1. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Deliberate Broken Sentences

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Elgaisma, Jul 25, 2010.

    If the grammar is good everywhere else would broken poorly written sentences in a grief or anger speech look intentional? And would it be appropriate? I want the speech to look like the person is struggling expressing themselves?
     
  2. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could do this in dialogue. I would keep it short and sweet, though. You will have to be careful to punctuate correctly. Otherwise, your sentences could get really confusing--a bit like the sentences in your post, which would be more understandable punctuated and edited as below:

    If the grammar is good everywhere else, would broken, poorly written sentences in a grief or anger speech look intentional? And would it be appropriate? I want the speech to look as if the person is struggling to express himself.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't overdo it. Strive to be almost TOO subtle, or it will come across as heavy-handed.
     
  4. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    You can get away with pretty much anything in dialogue. I have one character who went through unimaginable stress when she was a kid. It seriously messed her up, so in the present, whenever she gets upset, her sentences become short and choppy, barely expressing a complete thought. If she can speak at all.

    The only thing you really should do is make sure the reader can understand your character's speech the way you want it to be understood. So if you're expecting them to get some information from the actual words, they need to be at least a little coherent. If you just want to show how distressed the character is, then have fun. Just don't go too crazy with it.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes and no. Yes you will see English mangled in dialogue with impunity, but dialogue has to be convincing and consistent with the character.

    Dialogue is one of the hardest things to get right.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    ^That.

    Think of it like buying interior paint. A good paint store salesperson will tell you, "Pick the color you like, then back down a shade or two if it is going on a large wall because paint color always looks more when you have it on a large surface."
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    its about 6 sentences over a whole novel. The sentences are really short and snappy.
     
  8. BlueWolf
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    BlueWolf Banned

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    Generally only works as dialogue, or, when writing what a sign says for instance. Anywhere else, unless done superbly well, would not work, in my opinion.
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is the conversation
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Writers often use three dots ... to indicate ... pauses ... in speech.

    It generally works better than broken sentences of the kind you've written.

    Also, when it's written like that, you don't have to say things like "He was struggling to get the words out." Your reader will get that just fine.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but that doesn't read well at all... nor does it seem like what someone is saying, despite the ' '...

    and what's the purpose of the name and a period before each paragraph?
     
  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    In a speech a full stop is to indicate a breath or a pause. The pauses due to the grief would be longer than you would give for a comma. Basic rule is one breath for a comma, two for a fullstop, three for a semi colon and four for a colon.

    The man has just lost his brothers, niece and nephew. His speech wouldn't be organised or read normally. Each sentence is deliberate and disconnected from the rest of the speech.

    Lad is not a name, its a term of affection means boy, kid etc The fullstops followjng Angus and Lad are to indicate the gap in the speech between saying it and continuing with the next part of the speech. Angus is the lad in the second paragraph. You are right I think a semi colon may work better.
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    thanks Minstrel the advice I needed. I know what I have written is right just the how needed work. The ... is what is needed, and possibly a colon/semi colon after Angus and Lad.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't try to insert pauses with randomly placed punctuation. That's amateur hour.

    It's true that an ellipsis (...) denotes a pause, but don't litter your dialogue with them. If you find yourself using more than one or two in a block of dialogue, you're going at it the wrong way.

    Also know that an em-dash (-- in manuscript) denotes an interruption rather than a pause.

    Your best bet is not to try to recreate the pauses. Instead, show the disjointed thinking. The character wanders from though to thought, not staying on one coherent idea like you did in your sample. Also, show it in the speaker's observed actions, not the listener's conclusions.

    The suffering in his voice is too painful to listen to (sic) is a conclusion by the narrator, not a direct observation. His voice was hoarse and his face colorless. Then he swayed and sat down heavily. These show a man in shock.

    and so on. It's not just pauses, it's the entire train of thought the is broken.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as cog showed in his example, a comma is needed after the name, if it's meant for the speaker to be starting his dialog with the name [or substitute for a name, such as 'lad'] of the person he's addressing... using a period just looks odd and is confusing to the reader...

    cog's suggestions should be taken seriously, as something like that would be much better than what you have now...
     
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you all, this has been a troublesome speech. I had intially written a different speech, it was punctuated well. However when I read it the fact it flowed well bothered me because it shouldn't. My character is not in his usual frame of mind. As Angus states (my story is written in first person, present tense), his suffering is too much. The way the novel is written its a direct observation of how Angus feels when listening to it.

    Your comments have helped, the speech is disorganised, disconnected, doesn't entirely make sense. Its not quite right but your view of the speech is how I want it to be perceived. So its on the right lines:) Also the people I have had read it out loud place the emphasis and tone right where I want it.

    I have a talent for speech writing. I have been well critqued and reviewed with that by some of the best amateur speakers in my country. When I write a speech for someone else I use punctuation, dashes etc to create a visual shape to the speech. The feedback is its useful for when they come to speak it out loud.

    I want the reader to have a shape to this speech that is distinct. I want it to stand out on the page. You are right just full stops is wrong, a mix of punctuation will create a better image of the speech being a mess.

    I think placed back in the context of the rest of the chapter, it will then work well and convey the right tone to the speech.
     
  17. BlueWolf
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    BlueWolf Banned

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    I just thought of something - although it is non-fiction (and maybe this is why it works), any book written by an autistic person (on any scale), about themselves and their condition, will be written in what could be described best as 'unusual'. This is because, this is the only way they know how to talk; paragraphs of immense sizes, sentences with no punctuation that go on forever, until it finally gets to the point they are trying to make.

    Is this in any way what you are trying to accomplish?
     
  18. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes its a similar concept. My novel is almost entirely inside my main character's head and body, however in some places I need to get the feeling we are inside someone elses head. This I am doing with dialogue.

    I want the reverse of an autistic mind, too much emotion rather than too little, which is why I am leaning towards too much punctuation. I want the speech to just plain look wrong, before the reader even starts reading it. Tom's twin brother has an autistic temperament but Tom is as far away from being autistic as he can be.

    Have you ever read Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon? It is considered one of the most important Scots novels this century. It can be difficult to follow as he tends to only put fullstops at the end of a paragraph, he makes liberal use of commas. It also uses a lot of dialect. I love the feel of being inside Chris Guthrie's head. At least that is my perspective when reading it. However if you place a paragraph for comment.... lol

    The comments that have indicated why my speech is wrong are telling me its not far from what I want in the speech. Wondering if maybe going Grassic Gibbon may work hang on let me rework it:)
     
  19. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Still not right but its closer to what I am after.
     
  20. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    sent a naval ship, . they witnessed the sinking, sailors saw..


    The above is not standard punctuation. Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't think when an ellipsis should be less than three dots, and how can you put a comma next to a full stop?
     
  21. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    that is a typo lol my writing tends to happen on a day to day basis surrounded by kids:) its complicated by a new keyboard:)

    sent a naval ship, they witnessed the sinking. Sailors saw... boat escape.
     

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