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  1. gitamo
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    gitamo Member

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    Dialogue grammer help needed, pretty please!

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by gitamo, Oct 20, 2009.



    Hi I am stuck on how to convey the feeling in this exchange. The last sentence is where I am stuck. The protagonist thinks the guy she is talking to is a sadist because she has a (false) memory of him hurting her. He doesn't think of himself as a sadist so doesn't answer because he is unsure what she is asking.

    Anyway I want to convey that he doesn't answer her first question; "What you are?" so she rephrases with more detail saying "pain expert" but with a hesitation before those two words.

    Does the dash convey a hesitation? or should I write a tagline; "I hesitated, unwilling to call him a sadist," or something like that....


    “How long have you known?” I managed to ask.
    “Known?”
    “What you are?” Silence. “When did you become a..." I hesitated, "...pain expert?” I had wanted to say sadist.


    ps. I just noticed I spelled grammar incorrectly in the title of the thread. How embarrassing!
     
  2. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Use ellipses to indicate a pause, not an em dash (--), and certainly not a hyphen.

    I would write it:

    "When did you become a. . . pain expert?"

    No need to say "I hesitated", since the ellipsis does that for you. If you feel the need, you could also shorten the traditional three-dot ellipsis to two dots to convey a shorter pause.
     
  3. gitamo
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    gitamo Member

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    Fantastic! Thanks :)

    I wasn't sure about the elipsis and certainly didn't know about a two dot elipsis for a shorter pause.
     
  4. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    I've never heard of a two dot elipsis either (doesn't mean it's not right). The elipsis itself denotes a hesitation, with the dialogue phrase putting its length into context. 'Resist the urge to explain.'
     
  5. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Wait, I was wrong about the two-dot ellipsis. I had a niggling doubt, so consulted the CMS (where I thought I had seen it mentioned, for some reason) and couldn't find anything there. . . Didn't find anything to support it elsewhere, either. So, in short, I was completely wrong about that one! Sorry! :redface:

    But the ellipsis is used to indicate a pause in speech.

    Edit: lol^. Posted a second too late. Yes, it is wrong, Cheeno.:redface: That's what I get for cramming too much information into my poor little brain. It all gets jumbled and I start spewing crap.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    “How long have you known?” I managed to ask.

    “Known?”

    “What you are?” Silence. “When did you become a --" I wanted to say sadist. "pain expert?”

    An em dash, indicated in manuscript by a pair of hyphens, indicates interrupted speech. In this case, the speaker interrupted himself.

    You can also use an ellipsis, as noted above, to denote a pause, and explain the pause afterward.
     
  7. gitamo
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    gitamo Member

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    Thanks! The em dash had me a little confused but that makes perfect sense. I read a lot but cant remember ever seeing an em dash. Am I just blind or does it get changed in the print form?
     
  8. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    "How long have you known?" I managed to ask.
    "Known?"
    "What you are."
    There was an awkward silence during which he just looked at me and said nothing.
    "When did you become a ..." The word sadist hung in my throat for a moment.
    "... pain expert?" I said finally.

    I kind of think the ellipsis works better than the em dash, since this is a purposeful silence rather than a real interruption. (Afterthought: Below with the em dash. Either one works, I think.)

    "How long have you known?" I managed to ask.
    "Known?"
    "What you are."
    There was an awkward silence during which he just looked at me and said nothing.
    "When did you become a--" The word sadist hung in my throat for a moment. "--pain expert?" I said finally.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In print form, it appears as a long dash (—). The term em dash means it is a dash that has the same width as a capital M.
     
  10. gitamo
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    gitamo Member

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    Ah ha!

    Thank you maestro Cognito for the em dash lesson, it's much appreciated! :)

    One last question... which version is correct: with a second dash at the start of the second part of the interruption? or without a second em dash?

    I thought the former but Manhatten mss posted the other option.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    How do you begin with an interruption?
     
  12. gitamo
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    gitamo Member

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    I meant like the above example, with an em dash when the dialogue resumes or without an em dash when the dialogue resumes.

    Thanks again!
     
  13. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't have put a period after 'moment'--it looks strange to start a new sentence with an em dash and then a small letter, but maybe that's just me.
     
  14. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    My take was that the thought--which I made a complete sentence, although there are fragments and other things that might work even better--interrupted the dialogue piece momentarily. I'd say choose whatever works for your style and sensibilities; then let your editor weigh in.
     
  15. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I think Molly is treating it as a parenthetical, but then you could just use commas.

    "When did you become a," the word sadist hung in my throat for a moment, "pain expert."

    The problem with this is, I think the interruption is too long. Either way, I am sure then the em-dash should be where I put the commas, if you wished to use them instead of commas to put an emphasis on the parenthetical element.
     
  16. Sound of Silence
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    Sound of Silence Member

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    “What you are?” Silence. “When did you become a—" I wanted to say sadist, "—pain expert?”

    You mean is it better like that, hun?'

    The Em dash is used parenthetically, so it certainly wouldn't be wrong to use it like that. Cognito is just slowing that emotion down a touch so that everything has it's focus and nothing get's lost. That way 'sadist' doesn't get lost in the commontion of the emotion. I guess it just depends on how you want that sentense expressed.

    Just remeber your punctuation changes the emotion of the moment. Commas are slight pauses, ellipses longer pauses, em dashes give a very powerful break.

    'I huh--'
    'You what?'
    '--ate you.'
    'Ate me?'
    'No. I bloody hate you.'
    'Oh. Glad we got that cleared.'
     
  17. gitamo
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    gitamo Member

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    Excellent! Thanks for all that. I think I've got it now :)

    “What you are?” Silence. “When did you become a --" I wanted to say sadist, "--pain expert?”

    That seems the best option from what I can gather... I liked the word hung but I use it a lot already.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but since the 'i wanted to...' part is not a dialog tag, you can't continue the line of dialog after it, as if it is a dialog tag you stuck in there and not the bit of narrative, that it really is...
     

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