1. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Written notes

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by lostinwebspace, Jul 26, 2011.

    How do I stylize a conversation going on in written notes. Two students are passing notes in class, and it goes something like this:

    Kid 1 wrote, Hey, how's it going?

    Kid 2 rolled his eyes. I felt so sick at the party, I went home and puked on the cat. Now there are puke footprints all over the house.

    Kid 1 chuckled. Better than my night. I thought Brad was my girlfriend. Guess what I did.

    I'm not guessing. I'm forgetting you brought that up.

    The exchange isn't that awful, but this gets the idea across. Should I add "dialog" tags (he wrote, she wrote), italicize the words (I doubt it)? Is the above all right and I should trust the reader to tell the difference between the action and the dialog? Sometimes I don't add anything, like that last line. What's the deal here?

    Same with thoughts. I find it ridiculous to always say "he/she thought." Sometimes the thoughts flow straight from exposition/action, so I don't want to start a new paragraph. Should I trust that the reader can tell the difference? I know italics and quotation marks are no-nos. Can someone suggest a literary device I can use or are readers smart enough?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Write all conversations between two or more people as quoted dialogue, whether it is spoken, whispered, signed, semaphored, texted, or conveyed telepathically. Forget the medium. The message is still the message.

    Unspoken "dialogue" to oneself is written without quote marks.

    He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue
     
  3. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Thanks for the quick responses. I'll do that with the notes.

    What about the rest of the question?

    Also, what about when someone's remembering something from someone else's dialogue? Here's what I mean:

    He repeated Greg's words in his head: Control yourself.

    Should this have quotation marks or be left as is because it's a thought?
     
  4. polarboy
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    polarboy Member

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    I think this would be a case where using different fonts, one per each writer, might work best to show their notes without including attribution.
     
  5. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    Gonna have to disagree with polarboy there - you shouldn't have to mess around with fonts to make your writing more understandable. I'd go with quotation marks, as Cog said.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    remembering what was said is still dialog and should still be written as such... not the way you did it...

    thoughts don't go in " " but he's thinking of what was said, so it's still dialog...
     
  7. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Thanks for the responses, everyone. I've made the necessary adjustments. However, I'm still wondering about some of the other questions. Note that I'll italicize the thoughts below, though I know not to do that in the actual manuscript. I just want to set off the thought in my examples from the action. The reader, though, won't have the benefit of italics to spoonfeed him or her what is the thought and what isn't.

    1. Should I add tags (he/she thought) for a thought that's in the beginning/middle/end of a paragraph that includes action (non-thoughts)? Or should I trust the reader to be able to figure it out and not think it's a case of changed tenses? Should I use the tag always-always-always, the first time in a few paragraphs, the first time in that chapter? I know every case is different, but any advice is helpful. I'm pretty comfortable about when to get away without the dialog tag in dialog, but we have quotation marks to set that off, so it's more obvious.

    I like to hit them where it hurts. He flung the rock at oncoming traffic.

    2. How about in a paragraph where the thought is on its own?

    I like to hit them where it hurts.

    He watched the traffic settle at the red light.

    3. Is there some other literary device I can use other than the "he/she thought" tag?
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in the first example, you really need to add 'he thought' for it to make any sense, since you're switching povs...

    in the second, you could introduce the thoughts at the end of the preceding narrative...

    good writers don't need to resort to fancy fontery or improper punctuation to let their readers know when a character is thinking...
     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hate having to intuit who's speaking and thinking. Unless it's very clear, you should always put 's/he/char's name said/thought'. It's really a pain to read something that looks like a script. In your example, it varies the writing to put in a few speech markers:

    Hey, how's it going?

    X rolled his eyes. I felt so sick at the party, I went home and puked on the cat. Now there are puke footprints all over the house.

    Y chuckled. Better than my night. I thought Brad was my girlfriend. Guess what I did.

    I'm not guessing. I'm forgetting you brought that up.

    WHO IS THINKING HERE? This is too disjointed.

    OR:

    "Hey, how's it going?" Y raised his hand in greeting.

    "I felt so sick at the party, I went home and puked on the cat." X rolled his eyes. "Now there are puke footprints all over the house."

    Y chuckled. "Better than my night," he said. "I thought Brad was my girlfriend. Guess what I did."

    'No, I'm not guessing,' X thought. 'I'm trying to forget you brought that up.'


    NOTE:
    A (British) magazine I submit to wants " for speech and ' (or nothing) for thoughts, so I've got used to that. It seems to work well.
     
  10. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Here's one. Can I mix dialog and thoughts in the same paragraph or is that too confusing? Here's my example:

    “O-okay—” Come on, Doug, he thought. Slow your breathing or you'll never figure this out. “Carry the two, subtract eight.”
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, that seems clear enough, and I've seen it done like that before. There also seems to be a fashion for really short paragraphs, I mean like starting a new line all the time, e.g.

    "Piece of cake, eh, Doug?" said Elma.

    “O-okay—”

    Come on, Doug, he thought. Slow your breathing or you'll never figure this out.

    “Carry the two, subtract eight.”

    "Great!" said Elma with satisfaction. "Knew you were the guy to ask. Thanks."

    It would be okay if it was clear from the previous and following lines that Doug was speaking, e.g. as above.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's not at all clear who's doing the speaking and thinking in that combination of dialog and thought... needs clarification...
     
  13. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's a fragment. If there were only 2 people present, as in this example, it's very clear who is speaking, imo. It wouldn't be my style of choice, though.
     

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