What the proper way to handle dialog?


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  1. #1

    What the proper way to handle dialog?

    I'm wonder what the right way is to handle dialog. For example, I know that you frequently use a comma.

    "I really don't care," Sam sneered. "Do whatever you want."
    But how do you handle questions and exclamation marks?

    "Do you think I care?" Sam hissed.
    "I could care less!" Sam barked.
    What's the proper way, syntactically?

    And how do you handle thoughts as opposed to spoken dialog?

    I thought, “What a strange man. I’ll eat his breakfast, because he invited me. But I’m not going to strike up a friendship with this guy. I want to be left alone.”
    Or should you use italics?
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  2. #2
    Wɾ°ʇ°∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Your examples there are fine but not exhaustive. You could say:

    "I could care less!" barked Sam.
    # note you have a lower case letter after a sentence stopper (period, exclam., question etc). Crazy eh? But there it is.

    For thoughts as opposed to spoken dialogue, again you have options:

    # as with dialogue, like you do here:
    I thought, ďWhat a strange man. Iíll eat his breakfast, because he invited me. But Iím not going to strike up a friendship with this guy. I want to be left alone.Ē

    # or this, as narrated thoughts, with dialogue tagging. This suggests a closer POV
    What a strange man, I thought. Iíll eat his breakfast, because he invited me. But Iím not going to strike up a friendship with this guy. I want to be left alone.

    # or with italics, and no tagging (framed by some narration just to illustrate it). This is, imo, the closest POV becase we are the I, having those thoughts, rather than just being informed that they occurred.
    I sat at the table. What a strange man. Iíll eat his breakfast, because he invited me. But Iím not going to strike up a friendship with this guy. I want to be left alone. The noonday sun glistened on the pond.


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  3. #3
    Thanks bdcharles. That's very helpful.
    Old retired guy working to fulfill a lifelong dream to be a published fiction author.
    I've published, and been paid for, technical articles for Securityfocus.com and I am
    a chapter author (chapter 6) for Hidden Content
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  4. #4
    Most things covered there
    "I could care less!" barked Sam.
    # note you have a lower case letter after a sentence stopper (period, exclam., question etc). Crazy eh? But there it is.
    It strikes me as not being paryt of the sentence in a way, but something quoted inside it.

    Other points, new speaker, new line, and if the speech goes beyond the end of a paragraph into a new paragraph you do not end the first one with inverted commas, but you do start the new one with them. I think of it as, 'if I put them at the end of the first para. it would be shutting it down; but at the start of the next one they serve as a reminder he is still talking.
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  5. #5
    It's odd, isn't it? Somehow
    "I could care less!" Sam barked.
    seem right but
    "I could care less!" barked Sam.
    seems wrong. I think I would avoid the problem altogether and use
    Sam barked, "I could care less!"
    The last thing I want is to introduce doubt or discomfort into the reader.
    Old retired guy working to fulfill a lifelong dream to be a published fiction author.
    I've published, and been paid for, technical articles for Securityfocus.com and I am
    a chapter author (chapter 6) for Hidden Content
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  6. #6
    New Member per se's Avatar
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    They are all equally right, or wrong, to the extent that you may want to use "I couldn't care less!" instead.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by per se View Post
    They are all equally right, or wrong, to the extent that you may want to use "I couldn't care less!" instead.
    Nice catch!
    Old retired guy working to fulfill a lifelong dream to be a published fiction author.
    I've published, and been paid for, technical articles for Securityfocus.com and I am
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    Wɾ°ʇ°∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by plawrence View Post
    It's odd, isn't it? Somehow seem right but seems wrong. I think I would avoid the problem altogether and use The last thing I want is to introduce doubt or discomfort into the reader.
    Hehe I assure you both of those are correct plus also it gives you some variance. Otherwise the text can seem repetitive. The third example is fine though maybe a little less common.


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





  9. #9
    I have a question with regards to bdcharles' post: I always stay away from using italics in describing thoughts as I find long sentences in italics to be ugly and hard to read - I also feel that using italics for thoughts takes too much takes away from one of my other favourite use of the font which is to emphasize particular words or phrases for added impact (either in dialogue or outside of it). "This was madness!" he sneered. Whats your take on it?

    Also, I feel tagging dialogue to thoughts (as you first example) with quotation marks is something I wouldn't do, because I find it confusing for the reader as he/she needs to distinguish those internal thoughts from real dialogue. Also, when without tags, it becomes easier to align the inner thoughts to your own writing style; you want your character to sound crazy, I feel that's easier to do without the constraints of dialogue which makes it more realistic.

    Anyway, I know there are many ways and none of the above is right or wrong, but I wonder how everyone else goes about this? How do you do inner dialogue and/or monologues? Dialogue tags or without?

    Cheers

  10. #10
    Wɾ°ʇ°∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Undutchable121 View Post
    I have a question with regards to bdcharles' post: I always stay away from using italics in describing thoughts as I find long sentences in italics to be ugly and hard to read - I also feel that using italics for thoughts takes too much takes away from one of my other favourite use of the font which is to emphasize particular words or phrases for added impact (either in dialogue or outside of it). "This was madness!" he sneered. Whats your take on it?

    Also, I feel tagging dialogue to thoughts (as you first example) with quotation marks is something I wouldn't do, because I find it confusing for the reader as he/she needs to distinguish those internal thoughts from real dialogue. Also, when without tags, it becomes easier to align the inner thoughts to your own writing style; you want your character to sound crazy, I feel that's easier to do without the constraints of dialogue which makes it more realistic.

    Anyway, I know there are many ways and none of the above is right or wrong, but I wonder how everyone else goes about this? How do you do inner dialogue and/or monologues? Dialogue tags or without?

    Cheers
    I definitely think it is easy to overdo italics; they're just another trick to deploy, though they need careful handling. Subtlely is master here. Eg, I dunno, something like:

    -------

    Without warning a rattle of small-arms fire echoed from the hills, and little bursts of dust kicked up all around Smith's boots.

    What the -?

    Jones shoved him behind the metal dumpster. Rounds ponged off its casing. Kalashnikovs. He would recognise that pop-popping anywhere.

    -------

    As I write this I wonder if it lends itself to first person POV. Maybe not though. It seems such a close in, personal, intimate look at someone. But there I have the "What the," the "Kalashnikovs" and "he would recognise" all as Smith's thoughts. In the italics, we are him, experiencing the thought as it crosses his brain. In the "he would recognise", that is a narrated event of an action that just happens to be a thought. So, in my view, there's scope to mix it up and keep things moving and under control without being repetitive, or overkilling it with every possible technique all over the place, so you can still have your empahsising italics, as long as you're not trying to jam them all into one place.

    If I used dialogue tags in thought, I would probably miss out the speech marks, unless going for some sort of effect or maybe an older fashioned style, though it does distance the reader and make things less immediate (which may be ok, depending on the context)

    That was close, thought Smith. => normal

    "What a perfectly hideous to-do!" thought Mary. => older, more florid


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





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