips.
    Give the characters hidden agendas and motives. These will fuel the argument, while not necessarily being obvious in the dialogue. This means that Character A thinks the argument is about X, but Character B is actually arguing about Y.

    Write oblique dialogue. That is, have characters sometimes not answer questions directly, but come at the issue from another direction. You can also have them use a straw man (an artificial argument used to deflect attention off the real issue).

    Make a list of three reasons why the characters are arguing, and then make the argument really about the third reason, which will probably be the least obvious and most interesting, because it wasn't the first thing you thought of.

  12. #12
    New motto: more purr, less hiss Nekko's Avatar
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    Another option - If you don't think you can write a convincing argument, can you say "They argued until both were hoarse, and neither satisfied" or something more creative. In other words, is it crucial to the story for us to be present for the argument?
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  13. #13
    USA: 239 years & a day Chase's Avatar
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    Lots of excellent advice so far. Terse and laconic are good dialog frames.

    But don’t forget to have one or more combatants totally illogical. Some false, disjointed arguments include begging the question, non sequitur, ad hominem (populum, baculum), equivocation, straw man, random causal relationships, innuendo, loaded questions, accenting the wrong words., etc. You can have lots of fun with them.

  14. #14
    Dorothy A. Winsor dawinsor's Avatar
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    I write the argument from my POV character's pov and then go through it again, trying to think like the other person. That way, I have less chance of giving all the good lines and reasoning to one person.

  15. #15
    figuring it all out eyebee14's Avatar
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    When I sit and think about how to write an argument, I put myself into my character’s shoes and approach it that way. If this were to happen in real life, how would I approach it on both sides? What are my motivations in the end? What can I say to cut someone to the bone, yet get my point across? I also read a lot, and I watch a lot of dramas. This helps me think outside of the box. Clever ways of expressing one self. I am by no means an expert either, but when it comes to heated arguments, there are many avenues you can take, and a world of resources to tap into for inspiration!
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  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW teeta6404's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dawinsor View Post
    I write the argument from my POV character's pov and then go through it again, trying to think like the other person. That way, I have less chance of giving all the good lines and reasoning to one person.
    I am going to try it this way. To me this sounds like the best way to approach it, one side at a time.
    I always try to do it all at once, and the thoughts and sides of the argument get jumbled.
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  17. #17
    bushed Bushrat's Avatar
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    I love writing arguments. To make them work, it helps if you can really immerse yourself in the characters, sort of like an actor playing a role.
    Forget about your own attitude - what's going to come out of character A's mouth, when B accuses her of ...? And what is character B likely to pick on, what is it he can't stand? Who is temperamental and bound to fly off the handle? Who is going to try to smooth things over, and how? What is their body language like while they fight?
    You can have so much fun with this Just let yourself fall deep down into the story.

  18. #18
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