1. unionjack83
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    unionjack83 New Member

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    For the Love of Dialogue: A Little Help with the Some Finer Points

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by unionjack83, Aug 13, 2012.

    Hello everyone,

    I have a dialogue question. I think I know how to write some types of dialogue, but I don't know the rules for writing dialogue like this:

    (From Hemingway's A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. The line breaks are where paragraphs would be normally.)



    The waiter took they brandy bottle and another saucer from the counter inside the cafe and marched out to the old man's table. He put down the saucer and poured the glass full of brandy.

    "You should have killed yourself last week," he said to the deaf man. The old man motioned with his finger. "A little more," he said. The waiter poured on into the glass so that the brandy slopped over and ran down the stem into the top saucer of the pile. Thank you," the old man said. The waiter took the bottle back inside the cafe. He sat down at the table with his colleague again.

    "He'd drunk now," he said.
    "Hes drunk every night."
    "What did he want to kill himself for?"
    "How should I know."
    "How did he do it?"
    "He hung himself with a rope."
    etc. etc. etc.


    Okay, here's mostly what I'm familiar with. Underneath the second paragraph. I see dialogue typically appear like this, usually alternating back and forth between characters, each with a separate paragraph.

    I don't know how to "formulate" or how to describe rules for is the first part of this section, the second paragraph. Notice that there are two people talking, but there are no paragraph breaks. Are there rules for this type of dialogue? The best I can tell by examining it is that there are actions that punctuate the interaction in between talking (pouring of the brandy, carrying the bottle back inside, etc.). Couldn't this paragraph be written like the dialogue below it, though? Why is this style preferred here, rather than splitting the dialogue up into separate paragraphs?

    I have a question about dialogue that is inside a paragraph, but without quotation marks. For example:
    When he entered the room, the commander asked his general what was happening on the front. No news, sir, the man said. Of course, of course, the commander said and lighted his cigar. No news is good news except when it is bad news. Then he went out and called for a bottle of Chateau de Chaselay

    Ok, I made up that little paragraph, but I see these things in literature all the time. When is it okay not to put quotation marks on dialogue?


    I understand that style must have a lot to do with it, but I want to know if there is are rules for this style.
    What are your rules?
    What are your thoughts?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Indirect dialogue paraphrases what the speaker said. Because it is not word for word what was said, you do not quote it. Direct dialogue is a literal depiction of what was said, so it is quoted.

    In the Hemingway example, each speaker's dialogue is a new paragraph. The typesetting may not have made that obvious, but the fact that each person's quote is on a new line does indicate a new paragraph.

    Always start a new paragraph when you change speakers.

    This may help: He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    re the waiter's dialog and action paragraph, the reason the old man's few words are included is probably because it's part and parcel of the waiter's actions in pouring the drink and hemingway [or his editor] didn't want to break that up... as someone who is not hemingway, you should probably not try to get away with such a bend of the rules...

    i'd sure like to see where you found that 'in literature' because it's totally incorrect and confusing to the reader... do not try this, if you hope to have your work published by a paying venue...

    .
    the rule is, it's against the rules...

    to stick to the rules...

    that if you want to see your work published by magazines/publishers that pay you, rather than v/v, you should stick to the rules... after you get rich and famous from your writings, you can do whatever you want... till then, don't try to be different, just do your best to write well...
     
  4. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    As Mom said above, you have to follow the rules, and know them, before you can understand which one's you can break and get away with. Most writers break the rules, but only after they've learned them enough to understand them. It's kind of like that old "wink, wink" kind of thing.

    With that said, learn, learn, and learn some more about the rules.
     
  5. Ferdinand&Alfonso
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    Ferdinand&Alfonso Member

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    Before I knew all the "rules" to writing (when I mostly just did it on my computer, without any "training" and a 4 grade view of grammar), I didn't change paragraphs for every new piece of dialogue. The only time I made paragraph breaks was when I thought it would be fitting--like how paragraphs with lengthy descriptions are longer and paragraphs with blunt opinions are reallly short. It wasn't until I started sharing my stuff online that someone told me I was supposed to change paragraphs every time a new person spoke. I didn't know that was a rule, I'd never heard of it. And it's not so much as a rule persay as just a better way of doing it. Might work for some people, but it got really annoying to have to give some sort of easy hint as to who was speaking every time I changed voices. I'd go on into "and then Maggie replied" or "after that, Rubin said" and it got really old really fast.

    Oops, just read what Cogito said. Apparently it is a rule.

    And I don't use quotation marks when paraphrasing, but when I paraphrase it usually sounds something along the lines of: Jeff laughed at what his friend had said, telling him that it was mostly lies and that he should quit while he was ahead.

    Instead of: Let's go outside, he said. She smiled in reply. Why not stop by the park downtown, she drawled shyly, after all, it has a beautiful view. (This just feels like it's the same thing as regular dialogue without the quotes. It looks all wrong.)
     
  6. Murkie
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    Murkie Member

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    There rules are starting to feel like the rules for Fightclub ;)

    So on the subject of new lines for different speakers, does this work:

    Bill shook his head. "The last time I saw him was yesterday, after work. He said he was going to the pub." He casually lit a cigarette and smiled. "And you haven't seen him since?" Asked the Detective.
    "No."

    Or should there be a new paragraph for the Detective's dialogue?
     
  7. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    New paragraph....I don't know why you'd want them on the same line. It just looks clustered. (And the 'asked' should be lowercase /nitpicking)
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think you meant "their rules".

    And, yes, that's a rule.
     
  9. Murkie
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    Murkie Member

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    Why would 'Asked' be lower case when it is preceded by a question mark? To my knowledge this ends a sentance, which mean the next word should be capitalized, correct?
     
  10. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Never seen that before anywhere, that's why I pointed it out. >_>
    (Someone correct me if I'm wrong...)
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Asked the detective is not a separate sentence. The sentence includes the quote. And that's why asked should not be capitalized.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, as ed noted, 'asked' is the beginning of the dialog tag that is part of a sentence that includes the line of dialog, whether or not it ends in a ?/! or a comma...
     
  13. Murkie
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    Murkie Member

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    I see. Thanks for clearing that up.
     
  14. unionjack83
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    unionjack83 New Member

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    Thank you for your help, everyone!

    Cogito's "He said, She said" link was particularly helpful. It is exactly the type of thing I was looking for.

    Trata de Mammammaia's comment: I recall a writing teacher in high school reproaching me for writing an essay in the same manner of Jose Saramago in Blindness. I told her that he did it, so why couldn't I? She said something along the lines of, "when you're rich enough or good enough to break the rules, you'll know."

    And so, it is precisely because of this knowledge that I ask you all for some guidance.

    Learn, learn, and learn some more. Thanks again!
     
  15. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Writing essays (or any nonfiction really) in that style is not a good idea. I don't mind breaking traditional rules in fiction, but in nonfiction it just seems out of place to me.
     

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