Tuesday, October 04, 2011

This weeks lesson ~ Dialogue

We’re onto lesson five (whew, I made it) and lesson five is dialogue. In the quiet hallways I no longer roam and assist, my classroom is the only haven that I’ll stay and lend my hand to the student. They have done so good this session and I am proud of the writers that I will leave behind in two weeks. They have all come a long way in these past five weeks.

This week we move on to dialogue. Now dialogue is tricky in that new writers think that a tag of he said/ she said in a lulling poetic voice, is what is needed after every person speaks. I have seen writers add so many tags that you’re left looking at all the tags to see who was speaking or what the conversation was to begin with.

Is that what you want? People trying to decipher the ‘who’ is speaking, or looking at your words fly by and rolling eyes at your inept writing skills? No, of course not. We want our reader to embrace our words, hug them like a comfy blankie! We want the people who might actually pay money to read our words to be left with a feeling of ahhh...not a feeling of nahhhh.

Some tips on writing dialogue, portions from Jenny Wiehardt:

1. Always use a comma between the dialogue and the tag line.
ex: “Mark could you come here for a second,” she bellowed in the empty room.

2. Periods go inside the quotation marks. And since I am in America, I give you the American English rules. Other punctuation like the semicolons, dashes, question marks and exclamation points -- goes outside unless it directly pertains to the material within the quotes.
ex: “I don't want any stupid cake," says the guy who goes to Europe and the Middle East. "Where's the champagne?" he says, and laughs.
In the next example, the question mark goes outside the quotation marks because it is not part of the material being quoted:
Did he say, "We should all go to the movies"?
Also note that the sentence ends with only one mark of punctuation: the question mark. In general, don't use double punctuation marks, but go with the stronger punctuation.
(Question marks and exclamation points are stronger than commas and periods.)
3. When a tag line interrupts a sentence, it should be set off by commas. Note that the first letter of the second half of the sentence is in lower case.
ex: “I hear footsteps,” she said, “they’re coming down the hallway now.”
Notice also, the continued piece begins in lower case.
4. To signal a quotation within a quotation, use single quotes:
This one stumps me a lot of the times in my writing,
ex: "Have you read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ yet?" he asked her.
5. For interior dialogue, italics are appropriate, just be consistent.
That means when the person is speaking to themselves.
ex. Janie thought, here we go again.
6. If a quotation spills out over more than one paragraph, don't use end quotes at the close of the first paragraph. Use them only when a character is done speaking.
Sometimes punctuation is everything in dialogue. I’ve seen where the author punctuates the one person speaking in a conversation, but then the author forgoes it when the second character is speaking. It’s a matter of preference and when the novel/story is published, the editor will surely help you decide on which to use.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the tips of the day. Now get writing and most of all...Write Right!

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