Today I'm going to be talking about writing dialogue, whether in first person or third. I've read so many books in the last few weeks with major issues within dialogue. Below are some samples from my own writing--both done correctly and incorrectly. Can you tell which is which? The answers will be at the bottom.
1. "Eat," he said gently. "You're safe here."
2. "Eat." He said gently. "You're safe here."
3. "Eat," he said gently, "you're safe here."
Which do you think are wrong in the above 3 samples? Not sure? Basic for you? Keep reading. Here's another.
1. After a long pause, he released her shoulders. "We’re going to my house. It’s just a few miles up the road."
2. After a long pause, he released her shoulders, "We're going to my house. It's just a few miles up the road."
3. After a long pause, he released her shoulders, "we're going to my house. It's just a few miles up the road."
How bout with internal dialogue in third person writing? Which is correct?
1. Oh God, someone has to find me.
2. Oh God, someone has to find me.
3. Oh God, someone has to find me.
In the first sample, the first and third are correct. Normally, I prefer to use the first example.
In sample two, the first is correct. With action tags, normally a period is used. Action is a way to keep the reader from becoming confused as to the speaker. Long blocks of dialogue can be confusing for readers. Also remember that when there is a long block of dialogue that takes more than one paragraph, you do not close the quotes until you are finished. Like this:
"I don't want to tell you about this. You would be in danger. He's a murderer and I don't want to be responsible.
"Last week I watched him shoot a man and he's going to kill me too."
Now, of course, this is just a small paragraph used for demonstration purposes only. By not closing the tag in the first paragraph, the reader knows it is the same speaker talking.
In the third, the first is correct.
Dialogue is a tricky thing for many writers. There are some great resources online that you can use. Remember, 'he said/she said' gets boring. Mix in some action tags, too.
One reminder dialogue punctuation. If an exclamation point is needed--by all means, use it. But don't overuse them, or they lost their impact. Never use multiple punctuation in a sentence. Same thing with question marks. I've read several recently with paragraphs like this:
"I hate you!!!!" she screamed at the top of her lungs.
Give the reader some credit. The fact she's screaming at the top of her lungs and one exclamation point make the point.
And that's another point. When you have dialogue as in the above sample, you do not cap the "S" in 'she screamed' Many writers do fine with the comma before the 'he said' tag, but make errors when there is other punctuation in the dialogue, such as this:
"I will not put up with this!" She said with a glare.
The above sample is incorrect. It should read:
"I will not put up with this!" she said with a glare.
Some writers think you need to use a tag with each line of dialogue. You don't. Read the following:
"I hate you!" she screamed
"Not as much as I hate you," he yelled
"I don't care!" she said.
"You will!" he said.
See how boring that is? How bout something like this:
"I hate you!" Her fists were clenched tightly as she glared at him.
"Not as much as I hate you!"
She wasn't going to let him get to her. No way, no how. The veins in his temple were throbbing. She knew that meant he was furious. Too bad. So was she. "I don't care."
"You will!" He turned on his heel and walked out the door, slamming it behind him.
So which sample is more exciting? Which one pulls you into the story? Remember the golden rule of fiction: SHOW DON'T TELL. Her clenched fists show her anger. Since we are in her point of view--she's the one that notices his throbbing veins. We can see he's angry by her view of him. Also we can tell by the slamming of the door.
Any more basic dialogue questions? Just post them below.