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  1. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    Parenthetical thought

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Thundair, Apr 23, 2017.

    Hi... The new guy has a question
    I often try to put a parenthetical phrase in my dialog and I'm not sure if it should be in parenthesis.
    I already use italics for what the character is thinking but I'm stuck with this issue.
    What could I use or is the parenthesis alright.
    Here is a piece of dialog to show where my thinking is:
    “You’re right Emma. I think my bruised (I’m always right) ego needs some comforting. Let's go over to the motor-home for a while?”

    Thanks for looking
     
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  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    I don't think anything parenthetical is appropriate in dialogue by definition. The quotes mark off exactly what is being said, so if it's ain't being spoke, get it away from the quotes. You could break that line thought into a beat I guess, but I'd edit it out completely. I'm sure there's some book or author that has done it before, but it looks wrong.
     
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  3. Karl Derrick

    Karl Derrick New Member

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    That way, at least to me, it kind of sounds like he's still talking, just going on a quick aside. Personally I like to separate thoughts, and use italics. Something like this:

    "Hey, Mr. Smith," John said. "Nice to see you."
    Miserable old coot.
    "Oh, hey there, lad. Nice to see you too. How's it going?"
    "Just fine. Catching some sun, eh?"
    Useless sac of waste.
    "Yep. Sun is up! Sun is up."
    (I don't use italics if it's the narrator saying them, though. "It was getting cold, she thought.")
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2017
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  4. Karl Derrick

    Karl Derrick New Member

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    Actually now that I think about it, what you're asking is rather specific and not at all what I was thinking.

    It's something the character thinks in the exact moment he's speaking, between when he says "my bruised" and "ego", and the thought is to be taken as though it would belong there. As in:
    "my bruised I'm-always-right ego".

    I'm not sure how I'd solve that, but I might still try to separate it, like:

    “You’re right Emma. I think my bruised
    I’m-always-right
    ego needs some comforting. Let's go over to the motor-home for a while?”​
    or
    “You’re right Emma. I think my bruised
    (I’m always right)
    ego needs some comforting. Let's go over to the motor-home for a while?”​

    Or some variation of that. Not sure how others would perceive this, though.

    Although your original form with italics (that you forgot), might not be a bad way, actually (I personally would add the hyphens).
    “You’re right Emma. I think my bruised (I’m-always-right) ego needs some comforting. Let's go over to the motor-home for a while?”​
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2017
  5. thirdwind

    thirdwind Member Contest Administrator Supporter Reviewer Contributor

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    I agree that you shouldn't use parentheses within quotes because I read that as dialogue that is spoken as an aside. You would have to break up the quotation and add the thought in the middle. I was going to suggest something like @Karl Derrick did, though using "he/she thought" tags instead of italics.
     
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  6. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    You're right Karl, I do use italics for thought, but this is a spoken side bar inside the dialog sentence. Maybe a kind of Popeye mumbling.
    Homer may have the best plan is to just edit it out.
     
  7. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

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    The only way I could think of to write it would be something along the lines of...

    “You’re right Emma. I think my bruised-" (I’m always right) "-ego needs some comforting."

    But that could be confusing for the reader.
     
  8. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    I have this feeling if it is such a blurred line I think I will just edit it out, or maybe have Emma mention it later.
    Thanks for all who helped.
     
  9. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    From Chicago Manual 16 ed, sec 6.84:

    If the break belongs to the surrounding sentence rather than to the quoted material, the em dashes
    must appear outside the quotation marks.

    "Someday he's going to hit one of those long shots, and"–his voice turned huffy–"I won't be there to see it."

    That's their goofy example. (Turned huffy? :p) Yours would be:

    “You’re right Emma. I think my bruised"–I’m always right–"ego needs some comforting. Let's go over to the motor-home for a while?”​

    But that's following their rules. I'm wondering if someone has seen some house style that works better because I'm not bowled over by this.

    I see you don't italicize thoughts. I don't either, but here I think you almost have to. I know the urge is to be consistent and match your other inner dialogs, but IMO there are exceptions for everything, even consistency.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
  10. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I'm wondering if you're making this more complicated than it needs to be. The thought is about his ego, isn't it? Not about the bruise?

    Why not something like this:
    “You’re right Emma. I think my bruised ego needs some comforting." I'm always right. "Let's go over to the motor-home for a while?”

    Or, if you hate italicized thoughts:
    “You’re right Emma. I think my bruised ego needs some comforting." I'm always right. "Let's go over to the motor-home for a while?”

    You might want to consider rephrasing it a bit, though, as you're using 'right' twice with just a few words in between. However, in one instance Emma is 'right.' In the other instance, the speaker is 'right.' It clashes, because it's not actually repeating for emphasis.

    This usage below would use the repetition of 'right' for emphasis. Might not work in your story though—I'm just going by the words themselves, not the meaning behind them:

    "You're right, Emma. I think my bruised ego needs some comforting." You're always right. "Let's go over to the motor home for a while?"
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
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  11. truthbeckons

    truthbeckons Active Member

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    Wait, this is all spoken? Three things, then.

    1. If someone's interrupting himself as part of speech, it's usually a simple use of dashes.

    2. What's counter-intuitive here is that even when people's thoughts are scattered, they're still more likely to break around phrases like "bruised ego", not in the middle of them, and if they do break in the middle, they're usually going to lose the thread of what they were saying. An individual might not, but it's weird enough to be distracting for the reader, and at least worth remarking on. Definitely an odd character quirk.

    Anyway, this is much more natural/typical:

    3. If it's spoken, but only muttered so that Emma doesn't hear it, you should make it clear that he's speaking that part in a different way:
    That's only a really rudimentary way of doing so, though, you'll want to find a wording that flows with the scene overall.

    You need to make it clear how he's actually speaking, and what she notices. Does she hear him muttering, but not hear the words? Does she not notice the pause somehow? Does she comment on it, and if she doesn't, is there a reason she doesn't? Whose point of view is this, and are you being consistent with it?


    (Also, note that unless he's telling her that she's called "right Emma", it's just tidier to put a comma where I've added one.)
     
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  12. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    For the sake of discussion, I disagree with this and your example. I think the sentence actually loses some comedy and meaning when you move the interjection to after "ego." I know it's a small adjustment, but the nature of the interrupted phrase "bruised ego" is juxtaposed with "I'm always right." That's good. To move it might be more natural in some cases, but the effect which was elicited in me would be dampened, if not lost if you move the interjection even one word over.

    That specific spot is a good choice. It creates extra drama within the sentence.

    As for the format, I'm in agreement with others. This seems to be more complicated than it needs to be. Use either dashes or commas (depending on how much attention you want drawn to the interjection) and it will be fine.

    ETA:

    As an aside, this even strikes me as a good place to break some rules. Depending on the tone and mood of the scene/story/POV character, you could get creative and eliminate the spaces between the words "I'm always right." As an interjection, I'm reading it in my head faster than the rest of the sentence.

    So something like,

    "You're right, Emma. I think my bruised--I'malwaysright--ego needs some comforting."

    Obviously, I don't recommend disregarding grammar conventions like this in a lot of scenarios, and surely a lot of people will disagree with me, but I quite like it smashed together like that.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2017
  13. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    For me, a parenthesis like that I usually read as an aside or stage whisper, so I don't think that is what you are going for.
     
  14. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    If this is spoken, my version would be

    "You're right, Emma. I think my bruised--you know I'm always right, right?--bruised ego needs some comforting. Let's go over to the motor home for a while."
     
  15. JCC

    JCC New Member

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    Is "I'm always right" being turned into an adjective to describe "ego"?

    Similar to "he jumps on everything" is turned into an adjective to describe "dog" in, "That's my dear, fluffy, he-jumps-on-everything dog." (?)

    The connecting dashes turn the phrase into a singular adjective.

    If so, a choice could be, “You’re right Emma. I think my bruised, I’m-always-right ego needs some comforting. Let's go over to the motorhome for a while?” (Also, in most cases, motorhome is one word.)
     

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