1. dastolat
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    dastolat New Member

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    Expressing emotions through dialogue.. Help?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by dastolat, Jul 15, 2010.

    So, basically, I'd like to know which way is less amateur-like (as I'm sure we're all trying not to write like amateurs here):

    "Be right down," I called back at her.
    "Be right down!" I called back at her.


    I know for some verbs, such as yell, scream, roar, etc. you don't really need the exclamation point there, because the verb is pretty self-explanatory, right? No need to make the reader feel stupid by adding both an exclamation point and a "loud" verb. But what about 'call'? Is it considered a "loud" verb, too?

    I wouldn't mind at all if someone would explain to me any rules regarding emotions in dialogue...
    Thank you! ^.^
     
  2. Perdondaris
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    Perdondaris Member

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    "Be right down," I shouted back at her.
    "Be right down!" I shouted back at her.

    Using even an actual loud verb, and I would not count 'call' as one, it seems to me that it is preferable to use an exclamation mark. I suppose that this is because the reader reads the words in the quotation marks first, and as such will not take into account the 'shouted' in the first sentence except perhaps in hindsight. In that case, however, the only difference would be to effectively add an exclamation mark anyway, so there's no real reason not to. Otherwise, at least I tend to read the words in the first sentence as one would read a statement, before going on to the tags.

    As it were, though, one wishes to try to avoid bringing much attention to one's tags, so that where they are not omitted altogether, it is still best to let their tone be evident from the statement itself, so that the reader sort of skims over the tags, and thus the conversation takes the form of real intercourse, rather than them being reminded that they are reading a book.

    I'm not sure that there are any rules here. Nonetheless, try to see what one would do to the sentence if it did not have any verbs attached, in order to express tone and such. It is preferable that the reader can tell the tone from the sentence itself rather than from reading the sentence and then the verb and then putting the two together, which would seem to stop the passage from flowing.
     
  3. dastolat
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    dastolat New Member

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    Thank you!

    And do you know wht I should do in this case? :

    "Emily," I heard her call me, "dinner's ready."
    "Emily!" I heard her call me , "Dinner's ready!"


    Wouldn't the double exclm. point look weird?
     
  4. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think both versions are overdone. I'd just write: "Be right down," I said.

    Then I'd follow it up with whatever her emotion is about having to go downstairs or whatever. Be conservative w/the exclamation mark; don't try to use it to convey emotion. Also, your "I called back at her" is overdone in that it sounds awkward and long-winded--same with "shouted back..."

    Again, too much. Just write: "Emily, dinner's ready." Or you could tag on "she said". Don't drag out the dialog with the explanations of how she said it or whatever. Just give us the dialogue, then follow it up with other actions or monologue.
     
  5. dastolat
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    dastolat New Member

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    Thank you for pointing that out, Marina. I think I'm going to have to check the whole text..
     
  6. Perdondaris
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    Perdondaris Member

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    Yes, I was just trying to use something which is more clearly a 'loud' verb.

    While the previous poster is correct that the tag can probably be dropped, it's possible that a situation like this may come up with different verbs and such, for example to establish the speaker. In that case, probably go for, "Emily," she called, "dinner's ready!" In this case, the verb is in between the sentence, and exclamation marks fit at the end.

    To be honest, I think that adding 'said' here actually implies a sort of 'statement' tone here unless exclamations and such are used. This version would seem more apt if one were with them and alerting them that one was going to run up for a bit, rather than already being upstairs. Of course, in all likelihood the context would allow one to omit the verbs, unless it was a chapter opening or something of the sort.

    Also, while I agree that one should be conservative with exclamation marks, and I think I can understand what kind of writing you're discouraging, it's perhaps somewhat misleading to say that one should not use exclamation marks to convey emotion; for example, if two people are accused of the same thing, and one answers, "What rubbish," while the other answers, "What rubbish!" it would seem to indicate different emotional responses.
     
  7. maureencooke
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    maureencooke New Member

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    I agree with Marina.
    I opt nearly every time for 'said' or 'told' as opposed to 'called' or whatever. And then I let the character's actions carry the emotion:

    "Be right down," I told her.
    I slammed my book on the bed, got to my feet, and stomped down the stairs.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    all i can add to what marina had to say is to follow the best old writer's axioms, 'less is more' and 'K.I.S.S.!'
     
  9. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd rewrite it as:

    "Emily! Dinner's ready!" I heard her call me.
    "Be right down!"​

    IMHO, the double exclamation points don't look weird when placed within the same quotation marks.
    The second line doesn't really need a tag, since the speaker is clear from context.

    In fact, I'm not sure the lines need any tags at all. Since Emily says she is coming down for dinner, it's natural to assume she is on a different floor than the one she is speaking to. Which, together with the exclamation points, makes it natural to assume they are calling to eachother.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It seems to me that the example is just about volume, not emotion - you seem to be trying to express the fact that he had to answer in a raised voice, because he's calling through the house. Expressing emotion would, IMO, be a different thing.

    ChickenFreak
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sticking the free-standing sentence, 'i heard her call me' after what she heard makes no sense... but why do you have to give us that boring info, anyway?... if you have a good reason, let us know what it is... such as:

    "Emily...dinner's ready!"

    She sounded impatient, so I yelled back, "Be right down!"
     
  12. dastolat
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    dastolat New Member

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    Thank you all... I will definitely be applying these suggestions.

    And as for ChickenFreak, I think I have to agree with you... for these quotes in particular, it would be volume, as you said, what I'm trying to capture.

    But, this will help me a lot in emotion-expressing quotes, so again, thanks!
     

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