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This question may be a bit broad/vague but any advice would be much appreciated.

I'm struggling to follow the implied topic in the book I'm reading. The book is mostly just a conversation between lots of people with very little supporting narrative e.g.

「    」
「     」
「     」
まる子はあきれたように言った。
「       」

Sometimes the 言った seems to refer to the previous quote, and sometimes to the following quote, and so on.

Because I've only been learning for a year it can take me a while to figure what the sentence is saying, let alone who said it or who they said it about.

Beginner books tell me that the topic of conversation stays the same until someone asserts a new topic with は. That seems to be very far from the truth in reality.

Are there any obvious tricks I'm missing that help me keep track of who is speaking and who they are speaking about?

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Are there any obvious tricks I'm missing that help me keep track of who is speaking and who they are speaking about? Thanks.

・Pronouns
This one's pretty obvious. What pronouns do each character tend to refer to themselves with? What pronouns do they tend to use to refer to certain other characters?

・Gender indicators
Besides pronouns, there may be other indicators of gender. Declarative statements ending in の, female sentence ending particles (わよ、わね), etc.

・Speech style
Some characters speak roughly, some speak like upper-class gentlemen, some speak like young children, etc.

[役割語]{やくわりご}
This is the above taken to the extreme. Japanese has certain speech styles reserved for 'the wise old man', 'the country bumpkin', etc.

キャラ[語尾]{ごび}
Related to the above again, but some characters have stupid things they like to tack on the end of their sentences. Naruto's 「~だってばよ」, the cat like style of some catty characters (~ですにゃあ), Moogles' (~クポ), etc.

・Relative status
Characters will often differ in social status. You might be able to tell which character is speaking to or about which other character through use of keigo and other politeness indicators.


edit:

「このコーヒーなんか変!」
「おいしいだろ?ちょっとウイスキーを入れてみたんだ。アイリッシュコーヒーっていうのさ」
「えー!お酒入ってるってこと??」
「あなた!お酒はダメでしょ!○○ちゃんはまだ未成年だから」
「そうだな、悪い…」

I just made up a random convo with no context, but you can tell it goes A, B, A, C, B — A being the daughter, B being the father, and C being the mother/wife — from the style of speech and how they refer to each other.

  • +1 for the creative writing. But, I'm afraid the subtleties still elude me. I can only tell who is speaking from context rather than from the style of speech. – user3856370 Dec 15 '15 at 9:46

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