In our last lesson regarding writing dialogue, we discussed simple rules that we can follow to assist us in writing dialogue. Just as writing can be more complicated, so can dialogue. In this next lesson, we’ll up the ante a bit and discuss some of those complications that not only bring our characters to life but might also have you pulling your hair out trying to create such dialogue.
It’s not as difficult as you might think. Let’s begin…
Every so often, your character may pause briefly, interrupting dialogue with a breath or hesitation. There are two ways you can deal with an interruption using dialogue tags and either one is correct. Everyone has their own style according to their voice.
The first is dialogue interrupted by a dialogue tag and continuing the dialogue following the tag but it all stays in the same sentence.
When using this method, a comma will end the first part of the dialogue remaining inside the quotation marks, and a second comma will follow the tag but remain on the outside of the quotation marks.
Example: “If I could have a moment of your time,” he said, “it’s very important.”
“If I could have a moment of your time,” he said, grabbing Annabelle’s hand, “it’s very important.”
If this is something that doesn’t feel comfortable for you, you might also separate them into two complete sentences. The first sentence will end with a period following the tag, and the second will begin with a capital letter.
Example: “If I could have a moment of your time,” he said, grabbing Annabelle’s hand. “It’s very important.”
Questions in dialogue with no dialogue tags are done the same way as one with a period. The question mark stays within the quotation marks. The same construction applies to using exclamation points.
Example: “Will you marry me?”
When using a dialogue tag for a question, the question mark replaces the comma before the closing quotation marks and before the dialogue tag and the same capitalization rules apply.
Example: “Will you marry me?” he asked her.
If you put the tag first, the construction is the same as with a period.
Example: Damien took hold of her hand, and asked, “Will you marry me?”
Now…sometimes dialogue becomes a bit more complicated when your characters are interacting and action interrupts the spoken words. Or even in some cases, a character’s thoughts might interrupt their speaking. If we do it, our characters do it.
Let’s say your character is speaking and another character interrupts him.
Example: “If I could have a moment of your time,” he said, grabbing Annabelle’s hand, “it’s very—”
“I love you,” she interrupted before she lost her nerve.
The Em dash demonstrates his words as being interrupted by hers. Sometimes, a character may interrupt his own words; the use of Em dashes will play into this construction as well but will be outside the quotation marks to show the action interrupting the speech.
“If I could have a moment of your time,”—grabbing Annabelle’s hand and pulling her close—“there’s something I need to ask you.”
This construction is very similar when a character interjects a thought within an action.
Annabelle walked past Damien—telling herself not to look at him—needing to get to the door before her tears fell.
Not sure how to make Em dashes – there are three easy ways to make them, you can choose which works best for you or simply hit dash twice, enter, then backspace but always make sure the Em dash follows the last letter of the word it connects to with no spaces. If you’re using Word, you can try one of these methods:
- Press Ctrl+Alt+Minus (on the numeric keypad)
- Hold down the Alt key as you type 0151 on the numeric keypad.
- Choose Symbol from the Insert menu, and then select Em Dash from the Special Characters tab.
- Simply hitting the hyphen key twice directly after the word preceding the Em Dash then hit Enter then backspace and close the gap.
Sometimes, a character is speaking and will quote someone else’s words, this is easy to deal with and shouldn’t frighten you away from using it.
The entirety of the dialogue is enclosed in quotation marks following the same rules above only you’re going to add some single quotation marks (‘…’) with the dialogue.
When single and double quotation marks are used side by side, put a space between them simply to make them more easily read by the reader.
Example: “He said, and I quote, ‘To be is not to be.’ ”
“He said, ‘To be is not to be.’ I heard it with my own ears.”
Indirect dialogue for the inner quote also works if you’d rather not use a quote within dialogue.
Example: “He said the line as to be is not to be. I heard it with my own ears.”
Direct and indirect dialogue emphasizes different elements of the sentence, so choose the one, which works best for what you want to convey. It’s your voice and either way works fine.
Next time, we’ll ramp it up a bit more with interruptions cutting off words and just how to make that effective. I hope this helps and if you ever have any questions or wish me to address another issue, please feel free to leave me a question, comment, or request I the comments below.
Happy Writing Everyone! Let’s get you success in the New Year!