The other day, another pro writer was struggling with the fact that he's writing something with a noir feel and it feels like there's too much talking. Every scene, someone talking. As someone who writes noir-flavored SF mystery, I reached out to help him. I figured I'd share here what I shared with him. For background, my two published novels (and the third to come) have a noir feel to them and have a lot of 'talking' scenes. Sometimes it feels like too much. Here are some things I do to combat that: 1. I force non talking scenes into the draft early. Sometimes this adds events that aren't necessarily part of the plot at first (I work the plot to fit the events...which seems backwards...but you've got to create some action in each quarter of the book. That's why people try to assassinate Carl Butler a lot, or things blow up). Even one scene in an act can make a huge difference and break up the series of talking chapters.
2. I Make the MC (I'm going to use the pronoun him for convenience) more active in the talking scenes. Because it's a mystery (probably) he's mostly going to know less than the people he's talking to in the scene. This can make him feel passive. To change that, you're going to end up adding internal commentary--probably more than you think--to make him more active. First, going into the scene, make sure you know what he's trying to get (or, if he has no clue, then at least know why he's entering the conversation). Try to let the reader know that, too, as it gets them thinking about the objective, not just the talking. This also sets him up with a goal. The obstacle is the other person. So what's he doing in the conversation to try to get to what he wants? It should be something...or, if he's losing...if he's not able to control the conversation and steer it where he wants, he can acknowledge that to himself. Ex.Well, I really let this shit get away from me.
Even when he is being passive, he can be active. Something I do about 3 or 4 times a book, when someone is talking and giving the MC good information, is have him think to himself that he's not going to interrupt, because he doesn't want them to stop talking. It seems kind of silly, but it does show that he's being passive intentionally. Obviously you can't overuse this.
3. You've got to cut ruthlessly. If a talking scene can be shorter, shorten it. Especially do this for the ones that aren't as critical. If it's going to be a longer scene, ask yourself what else you're accomplishing beyond the information. What characterization are you doing (of either the MC or the villain or a key NPC)? What world building are you doing? Strive in most of your talking scenes to add something else.
4. Have one of the people doing something, because it breaks up the talking a bit and doesn't feel as much like a talking scene. Meet the person while they're at work, or at the gym, or any other place that adds characterization to the person you're meeting. It's still a talking scene, but you disguise it a bit.
5. Accept it. This is the hardest part. Your book is going to have too much talking in it. In noir, sometimes that's a feature, not a bug. You're selling voice--at least I am. Yes, there's a plot and reveals and all kinds of cool moments, but the people who are coming back for book 2 are mostly doing it for the character. If you ever thought your book had too much talking in it, I hope this helps you.