1. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    punctuation for story in a story

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by madhoca, Mar 16, 2009.

    I've just hit a problem that's new to me. I'm finding conflicting advice about punctuation when there is someone telling a story 'inside the story', e.g.

    Story

    The old woman began her tale: "Once upon a time there was a naughty little girl--"
    The child interrupted her. "Naughtier that me?"
    "Absolutely. Well, she went to her father and asked: 'Can I feed the goldfish?'

    Now here is where I have the problem. The dialogue within the story has to be single quotes to avoid confusion, right? (Or vice versa.) And when I start a new paragraph, do I put " , OR because it's all the same woman continuing to speak, do I just continue without speech marks? In other words is it:

    "Her father looked at her.

    Or:

    Her father looked at her.

    Any ideas?
     
  2. silverfrost
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    silverfrost Member

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    You'd use single quotes for a character telling another what someone said. And when starting a new paragraph with the same person speaking, you end the previous paragraph without double quotes and begin the next with them. So go with your first choice.

    "Absolutely. Well, she went to her father and asked: 'Can I feed the goldfish?'

    "Her father looked at her."


    If you need other examples, you can check out Watership Down. There's lots of storytelling via dialogue in that.
     
  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Madhoca,

    To answer part of your question, I can give you an example from one of my short stories that was published. It is written in first person POV, but within the story, another character tells a story to the main (POV) character. It comes along about the middle with Dennis telling the main character, Marv, a little bit about what happened to his daughter while they're eating at a diner. You'll be able to see the punctuation, use of single and double quotation marks, etc., which I think is part of your concern.

    Here's a link to the story if you're interested: "Vegetable Matters"

    Hope the example helps you with what you're looking for.

    Terry
     
  4. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Silverfrost and Terry, thanks for the help.
    And Terry, that was just the kind of example I needed. It was a strange and interesting story, I'll look out for more of your work, thanks for the read!
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Also, take anoter lesson from Terry's story - don't tell the embedded story all at once. Break it up, and make the reader wait. Leave te reader hanging and full of questions, eagerly waiting for the next piece of the story.

    I know that's a bit afield of the punctuation question you are asking, but I'll make it up to you with a link to a b;og entry you might find helpful: He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue
     
  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    MadHoca,

    I'm glad you enjoyed the story, but even moreso that the section in question helped you out. I figured out how to do the punctuation from one example and then expanded, so it took a while, and more than a few edits to get it all right (at least I think it's all right :eek: )

    If you're interested in some of the other stories I've had published, there are a few online, (check out my website--in in my signature file at the bottom of this post) and I have had three new ones accepted in different markets and they'll be published later this year.

    Cogito,
    Thank you for the comment, indicated I'd done a few things right to take note of in that story.

    Terry
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i would question the use of a colon, where only a period or a comma is needed... it may be common in british usage, but it's not seen as ok on the other side of the pond [in fiction, that is]... and it annoys me even when i see it in british fiction...
     
  8. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    thanks, Maia, I'll keep the colon only for when it seems to be the house style of the publication.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    wise move!
     

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