1. Writer123
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    Writer123 New Member

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    Formatting dialogue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Writer123, Feb 3, 2012.

    I am currently formatting my first novel and am having a few teething problems with dialogue. My main concern is regarding whether or not you ALWAYS begin a new line/para at the end of each spoken sentence. I understand that it would go as follows:

    'It's too cold,' I said.
    The wind howled outside the window.
    'I know,' Joe replied.

    But, in first person narrative, if you carry on describing the conversation/speech, would you continue straight on from the dialogue or begin a new line? I.e. would it be:

    'I'm not good enough.'
    I try to finish this last part with a laugh but I can't even pretend I find this funny.
    'Yes you are.'

    Or

    'I'm not good enough.' I try to finish this last part with a laugh but I can't even pretend I find this funny.
    'Yes you are.'

    Similarly would it be:

    I take a deep breath.
    'I love you,' I said.

    Or

    I take a deep breath. 'I love you,' I said.

    If someone could shed some light, I'd really appreciate it! Many thanks.
     
  2. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    You've got it right in your "Or" examples: generally just put the new line between different people's dialogue, then if someone's doing a lot of talking broken up with narrative, refer to other paragraphing rules such as starting new paragraphs when they reach a new topic. Or if the narrative covers a new topic in the middle of the two bits of speech even if they're by the same person.

    It looks neater and less confusing to put action and dialogue by one person on the same line, particularly if they're talking to someone else, because you don't need to put in as many speech tags (he/she said and variants) since the action on the same line is doing the job for you.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    so far so good... but for further info/affirmation, just check out how successful authors handle dialog...
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Are you writing for a UK market? If so, the single quotes are okay. However, if you are writing for a US market, dialogue should be enclosed in double quotes.

    This may help: He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue
     
  5. Writer123
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    Writer123 New Member

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    Thanks for your advice. Yes, I am writing for a UK market.
     
  6. UberNoodle
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    UberNoodle Senior Member

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    On a prior thread a poster said it best when he or she wrote of 'beats' -- snippets of action to punctuate segments of dialogue. If an action was between or after in the same paragraph as dialogue, then those things are grouped, occurring together and consequentially. When there is a line break, then the consequence is broken and a new string begins. Consider the difference between a scientist carrying on a conversation while manipulating his experiment, turning nobs, adjusting dials, making notes. It would all group together. Yet consider a sparse conversation over a long period of time in which many utterances are left dangling and in between are actions like looking out a window, fidgeting, staring, or even a door slamming by the wind startling them both. Breaking all this up with line breaks would create the desired effect.
    [I mean indents]
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    line breaks?... are you sure you don't mean just indents?
     
  8. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You only need to have a new line (or start a new paragraph) when a different person speaks. That is, according to the most recent fashion. In the old days, it wasn't necessary to break up the paragraphs like this. Paragraphs were often much longer, although they still tended to go by the one main idea, one paragraph 'rule'.

    Your example here is correct for nowadays:
    'It's too cold,' I said.
    The wind howled outside the window.
    'I know,' Joe replied. (different line for every speaker and description which is not directly related to a speaker)
    But in novels published only, say, 25 years ago you can see:
    'It's too cold,' I said. The wind howled outside the window. 'I know,' Joe replied. (all one paragraph--which is about this one particular conversation)
    Your example:
    I take a deep breath.
    'I love you,' I said. (no, here a new line is not needed because the same person is breathing and then speaking. You might want to start a new line, though, to give the greater feeling that the speaking comes a bit later after the breath)
    So:
    I take a deep breath. 'I love you,' I said. (is fine, if the action/words are one right after the other)
    But in this situation:
    He took a deep breath.
    'I love you,' I said. (the breather and speaker are different so they are on different lines--according to newer writing conventions)

    P.S. Paragraphs still tend to be longer in British writing than in US novels. Just saying. I'm not suggesting one particular style is superior to another--check out examples of the market you are aiming for and adjust your work accordingly. Remember that short paragraphs are often less demanding for the reader.
    P.P.S. Some UK magazines specify double inverted commas for dialogue, but if not otherwise specified, go with the normal single inverted commas for the UK. E.G. Mills and Boon specifies single inverted commas for the Richmond office, double for subs to the US.
     
  9. UberNoodle
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    UberNoodle Senior Member

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    Yes, yes, I meant indents. I was at that moment in non indent-friendly Web space.
     

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