“Who’s Talking?”

I’m continuing on my dialogue punctuation quest. My goal is to hopefully see less of these simple, yet easy to make errors. Ones I know I myself have done in my typing haste, but hopefully catch them when editing and revising. I’d like to remind you that I’m not at all a professional, I never profess to be. I’m just me, a writer on the quest to have my books published. The fact that I even say books (As in plural) is amazing to me. Along the way, I’ve had to research and learn and discover new things in all aspects of writing, editing, revising and the quest to land a Literary agent and hopefully a publishing contract. Through this, I try to read and explore things, subjects and styles I’ve never tried or learned before.

I certainly hope my dear followers/readers don’t feel belittled by my tips and advice. I figure if the information/reminder/lesson is good for me, then it’s likely to be helpful to others.

Now on to today’s topic. Multiple lines of dialogue. Yup, generally when people talk there is more than one person participating. Unless you’re crazy like I am and talk to yourself. “Say what?” Oh boy I have some interesting conversations with me.

When writing dialogue (My favourite subject) Always start a new paragraph for a new speaker. This keeps the text easy to read and follow. It is crazy kinds of frustrating to have no idea who’s speaking or to have to sift through the dialogue to figure out who’s talking.

Example time:

Incorrect:

“Hey Amber,” Dale smiled. “How’s it going?” He put his hand on her back. “Really good today. Didn’t barf once, I don’t feel sick at all and for once I didn’t wake up already knackered.” Amber grinned and shook her hands excitedly. Dale hugged her tight.
“That’s a relief.” She squeezed back. “I’m so happy.” He said.

Oh my… What? Yes, believe it or not I’ve slogged through dialogue like this. What happens? I stop reading after cringing and becoming frustrated. This rule applies even if one of the speakers doesn’t speak.

Correct:

“Hey Amber,” Dale smiled. “How’s it going?” He put his hand on her back.

“Really good today. Didn’t barf once, I don’t feel sick at all and for once I didn’t already wake up knackered.” Amber grinned and shook her hands excitedly.

Dale hugged her tight. “That’s a relief.”

She squeezed back.

“I’m so happy.” He said.

OR (Single or double spaced is a personal preference. But the industry standard is double) If you go single, it’s very important to make sure each character starts talking on their own line.

Correct:
“Really good today. Didn’t barf once and I don’t feel sick at all.” Amber grinned and shook her hands excitedly.

Dale hugged her tight. “That’s a relief.”
She squeezed back.
“I’m so happy.” He said.

That was a great deal easier to read and understand who says what and how.

Dialogue doesn’t have to be hard, and as always it should have a point and not just be pointless conversation. People don’t want to read that, they can just go to work/school/home and live it… sigh. Readers want the juicy bits, the parts that carry and take the story forward. The parts that deliver the goods and not the stuff that drives a word count up for the sake of it.

My advice about Paragraphing Dialogue.
Um… you sort of have to so the readers can tell who’s talking. Well I suppose you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, but don’t be surprised if the reactions are not what you hoped for.

-Sheryl

Other dialogue related posts

Creative Dialogue Tags

Tag! You’re it.

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Knackered

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15 thoughts on ““Who’s Talking?”

  1. Thank you, Sheryl, for willingly sharing what you have learned, for unselfishly sharing of all the hard work you’ve put into learning, understanding, and making possible, insights that make writing more vital and interesting to read. Love it, love you. What’s more, I really respect your integrity, your wit and your willingness to share it all with us. XOXO

    Liked by 1 person

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