1. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Thy rod and thy Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Punctuation Punctuating Character A's reaction in Character B's speech

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Iain Aschendale, Jan 4, 2019.

    Character A is monologuing a bit, and I want to break it up with some of character B's reactions. Question is, do I break the quotation with a simple comma, insert the reaction, comma and back to the quotation, or should I interject the reaction in its own paragraph.

    Not directly from the story, paraphrased for functionality:

    Or

    Or C) Something else. It didn't look right when I first typed it, and now I've stared at the options so long that none of them look right. Or wrong. Ugh.
     
  2. David Lee

    David Lee Member

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    First impulse answer: B

    You need a break in the passage I think. I also see your conundrum and it still doesn't feel right because you want back and forth impact in the moment. This doesn't quite achieve that either.
     
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  3. David Lee

    David Lee Member

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    Paging @Cogito or @Seven Crowns for this one...
     
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  4. The Piper

    The Piper Senior Member

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    Without knowing a whole lot about the actual rules for this sort of thing (who needs rules?) I would go for something like this:


    "...after she sent you back to Hell -"

    I was about to correct her misconception when...


    And do the same for continuing the dialogue. But that's just a personal choice and possibly incorrect in terms of actual grammar.
     
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  5. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter Contributor

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    I'd use B in most cases. The closest rule that I'm aware of is "put dialog from different characters in different paragraphs to avoid confusion." While character reactions aren't dialogue, I think you can still leverage this convention to place reactions in different paragraphs. You form the rhythm of two people interacting, responding to each other, even though only one of them is actually talking.
     
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  6. thirdwind

    thirdwind Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I agree with B, but make sure you're ending with a period and not a comma in the first paragraph. Also make sure to capitalize "the" in the final paragraph since you're starting a new paragraph. As Matt E said, the general rule is to separate the dialogue or actions of different characters into separate paragraphs to improve clarity.

    If the response is a short sentence, you don't even have to use multiple paragraphs, but that's a stylistic preference. (Heck, even if it's not a short sentence, you can still use one paragraph, but that may be too avant garde for some.)
     
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  7. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Another voice agreeing that you want a separate paragraph.

    If it were character A speaking and then character A acting, as long as the action was fairly closely connected to the speech, I'd say one paragraph. But when it's a whole 'nother character? New paragraph.
     
  8. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Thy rod and thy Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Kinda thought so, now the question of punctuation. Character A is continuing to speak through the whole thing, so ending paragraph one with a period and starting paragraph three with a capital sounds off. Her sentence hasn't been interrupted, she's continuing to speak. If we didn't have the interrupting thought, it would read like this:

    "Blah blah blah monologuing getting boring here's a good spot After she sent you back to Hell the pentagram started to glow again and these little monsters came out."

    If I use a period though, that breaks her thought into two sentences, one of them ("After she sent you back to Hell) a fragment:

    Ellipses in and out maybe? It may look like she trailed off in paragraph one, but I think that coming back into paragraph three with them will indicate that there's just an aside in paragraph two:

     
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  9. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    Definitely separate paragraphs, because each speaker always gets their own line unless people are shouting an identical thing in unison.

    If there's an interruption--as in, the other person interrupts the first person's sentence for a second and the first speaker comes to a stop--it should be two taps of the hyphen key, which most word processing programs will convert one long dash. (The name for this specific type of dash escapes me, but it does have one.)

    If it's not an interruption and they're speaking simultaneously, my gut would be to go with the ellipses. I don't have my reference books here to offer a rule why, but ellipses seem like a smoother continuing thought. That could well be wrong, but it's what I'd do.
     
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  10. Hammer

    Hammer Senior Member

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    'tis an em-dash - I believe that hot-metal printer's spaces used to be "en" (short space) and "em" long space


    WRT the punctuation, as the second character isn't speaking, I don't think there is any need to terminate the initial speech with anything but a period, however a leading ellipsis on the continuation may convey continuation. It isn't an interruption so the em-dash is not appropriate, it isn't a pause so ending the first speech with an ellipsis wouldn't be appropriate

    'Blah, blah, blah, blah.'
    Mary fluttered her eyelashes.
    '...blah, blah.'
     
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  11. surrealscenes

    surrealscenes Senior Member

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    I say separate them. It tends to read faster that way...unless it gets to be too much, then gets complicated trying to follow.
     
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  12. Mark Burton

    Mark Burton Fried Egghead Contributor

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    B is correct as many others have already said. The reason is that it gets confusing who is saying what and can suggest a POV shift otherwise. B i clearest IMO and will be the easiest to follow.
     
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  13. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    Yep. The character itself is called an emdash for the reason you stated, but there's another term for it that applies to specific usage. That's the one I can't think of.
     
  14. Hammer

    Hammer Senior Member

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    I confess that I would have been surprised had you not known em-dash (c:

    The only other relevant word that I can think of is aposiopesis -- the breaking of speech -- but it doesn't apply specifically to the em-dash
     
  15. thirdwind

    thirdwind Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Ah, in my first post, I was assuming those were two independent sentences. Guess I should have read your example more closely. :oops:

    Even though she's continuing to speak, the action of the other character is happening in the middle of her sentence, which is considered an interruption. If dialogue is being interrupted, use an em dash:
    Since your sentence is a bit long, you could always rephrase it for clarity. It's your call.
     
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  16. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    Definitely B
     

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