Eclipses of Ellipses…

One of my favorite ‘fun to read’ authors uses dashes and ellipses spot on. She’s the one I emulate when I think of writing dialogue and structuring it correctly.

When we speak we pause, break, hum and haw, um and ah and very often we trail off just before or even at the end of a sentence.  Dialogue would be stiff and dull if we didn’t include these verbal patterns or quirks. When it comes to characters and how they speak I am careful to make sure they are different in some way. None of my characters are identical, sometimes they become similar but not identical. It’s important to know how to give them particular speech mannerisms in written word.

For today’s topic, I’m talking about the habit or event of trailing off during or at the end of a sentence. Different than a pause it’s more like a hesitant break or hesitant ending. To express this in writing we use Ellipses.

So what are Ellipses they and how do I use them?

Ellipses… Three (Yes only three and always three) consecutive dots that generally indicate words, sentences or entire sections are being left out. Three dots with no spaces between the last letter of the word, nor in-between them.

When used in dialogue it’s as if someone is lost in thought, thinking, about to Eureka, disheartened, forgetful, afraid to finish, hinting at the suggestion and so on. They are trailing off…

“That sounds…” Amber grimaced and shook her head gently.


“Hey Dale, I wanted to ask you…” Amber looked away a flush rising to her cheeks.

Ellipses are great for characters that don’t know how to finish a sentence, don’t want to or don’t know how to. I probably use these too much. There is a point in my revision process where I will plunk the three consecutive dots into the ‘find’ feature of *word and seek-and-destroy any superfluous ellipses. I would hate for my readers to be bogged down by what I call Eclipses of ellipses… Too many too often.  I have been known to use this manner of ‘speaking’ as a particular quirk of a character. If I do that, I avoid other characters trailing off or fading out as they talk.

Outside of dialogue, in the narrative, ellipses are also used to suggest time is about to pass but isn’t quite worthy of page time. This used to omit a section of time that needs to be pointed out but not actually addressed in the story. I don’t actually use this form in my writing often.

Amber walked swiftly out of the office. Tomorrow would be a better day, but for now, she would go home and think about what happened and what she could do about it…

I have seen authors use these omission ellipses to re-introduce back from the omitted section. This is not something I would do often, if at all.

Amber walked swiftly out of the office. Tomorrow would be a better day, but for now, she would go home and think about what happened and what she could do about it…

… The walk to work was brisk. With a resolution to her predicament, Amber’s heels clicked with confidence. (The paragraph would continue on from here.)

I would probably use a chapter break instead of ellipses in this fashion unless there wasn’t enough content to warrant it. For the most part, I use ellipses in dialogue or to end a suggestive bit of narrative. Perhaps a cliff-hanger.

My advice about Ellipses.
If used properly they can… bring a certain tone or voice to a character or situation. As with all things, too much of a good thing…


Other punctuation posts

Unidentified Fervent Outburst!

Running off with Run-on’s

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Sound and selfish advice

There comes a time when things don’t go the way one expects. I think there are two main types of people in this sort of scenario. One who rolls with it and hopes it goes back to their way, and the other who manipulates and makes things go back to their way. Or so they hope anyway. They are the trouble causer’s. The selfish people who will do what they need to do to get what they want. Whether they realize it or not.

I wouldn’t say I write people this way all the time, but a good antagonist is a bad and selfish person. Or should I say a selfish person makes a good antagonist? Either way when someone spoiled wants the cookie, what wicked words will they weave? What dastardly deeds with they do, to obtain their goal?

Dale stopped outside Scott’s office and poked his head in the door. “Hey their giving Alice the office baby gift and card as soon as we’re all out there.”
“Hey.” Scott beckoned him in with his hand.
Dale stepped into the office. “Sup?”
“You’re work is way off today. You’ve been avoiding me too. What’s going on?”
Dale shook his head and looked out the window. “Nothing, just an off day.”
“It’s going around. Amber’s been weird too.” Scott cocked his head to the side, at the mention of Amber, Dale inhaled sharp and quietly. Dale left the office and Scott followed.

The gathering was cheery. The occaion was one to celebrate. Alice is well liked and will be missed during her year away. Amber stood alone, a strange pained look on her face. Scott watched Dale stand across the room from Amber behind the crowd, and Scott went to his side. Something happened between his two friends. Amber wasn’t flirting with him incessantly and was demure. It was so unusual to not have her mooning over him it was as if a part of his day was missing and it was throwing off his groove.
“Spill it.” Scott spoke quietly with his head closer to Dale as Alice opened the sacred card, sighned by all so it must be witnessed by all.
Amber stood stone-faced staring at the gifts Alice opened. Amber glanced up to see Dale and Scott head-to-head whispering and the colour drained from her face. Scott noticed, after the third jab to get Dales attention Scott pulled him out of the open office down the hall back to his office.

“What the hell happened between you two?” Scott closed the door.
“Liar.” Scott stopped and sucked his breath in. “Oh my God you slept together.”
“No.” Dale ran his hands through his hair. “Once. We were drunk.”
“Shit Dale when isn’t she drunk?” Scott rubbed his eyes. Dale was a good-looking man. However having two women in one week choose another man over him was too much. “Really? Amber? Sure she’s got an ass worth worshiping, and man.” He held his hands out mocking breasts. “She’s stacked, but you had to stoop? Man, you are way better than that.”
Dale clenched his fists at his side. “She’s not as bad as you think. And it was a one night stand.”
Scott laughed. “Oh come on Dale she brags constantly about her escapades. Constantly. It’s disgusting.”
“No more or less than we are.”
Scott shrugged. “Were men Dale it’s different.”
Dale scrunched his face in anger. “Are we? She boasts like we do, but it’s all a show.”
“Oh? And how would you know?” Scott sat at his desk and sneered. “Because she told you she’s a good girl? She told you she doesn’t sleep around?” His spiteful laugh made Dale tilt his head and crack his neck.
“Yeah she did.”
Scott recovered from his laughter. “Let me guess, she said she rarely drinks and doesn’t take random men home regularly. I’ve seen her leave the bar with at least ten men in two months Dale. Ten different men. Two just last week.”
“She said-”
Scott held up his hand and cut him off. “Lies Dale. If I told you every morning I make a power smoothie and I put a hundred-dollar bill in it, blended it and drank it, would you believe me?”
“You don’t.”
“Dale you don’t know one way or the other what I do when you’re not around. You don’t have a clue what she really does when she’s not around you.”
Dale glanced at the closed door, in the direction of Amber’s desk. No, he wouldn’t know.

People can do and say almost anything to get what they want, even if they didn’t realize they wanted it in the first place. Scott may not be lying but he sure is saying what will get him his attention back. People do this all the time. Twisting truths or their version of events to best suit their needs. It’s frustrating to read, but for good reasons. Someone is getting in the way of someone else’s potential happiness or just getting in the way. I like to evoke emotions with my writing, I hope I do at least, and get the reader to earnestly dislike someone or feel sorry for someone else. I want the reader to hope for a desirable outcome and then put obstacles in  the way. It’s so fun to torment, isn’t it?

My advice about writing self-serving moments.
Do. Do write them, it is sooo much fun to read people being selfish and ruining things for others. Clean and tidy people are not common; don’t make your characters common.


Other posts

That sounds right

Getting a little touchy feely

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