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November 28, 2006

Question About Dialogue Format

Hey, does anyone know the answer to this? I've been writing a lot of dialogue and I need to know how to format it properly. What's been happening is I'll have a line of dialogue from Char. A and then Char. B will react to it, and then reply. Like this:

"You're ugly," Character A said.

Character B froze in shock. "How can you say such a thing?" she cried.

Okay, so the question is, should I do as I have done above, i.e. put in the action sentence and then the line of dialogue in the same paragraph? Or should I give each its own paragraph, like this?:

"You're ugly," Character A said.

Character B froze in shock.

"How can you say such a thing?" she cried.

Anyone know?

Also, when I was trying to google the answer, I came across these rules of dialogue, which make a fook of a lot of sense to me, so I will reproduce them here:

  1. Dialogue should be brief.
  2. It should add to the reader's present knowledge.
  3. It should eliminate the routine exchanges of ordinary conversation.
  4. It should convey a sense of spontaneity but eliminate the repetitiveness of real talk.
  5. It should keep the story moving forward.
  6. It should be revelatory to the speaker's character, both directly and indirectly.
  7. It should show the relationships among people.

... none of which rules I am following.

***** UPDATE

Strange. I had a moment, about 1000 words in tonight, where I hated the whole project and was ashamed of myself for writing such crap. I even wrote into the MS "God, this is crap." Then I went home, had a glass of wine and some soup, and reread what I had written and realized that it was actually pretty good. Then I finished my quota for the day.

We can now celebrate the fact that I have finished half of my words. I have broken 25K tonight, and have, officially, half of a novel.

InNoWriMo Tally:
Today's wordcount: 2219
Total wordcount: 25,018


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the first example.

The first example, yes.

But not, I think, because there's any kind of rule about it. If you wanted to separate the freezing in shock from the utterance for some reason (I can't think of one right now, but you never know), then example two would work, in context. That's my take on it, anyway.

Yes, the first example, though I'm not sure there is a rule either. But the second one is just ugleee, and slows the action right down.
And well done on the word count!

i'm going to go for the first example as well, but here's my rationale: use paragraphs to indicate a change of speaker. since b does two things, freezing in shock and crying, but a does NOT speak in between these two things, both b's freezing in shock and b's crying belong in the same paragraph.

compare your example one above with this exchange:

A said to B "You're ugly."

B froze in shock.

"I don't mean to insult you."

"How can you say such a thing?" B cried.

see how the paragraphing tells the reader who is speaking or acting? that is how understand the use of paragraphs in dialogue.

a belated thanks for the help, you guys. you rock!

I would format it like this:

->"You're ugly," Character A said. Character B froze in shock.

->"How can you say such a thing?" she cried.

i was doing that for a while but then i realized that i was combining A dialogue with B action and seperating B action from B dialogue. it felt confusing for the reader.

Yeah, I hear you. I guess when I do it, I think of the new line with indent as a new paragraph, so I try to decide if the next action or thought would actually warrant a new paragraph or not. It is pretty confusing, this. It's amazing how frustrating the dialogue format can be. I've seen people write it many different ways, even sticking a line of dialogue in the middle of a paragraph. What makes me most frustrated is that I have to think about it at all. I never expected to have to examine my dialogue format with the eye of a free verse poet. Ah well.

I had the same question and I came across this and it was really helpful... So thanks for asking the right question :D Oh, and thanks to your friends that gave the right answers. lol Thanks all around.

I've read that if you're formatting a manuscript it should be a new paragraph when ever a speaker is finished - to describe a sentence of action - then a new pararagraph if that same speaker resumes talking again and that any breaks in there speach(mid-paragraph)suck as: 'he continued,' should be broken by commas.

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