1. nickbedford
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    nickbedford Member

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    Subtle pauses in dialogue. Ellipsis?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by nickbedford, May 11, 2010.

    Here and there a person might pause for a short moment in a sentence such as:

    ...
    "Sir, you're on the bridge. How did you get here?" she replied.
    "I have no idea. I... was just in a storage room," his heart pounding as he remembered.
    ...

    Is an ellipsis the right thing to use in this situation, where it's not an explicit break in dialogue but a subtle pause during a phrase as if he's in thought? I've tried a hyphen but it doesn't seem right as it feels like it disconnects the two parts of the sentence.

    I thought maybe I should put a dialogue break such as, "I," he paused, "was just in a storage room," but that seems even more detached.
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tend to use periods or commas, depending on how long the pause is:

    "I have no idea. I. I was just in a storage room."
    "I have no idea. I, I was just in a storage room."

    But I'm not saying that that's right, it's just what I tend to use.
     
  3. Reis
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    Reis Member

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    That sounds more like the speaker is stuttering ChickenFreak. It's not exactly the same kind of mood or reaction.

    An "..." usually indicates a pause and it's more common than you think nickbedford.

    However when you take a character who gets to be mused or delved into thoughts, a hypen can be good for this like:

    "I haven't felt this presence since--"

    Also, I find that paraphrasing narrative can still be effective if you want to convey the proper reaction like.

    "I have no idea. I..." he paused, bewildered eyes looking around the surroundings as he struggles to comprehend reality, "...was just in a storage room (a while ago)," his heart pounding as he remembered.
     
  4. nickbedford
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    nickbedford Member

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    Thanks Reis. I actually used that suggestion and moved the "as he remembered" part in between the two halves of the dialogue.

    Here's a bit more to give an idea of how he's feeling. He had actually just been "teleported" in a sense to the bridge by an alien creature he encountered near the ship's mess hall (it's sci-fi) and was shaken.

     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've always used an ellipsis if a person's voice fades, or trails off, and an em dash if a person is interrupted,
    e.g.

    'I wonder if he's here...' Sophia scanned the faces of the revellers.

    Sophia scanned the faces of the revellers. 'I wonder if he's here--'
    'There he is!' said Maggie.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oops. I read the original as having more than one "I". :) I didn't realize that I was adding one.
     
  7. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    I'm a big fan of ellipsis... especially on forums

    The way you're doing it however I would tend to put something like this

    "I..." she paused for a moment a fear striking her face," I was in the basement."

    Makes it a bit more natural and noticeable... we all have our owns style anyways.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    As madhoca said, ellipses are the standard for indicating trailing-off speech, whereas a dash, specifically an em-dash, indicates interrupted speech.

    In dialogue, you can also use a beat, an action by the speaker inserted between dialogue fragments, or by the placement of a dialogue tag:

    "You can," he said, "place the dialogue tag to imply a brief pause."

    "It was some party." Horatio peered over the top of his shades. "One to die for."
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the ellipsis is your best option, imo... that's what is correctly used for a pause between words...

    i hate to disagree with cog, but simply placing 'he said' in the middle of a sentence will only 'pause' the reader's reading of the line of dialog, not indicate the speaker was pausing... to do that, you'd have to insert something like what's shown below:

    "You can," he said, pausing briefly, "insert the dialogue tag to imply a brief pause."
     
  10. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    Maybe not just he said, but if he's performing an action...
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ah well, Maia, we're bound to disagree on some things. Embedding the tag isn't an explicit pause, but I believe most readers would at least perceive it as a "breath pause."

    After all, Nick was looking for a subtle pause.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    After all, Nick was looking for a subtle pause.

    ...yes, but for the speaker, not the reader, amico mio!

    ...the only thing we seem to disagree on in this matter is the wording of the embedded tag...
     

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