1. pink.tea.in.the.cup.
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    pink.tea.in.the.cup. New Member

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    Paragraph Question

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by pink.tea.in.the.cup., Aug 12, 2009.

    Sorry if this is stupid, but I've always been somewhat confused in mixing in the action of one person and the dialogue of another.
    Ex.
    Would it be:

    Bob said, "It's no pulp orange juice." Bill reached for the carton. "I'll get you a glass." Bob got up form the table and went to the cupboards.

    or

    Bob said, "It's no pulp orange juice."
    Bill reached for the carton.
    "I'll get you a glass." Bob got up from the table and went to the cupboards.

    I almost forgot. Sounds.

    Is it

    Bob placed the cup on the table. Clank.

    or

    Bob placed the cup on the table.
    Clank.


    and is clack, or whatever sound, put in italics.

    Thanks :)
     
  2. ravenouspoe
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    ravenouspoe New Member

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    As far as I know, action is kept with each character's dialogue. If gesture is the only response, I would give it its own line. In other words, treat the gesture of the other character as dialogue (an easy way to look at this is that 90% of all communication is non-verbal; so think of gesture as non-verbal communication).
    So, to use your example:
    Bob said, "It's no-pulp orange juice."
    (new paragraph)Bill reached for the carton.
    (new paragraph)"I'll get you a glass." Bob got up from the table and went to the cupboards.


    As far as sounds go, I think it's generally by the seat of your pants. In any grammar class I've ever taken, it's never been covered. In any writing workshop or fiction class I've taken, it's always been writer's discretion. Some people just make it a one word fragment without formatting. Some people use formatting. I think that really depends on style. But it does not necessitate its own paragraph. I've always written and read it within the same paragraph as exposition and action.
     
  3. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I don't believe there's a steadfast rule that action cannot be done by another within the paragraph, but in this case, I'd revise regardless.

    "I'll get you a glass." following Bill's action caused me to double-take and ask myself, "Is it Bill speaking here, or Bob?" It was Bob, of course, but I had to figure that out. The answer didn't flow naturally from the reading.

    I'd move that to after "Bob got up from the table and went to the cupboards."

    Charlie
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's better to separate it into its own paragraph. Don't fear the whitespace.

    The effect of keeping it in the same paragraph is to compress the timeframe, and to minimize the significance of the other person's action. Rarely, that is exactly what you want to do, but the other person's action is an impurity embedded into a cohesive paragraph.

    What does the paragraph signify? It's a focus upon the person who is speaking. And even if the speaker takes an action that is not closely coupled to what he or she is saying, THAT often demands a separate paragraph.

    A paragraph is a grouping of sentences. The rules of paragraphing are somewhat more flexible than with nonfiction, but you should continue to think of it as enclosing a single idea, concept, or action.

    The difference is that in fiction, you don't form a paragraph with a theme sentence followed by refinements or supporting statements. The theme of a paragraph in fiction is more likely to be implied rather than stated explicitly. But if you are in doubt whether you should put a paragraph break between sentences in a paragraph, think of what the paragraph's theme really is.
     
  5. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Cog pretty much covered it.:)

    On an editor's list of pet peeves, I read that most paragraphs should really be no more than 3-4 sentences. It isn't a solid rule, but I think it's a nice guideline to keep in mind. (your thoughts on this, Cogito?)

    If you end up with a huge block of text, chances are that you can divide it into several paragraphs using Cog's advice. Shorter paragraphs not only communicate better, (long 'graphs are usually several topics jumbled together) but those walls-of-text are also unsightly and harder to read.

    Shorter is nearly always better, so long as the topical divisions make sense. Readers like white space.;)
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good advice from charlie and cog... follow it!

    as for sounds, they should be in " " since they're heard, just like dialog...
     
  7. pink.tea.in.the.cup.
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    pink.tea.in.the.cup. New Member

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    okay. thanks for clearing that up.
     
  8. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Every time I read books, they treat sound-effects the same as words of another language.
    Put them in italics.

     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's often more a matter of the publisher's house style, than a formal rule...

    in your mss, it's best to avoid the overuse of italics and use them only to emphasis of a word if really needed and for foreign words, where they're required...
     

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