marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

punctuated dialog

Sometimes the run-of-the-mill punctuation marks do not do enough to structure dialog.  Not even if you use copious dashes or put a period.  After.  Every.  Single.  Word.

Attributives -- he said, she said -- do more than keep the characters straight.  They break up the speech.  Putting them in can sometimes be a trick, when you don't want to break up the speech.  I've had to resort to starting the paragraph with "He said," a few times.  But it can break up a speech when a mere period does not seem to give enough space.

Actions can do it even better.  Or incidents involving people or things other than those speaking.  A gesture, a shrug, a bird warbling in the nearest tree can be useful to remind the readers that this is not some disembodied voices chattering in a vacuum.  But it can also help break up speech more elegantly than punctuation marks or even paragraphs -- because more naturally.  The nature of speech is to be broken up without consideration for paragraphs and topic c sentences and the like.
Tags: dialog, style

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