Unspoken Dialogue

I write in the present day/somewhat future. Technology plays a part of our everyday no matter what we do. Computers, cellphones and anything else you can think of. I talk a lot about dialogue. What about unspoken dialogue? By that, I mean in the form of Text messages and emails or even a hand written note or letter (Yes people still do this).

Once I’ve established your dialogue style, I stick with it. I personally always use “Double” quotations with curly ends (Unless my blog changes it for some reason). Keep this in mind for my how-to-text-in-a-story examples.

I have read numerous books with both texting and emails in them. The presentation or content is obviously up to the writer. I would caution with over doing it however. Too much is a total turn off. A very popular (Though I don’t know why) book series I read had a lot of back and forth emails going on. With every single email, the author included the formal intro, message and the full and complete signature.  The signature was altered each time and was meant to be cute, but after the third one I got bored/annoyed and hated reading them. I do believe there was a significant amount of eye rolling going on.

If you are pursuing professional or traditional publishing, they will have a set standard to which they want this type of text displayed. Don’t worry about it, as long as you keep it clear and as close to what they are looking for.

Here are the rules I personally follow when writing a text or email in a story. I’m sure I’ll miss a few, feel free to let me know what yours might be.

Make sure the dialogue stands out from regular text. (Quotation marks)
Use this in place of something happening – the ‘review’ type dialogue
Keep the font size of the text the same as the regular text. 12pt is industry standard.
Keep the text from blending into the narrative
Avoid being overly repetitive (Don’t forget dialogue/conversation counts rambling sucks)
Use Italics
Treat it like dialogue
Identify the sender of the message
Use the alternate quotation marks for texts (I’ll couple this with italic)
Indent from regular text(I don’t always bother it’s not necessary)
Dialogue tags and proper lead ups to identify the text/email

Alternate fonts can be used. However, the industry standard (North America) is Garamond or Times New Roman. Alternate fonts may stand out but may not be the best choice. (Publishers will decide ultimately anyway)
It can make it narrative if writing in first person or it can leave it out and hint at it.

Example time.

Amber glanced at the screen to read the text from Dale.
Running late.
She replied. ‘CU soon.

“Sorry I have to check this.” Amber said and glanced at her cellphone.
           Running late
She sighed after she read the message from Dale.

“Sorry Scott I have to check this.” Amber said and glanced at her cellphone. “Looks like Dale’s going to be late. He didn’t say why.”

I looked down at my phone as it chimed indicating I had a text. Dale’s going to be late again and as usual, he didn’t say why.

Amber looked at the screen waiting for the response from Dale. When it chimed she nearly dropped it.
      Running late.
“Ugh be more specific.” She muttered as she replied.
      How long?

I simply prefer the look of italic as an identifier.

Emails are different, they definitely need a lead up and introduction.(nobody reads an email before seeing who it’s from.) As I mentioned before they really do need to have a purpose to the story. Without purpose they may come across as lame or filler. IMO.

Amber set her herbal tea down and sat at her desk. She turned her computer on and opened the email marked urgent from Dale. 

From: Dale@CliftonInc.com
To: Amber@CliftonInc.com
Subject: Today
Urgent

Hey Amber,

Got in early, I’m heading to an impromptu meeting with Valery. Sounds urgent… as urgent as she can be.

The proofs you need are already on your desk in the to-do box. By the way, they look good. Valery has noticed your efforts. This project is a challenge but, you’ve got this!

Scott is in a mood this morning. You might want to avoid him today.

Sincerely,
Dale Engleheart
Design & Revision Department Supervisor
Clifton Advertising & Design Inc.
Phone: 1-800-555-1234
Fax: 515-555-1235
-It’s not in the design if it’s not in the designer. – Anonymous

Now imagine a string of emails and every single one had that introduction, signature and sign off? Ugh. Talk about adding filler to bump up word count. It can look like this, everyone knows what email looks like.

Amber set her herbal tea down and sat at her desk. She turned her computer on and opened the email marked urgent from Dale.

Hey Amber,

Got in early, I’m heading to an impromptu meeting with Valery. Sounds urgent… as urgent as she can be.

The proofs you need are already on your desk in the to-do box. They look good by the way. Valery has noticed your efforts. This project is a challenge but, you’ve got this!

Scott is in a mood this morning. You might want to avoid him today.

-Dale

If I feel the need to add the signature etc, then I’ll do so, it’s not a rule or anything either way. If I felt the need to add it I might, on the first one… Or the first of the that particular string of them, then never again.

My advice about nonverbal dialogue.
Whatever way you decide to identify nonverbal dialogue from regular dialogue, make sure to keep it consistent. Keep an example or your rules for this easy to access so if you go eight chapters without a text you can reference it to keep it in the same style.

-Sheryl

Other dialogue posts

Hold your tongue!

Creative Dialogue Tags

Shhh… Don’t say a word.

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Pursue

Ouch! My feelings!

Sometimes a character gets stuck on repeat. They just can’t get over an idea or past one. They will ask the same questions, do the same things and all because they just cant move forward. There are various reasons for this happening, perhaps it’s distrust or disbelief in another person. They might be confused or at their wit’s end. Perhaps they just don’t have a clue what to do or how to proceed. Whatever the case may be, it can make for fantastic drama and hurt feelings.

It had been a very long day. Tack on four hours of emergency overtime and the worlds most awkward late dinner and Amber was done.
Dale buttoned his coat as they left the restaurant. “I still don’t see why we had to play catch up for Sasha. It’s not our fault she disappeared.”
“You said that already.” Amber shoved her hands in her jacket pockets. “Three times.”
“Sorry. I’m…” Dale looked off to the distance.
“I get that this is weird and horrible and super sucky but you’re acting cold. You’re not a cold person Dale.”
He looked sideways at her, Scott’s words from earlier picking at his brain. “Are you sure, I mean a hundred percent certain it’s mine?”
Amber closed her eyes, exhaustion and frustration frayed her patience. “Why the hell would I lie about something like this?” She stopped walking and looked about. The closest people were far enough away not to hear. “Of all the damned things Dale why would I make this up? Do you think I want it to be you?” She shook her head. “Yeah, I’m a trashy little moron that thinks I can pin a pregnancy on any dupe. It’s not like there’s any magical mystical way to prove paternity.” She waved her hands and rolled her eyes.
“Yeah but are you sure?”
“Yes I’m sure.”
“What if it’s not? How would I know?” His words seethed with contempt.
“I may be a lot of things Dale, but I’m not a liar about serious things and I don’t sleep around. Not for real.”
“But it could be someone else’s. You’ve taken a few guys home in the past few weeks.”
“I haven’t.” Amber frowned at his angry face. “Screw you Dale.”
“Isn’t that what got you in this mess?”
She opened her mouth, shut it with a snap and stormed off.
He sighed and watched her walk away. It would be stupid to lie about this. Jogging after her, he caught up and grabbed her arm. “I’m sorry. It’s just Scott said-“
“Scott?” She turned a furious face to him. Of course Scott. She forgot all about her campaign to make him jealous. It didn’t work, but for some reason she kept doing it. Maybe she got a kick out of it.
“He said he saw you leave with men and get into an Uber taxi.”
“You can just say Uber.” She thought a moment. “I don’t know why I need to prove anything to you. I don’t know why I care at all what you think. Call Scott and ask him if he remembers the colour of the Uber car.”
Dale took out his phone with narrowed eyes. They started walking and Amber stopped in front of a bar. while he called.
“Well?” She asked as he put his phone away.
“White, he said it was weird but you always took a white cab.”
“Okay. My turn.” She took her phone out and sent a text. “Now when the car gets here, act drunk and like you’re going to get lucky.”
“Why?”
“Just do it.” She put her arm around his waist and leaned in. Two minutes later a white car pulled up. Dale started pawing and whispering nothing to her. Giggling she got in and he followed. “Hi Tom.”
“Hey Amber.” The driver scowled at Dale who was nibbling her neck. He pulled away from the bar, drove two blocks, pulled over and got out. Amber pushed Dale away as Tom opened the door on Dales side. “Ride’s over. Get out man, don’t make me pull you out.”
“What?” Dale sounded as confused as he looked.
“Get out, She’s not interested.”
“But?” Dale looked at Amber as she shrugged and smirked.
He got out, watched the white car drive away, took out his phone and sent Amber a text. “WTF?”
She replied. “I never take them home, it was just a show to make Scott jealous.”
“It it Toms?”
“Ass. Tom is my brother
.”

Dale stood there for a few minutes realizing she wasn’t coming back. With pursed lips he sent another text. “Is it Scott’s?
FU Drop Dead.”
He read her response a few times as he walked the short distance home. He glanced at his phone as a text came in. “I H8 U. Not UR problem anymore. UR off the hook, so relax .”
Dale punched his apartment door as he closed it behind him. “Ow, son of a-” He went to the kitchen to get some ice shaking his hand. “No doubt she’s bawling her eyes out.” He sighed and cursed discovering he had no ice. He closed the freezer and leaned his head on it. “Dammit.”

Dammit indeed. When I write characters that are under stress I try to remember to make them act a bit irrational and emotional. Creating tension and unhappiness is one of many options to bring a character down before they can get back up. Sometimes as the writer I feel the need to kick them when their down and see what their made of. I’m not sure where these two will go, neither are nice people.

My advice about hurting feelings.
It’s bound to happen, so go for gold and crush their make-believe hearts. Make em cry, ’cause seriously where else can you be totally malicious and hurt someones feelings with no real consequence? *insert evil laugh* writing is fun.

-Sheryl

Other posts

The FAB pencil

Getting a little touchy feely

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Mystical