1. Pludovick
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    Pludovick Member

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    Dialogue questions

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Pludovick, Jun 13, 2013.

    Hi all,

    I've recently started writing a novel and it's turned out to be quite a lot heavier on dialogue than I'd planned. It's turned up a couple of questions- namely, to do with the formatting.

    The biggest issue I've had has been with huge chunks of dialogue- I've got MS Word set to leave some space between paragraphs automatically when I indent, but in particularly dialogue-heavy exchanges it doesn't feel like that's the right way to format it. When there's an exchange between multiple characters with no or minimal narrative interjection, should I just start a new line with each new speaker or should I use the same space between speakers as I do between normal paragraphs? I'm leaning towards the former as it feels more natural, but then it gets more complicated when there's more narrative interjection and the distinction between 'line of dialogue' and 'paragraph' becomes more blurry.

    Second issue- when quoting within speech, is there a less clumsy way of writing it than putting quotation marks within speech marks? Often I've tried to get my characters to quote short text messages or other short sentences that I need to indicate as quotes, but using "' just looks awful and unprofessional, to my eye at least. Is this the correct way of formatting that, or is there another way I should be doing it?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Anthony Martin
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    Anthony Martin Active Member

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    I don't think it looks unprofessional; but you might consider when the character quotes a given text.

    Lead with it (which you don't seem to favor): "'I'm sorry I kidnapped your puppies' is all the bastard wrote," said Jill. "What a prick."

    vs.

    Embed it deeper: "All I got from that miserable bastard was a text message. 'Sorry I kidnapped your puppies,' it said. What a prick."
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A lot depends on what your ultimate hopes/expectations are for your novel. If you are doing this as a lark, as a hobby or as a personal growth project and have no plans to try to publish it, then the formatting doesn't matter. However, if you are harboring that deep thought that maybe, just maybe, you might be shopping your finished novel around some day (and I say that as I am doing so, myself, so no sarcasm here), then it is probably a good idea to format it how you want it now, at the beginning, and get comfortable with it.

    Personally, I strip down MS Word as far as I can, because I dislike the assumptions it makes. So, I remove the space before paragraphs and the space after. I set the font to a serif font, usually Courier, 12 point, because agents and publishers who specify a font usually want that one. I indent one tab for new paragraphs and I do not skip lines between them. Just go to the next line, whether it is narrative or dialogue. A paragraph is a paragraph.

    Nope, that's correct - "double" marks for the dialogue and 'single' marks for quoted dialogue within the dialogue. I find it only looks odd if the quote within the quote is at the very beginning. You can re-engineer your sentences so that doesn't happen if it bothers you that much. I do.

    Good luck with your project.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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  5. Scot McPhie
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    Scot McPhie Member

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    Last edited: Aug 31, 2014
  6. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't claim expertise. But for what it's worth, I like this solution. The deeper embedded version of the dialogue looks right to me, while the "' version looks a bit odd and not right.
     
  7. Pludovick
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    Pludovick Member

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    Thanks everyone- much appreciate your help! I've adjusted the formatting and stripped Word down, and I've tried to embed some of the dialogue more deeply. Hasn't been possible with every example but if having quotation marks within speech is technically correct then I'll just stop worrying about it.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    your entire ms should be double-spaced and there shouldn't be any extra space between paragraphs...
     

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