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Character dialogue in the plot

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Old 08-13-2009, 07:43 AM
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Default Character dialogue in the plot


There is something I have been wondering about as of late. I have a fairly large collection of E-books that I have purchased over the years. In most of them, dialogue between story characters is written in the form of seperate lines outside existing paragraphs. Within my own writing, I have the dialogue integrated into the paragraphs themselves.

I am a little unsure about the best way to handle character dialogue. Would it be better if it was written as seperate lines? Or is it simply upto the author's own writing style?

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Old 08-13-2009, 08:17 AM
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Gregg Reference Manual paragraph 269:

When quoting dialogues and conversations, start the remarks of each speaker as a new paragraph, no matter how brief.
That's how I do it. Otherwise, it might be semi-confusing to the reader. Using new paragraphs helps keep things clear and easy to read.
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Old 08-13-2009, 08:21 AM
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Dialogue between multiple characters is supposed to be separated by starting a new paragraph, yes. However, if you prefer to place your conversations within existing paragraphs, you can begin a conversation this way, then separate any subsequent dialogue. Or, this can be done in mid-dialogue. For example: a certain character refers to an object, you can describe this object and how it makes your character feel before having them respond.

John and Ellie were walking along the beach.

"I just thought of something," said John.

"You did?" Ellis sounded puzzled.

"If I were to ask you a question-"

"Yes?"

"And you were to answer it-"

Get on with it! thought Ellie.

"What would you say?"

Ellie frowned, climbing over the rocks at the end of the bay. This question wasn't what she'd expected. Not what she wanted. "How can I answer that?" she asked. "When I don't know the question?"

John grinned. "Dunno."
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Old 08-13-2009, 10:20 AM
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Dialogue is almost universally one speaker to a paragraph, regardless of how brief. You can find an example of some people who don't do it this way, but it causes problems if you ever hope to just cut away all tags and go plain. Because if you have done two speakers to a paragraph before, it might confuse the reader later if there are two quotes they are unsure of in one paragraph.
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Old 08-13-2009, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Firefly View Post
Gregg Reference Manual paragraph 269:



That's how I do it. Otherwise, it might be semi-confusing to the reader. Using new paragraphs helps keep things clear and easy to read.
Now that you mention it, that makes a lot of sense. Since I am now in process of doing a re-write of my novel, I might as well take the time to seperate the dialogue from the main paragraphs.

There is one last thing. For the sake of reader clarity, is it ok to include the name of the character who spoke the dialogue at the end of each line? Like the example below:

"Ariana, are you alright?" asks her brother Prince Eric.

"Yes, I'm fine," Ariana replies.
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Old 08-13-2009, 06:21 PM
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"Yes, I'm fine," she replied would work as well. It isn't always necessary to state the name of who is speaking. For instance, here, I assume there are only two characters involved in this conversation, and since Prince Eric specifically addresses Ariana, she is likely to be the only person to respond.

It helps to change things around once in a while, instead of perpetually saying "Ariana said", "Prince Eric replied", "Ariana responded", et cetera.
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Old 08-14-2009, 07:13 AM
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I think the rule is one speaker per paragraph, but not necessarily ONLY dialogue for that paragraph. If a some dialogue is sandwiched between action, I like to stick dialogue in the paragraph, like Richard Yates does.

Example from Revolutionary Road:
"It hasn't been an easy job," he said, his glasses glinting soberly around the stage. "We've had a lot of problems here, and quite frankly I'd more or less resigned myself not to expect too much. Well, listen. Maybe this sounds corny, but something happened up here tonight. Sitting out there tonight I suddenly knew, deep down, that you were all putting your hearts into your work for the first time." He let the fingers of one hand splay out across the pocket of his shirt to show what a simple, physical thing the heart was; then he made the same hand into a fist, which he shook slowly and wordlessly in a long dramatic pause, closing one eye and allowing his moist lower lip to curl out in a grimace of triumph and pride. "Do that again tomorrow night," he said, "and we'll have one hell of a show."
I like this because, it feels more organic to me. Of course, occasionally, you will obviously want to slam lines of dialogue one after the other, in quick succession, like during an argument or something, when even speech attribution is too much.
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Old 08-14-2009, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Shiranui View Post
"Yes, I'm fine," she replied would work as well. It isn't always necessary to state the name of who is speaking. For instance, here, I assume there are only two characters involved in this conversation, and since Prince Eric specifically addresses Ariana, she is likely to be the only person to respond.

It helps to change things around once in a while, instead of perpetually saying "Ariana said", "Prince Eric replied", "Ariana responded", et cetera.
In that case, all he would have to write is this:

"Ariana, are you alright?" he asked.

"Yes, I'm fine."
I'm kind of a minimalist when it comes to dialogue and tags though.
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Old 08-14-2009, 03:10 PM
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That's another option. Ultimately, the point I was trying to get across is that stating Ariana's name is not necessary in this situation.
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Old 08-14-2009, 04:57 PM
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It starts to look weird if people say each other's names in dialogue too often lol. Sadly I used to do it all the time to avoid using speech tags and it looked terrible.
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Old 08-16-2009, 02:11 PM
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In those situations, you use vocatives! Those are things that let you know who's speaking without speech tags. They can be names, distinctive accents, things only that person would say...

Between Sean and Bob:

"Hi, Bob."

"Hi, Sean"

Pretty obvious who's talking there, but that was easy. Now make Bob a detective and Sean a clerk.

"Hey, how are things at the fuzz department?"

"Not bad."

Obviously that's Sean talking there at first, because Bob's the detective who would know how things are going at the fuzz department.

But now Sean is Irish!

"'ey up, lad, 'tis good seein' ye."

"Uh, hi. Nice accent."

See what I mean? Theoretically, you never have to use a speech tag if you put just a little identifier in every sentence, but that's too confusing. No need to use names as vocatives all the time, mind!
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