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Dialogue Format Suggestions

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KG Christopher

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Is there more than one way to skin a cat? or does conversation / dialogue and self-reflection have to follow a set pattern?

I always seem to get it wrong, and nothing seems to be consistent, so I would be grateful if you could post some examples, or re-format this sample I knocked up.

/* ----------------------------------------



It was a new day, John rose early to the sound of birdsong
-- That's a lark,
-- the first of the day, he thinks.
He got dressed and walked to the kitchen.
‘Morning John.’ His mother said.
‘Hi, what's for breakfast?’ He was hungry and had a full day ahead. ‘Did the postman come?’ He asked.
His mother was busy making a sandwich and didn’t turn around. ‘Yes, he came, I saw him at the gate struggling with a heavy package what do you have there? I said to him Morning Sally, I think it’s a package for your John.’ She turned around and handed me the sandwich. I sat down and ate it in a rush. ‘The package is in the hall.’ She said.


-----------------------------------------*/

(Typical java programmers comments - couldnt resist o_O)
 

Carol Rose

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It was a new day, John rose early to the sound of birdsong
-- That's a lark,
-- the first of the day, he thinks.
When writing internal dialogue, either italicize it, or use the tags, but not both. It's redundant. If you use italics, you've set it off enough that readers know it's internal dialogue without the tags.

He got dressed and walked to the kitchen.

‘Morning John.’ His mother said.
Comma after John, not a period, and his is not capitalized.

‘Hi, what's for breakfast?’ He was hungry and had a full day ahead. ‘Did the postman come?’ He asked.
Dialogue tag is not needed. We know it's John still speaking since it's the same paragraph. If you did use it, he is not capitalized.

His mother was busy making a sandwich and didn’t turn around. ‘Yes, he came, I saw him at the gate struggling with a heavy package what do you have there? I said to him Morning Sally, I think it’s a package for your John.’ She turned around and handed me the sandwich. I sat down and ate it in a rush. ‘The package is in the hall.’ She said.
Period after package.
Capitalize What.
Comma after him.
Dialogue tag not needed. We know it's still his mother speaking. If you did use it, put a comma, not a period, after hall, and do not capitalize she.

As for the flow, it seems fine to me. :)
 

KG Christopher

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Thanks Carol, so following your corrections I get this.

--------------------------------------------

It was a new day, John rose early to the sound of birdsong
-- That's a lark,
-- the first of the day.

He got dressed and walked to the kitchen.
‘Morning John,’ his mother said.

‘Hi, what's for breakfast?’ He was hungry and had a full day ahead. ‘Did the postman come?

His mother was busy making a sandwich and didn’t turn around. ‘Yes, he came, I saw him at the gate struggling with a heavy package. What do you have there? I said to him, morning Sally, I think it’s a package for your John.’ She turned around and handed me the sandwich. I sat down and ate it in a rush. ‘The package is in the hall.’

-------------------------------------------------
 

Carol Rose

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You're missing a quote mark after "Did the postman come?" in the second paragraph. Also, capitalize morning in the last paragraph since it begins a new sentence, and it looks like you're good to go. :)
 

KG Christopher

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You're missing a quote mark after "Did the postman come?" in the second paragraph. Also, capitalize morning in the last paragraph since it begins a new sentence, and it looks like you're good to go. :)

Thanks Carol you are a wonderful resource. Is it ok to have both of these styles, or is one preferred over the other?

It was a new day, John rose early to the sound of birdsong
-- That's a lark,
-- the first of the day.

It was a new day, John rose early to the sound of birdsong -- That's a lark, -- the first of the day.
 

Carol Rose

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I think the first one simply looks better, to be honest. But setting off internal dialogue like that may come down to house style, so as long as you're consistent throughout how you do that in the manuscript, you should be fine. :)
 

KG Christopher

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I think the first one simply looks better, to be honest. But setting off internal dialogue like that may come down to house style, so as long as you're consistent throughout how you do that in the manuscript, you should be fine. :)

Yes, I agree, the first format looks more pleasing to me. Also, as I am targeting my MS at middle grade - young adult, I think its easier to read.
 

Richard Turner

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Yes, I agree, the first format looks more pleasing to me. Also, as I am targeting my MS at middle grade - young adult, I think its easier to read.
I have a couple of points, both rather pedantic! What about the change of person? John is "he" at the beginning and "I" at the end.

As a keen bird watcher and naturalist I often find things that jar in fiction. Although larks are traditionally associated with the early morning, like several other iconic birds, they are now rare and normally only heard in upland areas.
 

KG Christopher

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I have a couple of points, both rather pedantic! What about the change of person? John is "he" at the beginning and "I" at the end.

As a keen bird watcher and naturalist I often find things that jar in fiction. Although larks are traditionally associated with the early morning, like several other iconic birds, they are now rare and normally only heard in upland areas.

It's just stuff I made up, just to make a point about the formatting and dialogue, it is not part of any story I am writing.
 

Richard Turner

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It's just stuff I made up, just to make a point about the formatting and dialogue, it is not part of any story I am writing.
Ah yes, sorry. I did say my points were pedantic, but I've noticed threads here seem to lead off in all sorts of directions. On a more serious note, it is difficult to indicate who is speaking without using "he said . . . she said" My feeling is it's better to leave such phrases out wherever possible, even at the risk of the reader not being quite sure who is speaking - like your dashes on separate lines, it looks better.
 
J

J. Rook

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Is there more than one way to skin a cat? or does conversation / dialogue and self-reflection have to follow a set pattern?

(Typical java programmers comments - couldnt resist o_O)
This was a interesting exercise. Here's my take on it; I changed as little as possible.

Curse that bloody lark, thought John, but he got up anyway. In the kitchen his mother was making a sandwich.

“Morning, John”.

“Morning,” with a yawn. “What’s for breakfast?” He had to think of the full day ahead. “Did the postman come?”

She continued with her preparation. “Yes, he came. I saw him at the gate with a heavy package. He seemed to be having difficulty so I went out. ‘What’s that?’ I asked him.”

“‘Morning Sally, I think it’s for your John,’ he told me. I put it in the hall.”

His mother turned and handed him the sandwich. He sat down and ate it in a rush.
 
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