1. Taylor3
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    Taylor3 Member

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    writing dialogue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Taylor3, Jun 30, 2010.

    Yesterday I saw someone post a link to a document that describes the technicalities for how to write dialogue. What is that document? I can't find the thread I saw yesterday.

    I'm talking about this type of thing.

    "That sounds good," she said.

    I don't know how to do it. does a period come after good or a comma. Is the s on she capitalized? I realized I don't know how to do this stuff.

    thx!
     
  2. theSkaBoss
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    theSkaBoss Member

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    It's a comma rather than a period. If you put a period, then "she" would be capitalized, and you'd have two distinct sentences. The problem with that is that "She said." is an inappropriate sentence fragment. (She said what?) Using a comma keeps the two parts connected as one sentence and keeps the line of thought consistent.
     
  3. Taylor3
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    Taylor3 Member

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    thx!

    what if it's this:

    "No way," said Anne. "Can't do it."


    Is that right?
     
  4. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^ That's right!

    Don't forget also that you still don't capitalize 'she' after a question mark or exclamation mark:

    "No?" she said.

    "No!" she said.

    (Word tries to correct this, but don't let it get the better of you!)
     
  5. theSkaBoss
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    theSkaBoss Member

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    Without the 'said Anne' part, it would look like, "No way. Can't do it." If that's what you wanted, then yeah.

    Edit: Now that I think about it, is it correct to split a sentence this way?

    "Well," sighed Richard. "At least we have our health." That looks like "Well. At least we have our health." Is there away to graft them together? My target sentence is "Well, at least we have our health." Would the following be acceptable?

    "Well," sighed Richard, "at least we have our health."
    Or even "Well," sighed Richard; "at least we have our health."
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I think this may be the link you're looking for: He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue.

    It's one of the links in my sig, so that's probably where you saw it.
     
  7. beccaisane
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    beccaisane Member

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    :eek: Wow.
    I never really thought about that one. I doubt anyone would really break it down enough to care, even if it is technically wrong... I've seen that done many times and I don't feel it depreciated the writing (assuming it is wrong.) :confused:

    Of course, you could always say: "Well, at least we have our health," sighed Richard.
    But I can see how that might not be what you were going for - a mid-sentence sigh.
     
  8. Taylor3
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    Taylor3 Member

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    Yeah cogito that's what i was looking for thanks. but there's still stuff I'm not clear on.

    is the following correct:

    “Do you want me to help you,” Jim cracked his window open, letting the fresh air in, “or not?”

    it feels right, but I'm not sure. I'm also not sure how much it matters even.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Would be fine, except people don't sigh sentences. In terms of the syntax and punctuation, it is correct. However, this would be better:
    On the other hand:
    is very close, but now treats Richard's sigh as occurriung between two "sentences". Tbe inflection the reader hears is slightly different, because "Well." is inflected with closure.

    But also notice that Richard sighed is now a complete sentence between dialogue elements. It's no longer a tag, there to tell the reader who is speaking. It's a beat, a small action surrounded by dialogue, and it is punctuated differently from a tag. The beat doesn't explicitly say Richard is the one speaking, but it is understood, because beats are actione performed by the speaker. If it's NOT the speaker, it belongs in a paragraph of its own, separated from both the dialogue fragments.

    Assume Benjamin is speaking to Heather:
    Heather's action isn't a beat, because she isn't the speaker. So her action is given its own paragraph.

    I hope this helps.

    EDIT:
    This is just what I was talking about. Jim opening the window is a beat, but you punctuated it as a tag. It should be:
    Even though Or not is a fragment, punctuate it as a complete sentence.
     
  10. theSkaBoss
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    theSkaBoss Member

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    Noted. :) And thanks for the tip. That one's been bugging me for a while.
     
  11. beccaisane
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    beccaisane Member

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    BAH. I didn't even note that.

    I just tried.
    People don't sigh sentences.

    :rolleyes:
     
  12. Taylor3
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    Taylor3 Member

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    I guess but it seems weird splitting it into two different sentences, since the sentence would go:

    "Do you want me to help you, or not?"

    You mentioned that you know it is a fragment, but still say it is correct to have that fragment. I believe you and all but it just seems weird.
     
  13. Taylor3
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    Taylor3 Member

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    Ok so what about if the sentence was a tag instead. Would it go like this:


    "Do you want me to help you?" said Jim. "Or not?"


    thx 4 the help!
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If it'a an embedded tag in a single sentence, it should be:

    "Do you want me to help you," said Jim, "or not?"
     
  15. Taylor3
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    Taylor3 Member

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    You wrote:

    "It's a beat, a small action surrounded by dialogue, and it is punctuated differently from a tag."

    But what I'm trying to learn is, how is a beat punctuated differently from a tag.

    Is this right:


    "Yeah," Jim lit the cigar. "The big house."


    that seems to be how you're saying a beat should go. Now I will change it to a tag because I'm trying to learn the difference. Is this right:

    "Yeah," said Jim, "the big house."

    And if those two example are right, that means you're saying on a beat, you split the sentences up. But on a tag, you don't split the sentences, you make it flow like it would normally go. right? Because really the sentence goes:

    "Yeah, the big house."

    but on the beat, you're saying to split up the sentence, right?
     
  16. theSkaBoss
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    theSkaBoss Member

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    Remember that the point of keeping things on one sentence is because they are part of the same coherent thought. Lighting a cigar alone is not part of the coherent thought of him saying "Yeah, the big house."

    Therefore:
    Beat - "Yeah." Jim lit the cigar. "The big house."
    Tag - "Yeah," said Jim, "the big house."
    Beat-like Tag - "Yeah," said Jim as he lit his cigar, "the big house."
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A beat is a separate sentence. It, and the surrounding dialogue sentences, are each complete, and punctuated accordingly. Beats can appear between dialogue elements, or before or after a dialogue element.
    You wrote:
    Wrong. Because Jim lit the cigar is a beat, the preceding and following dialogue elements are both complete sentences, and must be puntuated accordingly:

    A tag is part of the same sentence as the dialog elements it is joined to.
     
  18. Taylor3
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    Taylor3 Member

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    Ok now I'm getting closer to understanding.

    So what about the following. This would be a beat and a tag combined, so I'm not sure what to do.

    "Yeah," said Jim and he lit his cigar. "The big house."

    Is that right? thx!
     
  19. theSkaBoss
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    theSkaBoss Member

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    It is correct if your target phrase is "Yeah. The big house."

    The interesting thing about your example is how you use the word "and." "And," is a conjunction, and so what you're doing by including it here is you're changing the subject from the earlier part of the sentence.

    "Yeah," said Jim, (So far so good.) and he lit his cigar. (Conjunction plus unique clause standing as a beat. The sentence must end here because the dialogue wouldn't naturally follow in the same sentence in this case.) "The big house."

    "Yeah," said Jim, and he lit his cigar. "The big house."
    is the same as
    "Yeah," said Jim. He lit his cigar. "The big house."

    The point is that a beat cannot connect dialogue. "He lit his cigar" is a beat, and since your sentence treats it as a beat, it cannot connect the two bits of dialogue into one sentence.

    If you want to combine the beat and the tag into one in such a way that you can use the whole thing as one sentence, you would have to remove the "and," so that the clauses don't separate. This effectively takes the information of the beat and makes it part of the tag. It's a tag with detail that could be used alone in a beat, but it's a tag nonetheless.

    "Yeah," said Jim as he lit his cigar, "the big house."
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    all you have to do to learn the technical aspects of writing good dialog is to SEE how the best writers do it... so, don't waste time asking... first, just READ!

    then, if you still have some questions [which you probably won't], you can ask...
     

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