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Revisions: Writing Dialogue Part 3

dialogue-3

My apologies to everyone for being away for so long…family issues intermingling with a busy schedule have kept me from concluding this three part series…that and inconsistent Wi-Fi. Don’t get me started on that.

So…as I was saying in Part 2, interrupted speech can build action into dialogue but even more so having one character abruptly cut off another character’s words in an immediate manner—mid word—can speak volumes.

Dialogue abruptly cut off this way is handled the same way by use of the em dash. This takes a little more concentration as you’ll need to consider the sounds of words and syllables before deciding where to break the interrupted word. For example, if you’re asking someone to stop what he’s doing (Please stop…) but that someone cuts you off mid word as soon as you begin. You wouldn’t break off the word stop after the s (s—) because the first sound comes from the combination of the S and the T (st—).

Example:  “I love y—” Annabelle’s foot slipped off the step as she began to declare herself.

Sometimes a person is speaking and someone interrupts them but they ignore the interruption and continue with what they were saying, again the em dash comes into play.

Example:  “If I could have a moment of your time—”

“I love you.”

“—there’s something I need to ask you.” Damien smiled.

Sometimes a characters dialogue trails off because he’s lost his train of thought, doesn’t know what to say next, or in times of stress, doesn’t want to say what perhaps is best left unsaid. When you wish to show this, use the ellipsis (…) and remember, that’s only three (3) dots…not four or more.

Example: “I know we haven’t known each other very long…” He was so nervous that he forgot what he was going to say.

Creating a tension or an intimacy between the characters.

It’s best not to use names within dialogue too much but sometimes, when you’re building intimacy and/or tension, you’ll want to do just that—use the name of the person whose point of view it’s not to create a deeper connection. By the way, this is good advice in real life too.

Always use a comma before and/or after the name when addressing someone directly in dialogue—even if the name isn’t a proper name but an endearment, or curse. 🙂

Examples: “I love you, Damien.”

“Damien, I love you.”

“I love you, honey.”

“I love you, Damien, more than I ever loved my ex-husband.”

Dialogue within a paragraph.

When dealing with multiple lines of dialogue within a paragraph, make sure all the dialogue belongs to only one speaker. It’s best to put the dialogue tag at the end of the first sentence since tags are for readers so they may keep track of the speaker, but this a personal voice thing as well.

My greatest advice for a long bit of dialogue is that it is not left hiding at the end of the paragraph as that doesn’t help the reader and can make them backtrack—something you don’t want them having to do. Ever! Remember everything is about flow and moving the story forward.

Where to put the dialogue tag is something that you need to feel out for yourself. The feel of the dialogue or rhythm of the speech might require a different construction but as a rule, the end of the first sentence helps keep the reader on track. Especially, when three or more characters are talking in a group, readers might be able to guess who is speaking but there’s nothing wrong with helping out the reader either.

Examples:

“I was wondering if we could talk a moment. I know you’re probably tired and want to get home. I even heard it might snow tonight but there’s something I want to say to you,” Damien said. “It’s rather important.”

(This might work well if you want Damien to sound rambling.)

“I was wondering if we could talk a moment,” Damien said, grabbing her hand. “I know you’re probably tired and want to get home. I even heard it might snow tonight but there’s something I want to say to you, and it’s rather important.”

(The reader knows it is Damien still speaking. He even sounds a little surer of himself too.)

It’s all about your voice.

Now beyond this, sometimes dialogue might stretch across paragraphs without another character speaking. This happens quite often when someone is dominating the conversation. When this happens, you will use proper punctuation, a terminal punctuation—i.e., a period, question mark, or exclamation point at the end of the paragraph but if the dialogue continues, there will be no closing quotation marks until the very end of the dialogue. Some grammar experts say to use an opening quotation mark to start the next paragraph, but this again is a personal choice. As long as the reader understands that the character is still speaking, it’s your choice to use opening quotation marks. But you must close the dialogue with closing quotation marks.

Example: Note the quotation marks.

I was wondering if we could talk a moment,” Damien said, grabbing her hand. I know you’re probably tired and want to get home. I even heard it might snow tonight but there’s something, I want to say to you, and it’s rather important.

The sky is looking a little like snow, isn’t it? Here, let’s sit over here and I’ll tell you what I have in mind. Oh, careful of that step, it wouldn’t do to have you fall and hurt yourself, he told her catching Annabelle’s arm as her foot slipped from the step.

However, when another character joins the conversation, each dialogue set must be opened, and closed, with quotation marks as well as a new paragraph begun each time the speaker changes, whether there are tags or not.

Example:

She glanced over at Damien. “I’d wanted to tell you for some time now but we’ve been friends for so long, I didn’t know if you wanted more. I just didn’t know what to say.”

“I’ve loved you nearly from the first moment we met. Being friends was the best way to stay close to you…even after you married.”

“Had I known that, I might not have married him. I never loved him like I love you, Damien,” Annabelle admitted. “I’m sorry I never said anything before.”

Mixing dialogue with narration in the same paragraph can work as long as the narration refers to the character speaking and preferably, the one whose point of view the scene is focusing on. Dialogue can go in at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the paragraph and the narration. However, if the narration refers to several characters or you can’t tell which character is the focus of the paragraph, begin the dialogue with a new paragraph and a dialogue tag. In other words, don’t make the reader guess who is speaking.

If the paragraph opens with a wide view of a group of people but then the focus narrows to a single character, you could introduce that character’s dialogue into the end of that same paragraph because the focus is completely on that character—or you can simply begin a new paragraph with the dialogue.

This is what makes your voice unique but the important key to good dialogue writing is to keep the reader in the flow of the story. Confusion over dialogue can and will pull the reader out of the fictional world you’re working so hard to create.

Example:

Annabelle exited the building, the cold wind blowing up under her coat as she walked along path toward the parking lot. Her steps slowed when she spotted Damien standing near the pedestrian bridge that stretched over the creek separating the building from the lot. Still embarrassed and somewhat angry at having walked in on him in the break room with Sarah in his arms, Annabelle decided ignoring him was the best course of action. Tucking her head down as if evading the wind, she quickened her steps to get past him without confrontation. When she saw him step forward, she said, “Not now, Damien.”

“I was wondering if we could talk a moment,” Damien said, grabbing her hand. “Please, I know you’re probably tired and want to get home. I even heard it might snow tonight but there’s something, I want to say to y—”

“I love you,” she blurted out before she lost her nerve.

Remember…attributions can come before the dialogue, especially if you want the dialogue tag to be noticed but you can also hide them, put them in the middle or at the end of a sentence, however, although not always, you will want the dialogue, and not the attribution, to stand out.

I hope you now have a greater appreciation of how dialogue can evoke emotion, action, and create depth in a scene, sometimes without saying it all. If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments or write me directly. I enjoy hearing from you and want you to succeed, grow, and be a happy writer. Let me know, if I may assist you in gaining success for you and your manuscript…it’s what I do.

Happy Writing Everyone!

Happy Release Day! FIT FOR A KING by Susan Fisher-Davis!

3-fit-for-a-king-cover_digital-front-1950-x-2850

Happy Release Day

to my talented client, Susan Fisher-Davis

FIT FOR A KING

is now available at

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobobooks

 

Wade King believes he’s worth nothing, especially in the eyes of the man who gave him a chance to be somebody. When Win’s beautiful teenage daughter kissed him on her eighteenth birthday, he refused her even though it was the last thing he wanted to do. He knew he was not the kind of man her father would want for her. Now she was back. 

Hannah Winston has always loved Wade King, even while she was married to another man. No man could live up to the man who had claimed her heart as a teen. Now she’s returned to Win’s Circle ranch to claim her inheritance only to discover her father had other plans and it involves the one man she tries so hard to hate, but can’t forget—Wade King. 

With no other choice but to work together, Wade and Hannah try to ignore the pull each has on the other, only to fall victim to their desires. Now Hannah wants more but Wade still refuses her. What must a woman in love do to make a hardheaded cowboy understand that he might think of her as duchess, but she’s only truly fit for a King? 

 

My thoughts—Wade is a real SOB but I suspect you’ll love him as much as I did while editing. Hope you’ll read FIT FOR A KING by Susan Fisher-Davis. And yes, I wrote the blurb and I made the cover. Very proud of it all too!

In the meantime, if you’re looking to bring your characters to full life through expert editing, please feel free to contact me and we’ll discuss your success. It’s why I’m here…to help you find success. 🙂

Happy Writing Everyone!

Revisions: Writing Dialogue Part 2

 

interruption-cartoon

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?”

“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.

Example:

“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.

Example:

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:

  1. Press Ctrl+Alt+Minus (on the numeric keypad)
  2. Hold down the Alt key as you type 0151 on the numeric keypad.
  3. Choose Symbol from the Insert menu, and then select Em Dash from the Special Characters tab.
  4. 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!

Revisions: Writing Dialogue

dialogue

Hi writers, I know it’s been a while since my last editing/revision lesson but family matters have kept me busy as well as clients so let’s get things rolling again. One of the things that I notice quite often in editing is incorrect punctuation when it comes to dialogue. I understand it can be confusing at times but with practice, anyone can become so comfortable with the rules that it will come without thinking. Trust me.

Dialogue has its own set of rules for punctuation.

Commas always go in particular places, as do terminal marks such as periods, question marks, and exclamation points.

A simple rule to remember is that only what is said aloud is put within the quotation marks, and always within quotation marks—those are the double marks by the way. (“…”)

Any other parts of the same sentence such as dialogue tags (said, remarked, commanded, etc.) and any action or thought go outside the quotation marks.

Dialogue always begins with a capitalized word, no matter where in the sentence it begins. Only if the dialogue is interrupted and a tag continues it followed by a comma and not a period is not capped.

Example: “If I could have a moment of your time,” he said, grabbing her hand, “it’s important.”

Only direct dialogue, words spoken to someone or aloud requires quotation marks. Indirect dialogue is a report that someone spoke and what they said. The word that is implied in indirect dialogue.

Direct: “She was spoiled rotten,” he said.

Indirect: He said [that] she was spoiled rotten.

Now…as for punctuation in regards to dialogue, there are a few rules but the most basic ones are:

When using a single line of dialogue with no dialogue tag, the entire sentence, including the period or question mark or exclamation point is placed within the quotation marks.

Example: “I love you.”

“Will you marry me?”

“I’m so excited!”

When using a single line with dialogue tag (attribution) following the dialogue, the dialogue is enclosed in quotation marks with a comma following the dialogue and the comma is always placed before the closing quotation mark. A period ends the sentence after the dialogue tag. Punctuation in the form of the comma serves to separate the spoken words from other parts of the sentence. Since the sentence is not finished after the dialogue, the dialogue tag—he said, she demanded—is still part of the same sentence, and so it is not capitalized unless a proper name or title is being used.

Example:  “I love you,” she said.

“I love you,” Annabelle said.

The same construction occurs with a question mark even though there is no comma but instead a question mark, the dialogue tag continues the sentence and so there is no capitalization of the first word following the quotation marks unless it is a proper name.

Example:  “Will you marry me?” he asked.

“Will you marry me?” Damien asked.

When it comes to the use of exclamation points…if at all possible use a dialogue tag that expresses the raised voice or excitement in the voice of the speaker rather than an exclamation point or do not add a dialogue tag and use the exclamation point as too many exclamation points can slow the flow and distract the reader.

Example:  “I’m so excited,” she exclaimed throwing her arms around his neck.

“I’m so excited!” She threw her arms around his neck.

Sometimes, the dialogue needs more definition and so you might wish to put the tag first before the line of dialogue. When using this method, the comma still separates the dialogue tag from the spoken words but now it is outside the quotation marks and the dialogue-ending period is inside the quotation marks.

Example:  She said, “I love you.”

Annabelle said, “I love you.”

When using a single line of dialogue with dialogue tag as well as action, the dialogue is always enclosed in quotation marks no matter how much action is added to the sentence. A comma still follows the dialogue and is enclosed within the quotation marks. The dialogue tag follows immediately with no capitalization unless using a proper name then the action follows and a period ends the sentence.

Example:  “I love you,” she said, hoping he loved her too.

“I love you,” Annabelle said, hoping he loved her too.

Just as with a single line of dialogue with a simple tag, the action and dialogue tag can also introduce the dialogue, only now you’ll follow the action with the tag but the same rules apply as before.

Example:  Tipping her head to look at him, she said, “I love you.”

The most important thing to remember is make sure the reader knows who is speaking so as to avoid confusion. The dialogue is always key to fiction…let’s get it right. Next time, we’ll explore more complicated dialogue construction.

If you have any questions in particular that you’d like to see addressed, feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to include them in the next sessions of Revisions: Writing Dialogue. It’s all about helping you find the success you deserve.

Happy Writing Everyone!

Revisions: Flow Killers – Filler Words and Repetition

Thesaurus cartoon

Are you struggling with revisions, not understanding what needs expanding, and what needs cutting?

Let’s start with filler and repetitive words.

Some say you need to cut out filler words, adverbs, all passive voice, and cut down on descriptions…well…yes and no. It all depends on your voice, what your story line might dictate and frankly, it depends on what your characters have to say.

Yes, your characters. Don’t kid yourself that your characters don’t have complete control over everything you do when writing their story.

Filler words such as that, just, very, much, really, completely, totally, somehow, somewhat, basically, literally, absolutely, rather, up/down (as in stood up or sat down),  so (as in so fast), both (as in we both stood), and own (as in she gazed at her own reflection) can be used but it all depends on your voice. As with any word, phrase or descriptive adjective, too much of anything can become less than a good thing. I don’t advise cutting all filler words but instead read the line through and think of a tighter, more exact way of saying it. Yes—exact! Only you know what you want to say so push the limit until you are saying exactly what you wish to say.

For example, in the lines I used to explore expansion and layering: (see Part One post)

Angry and feeling as though if he didn’t leave immediately, he was going to hit someone, John stalked to the door, threw it open, and despite the pouring rain, marched into the street.

Rather than using the filler word though, I tightened the line down by removing the word and using a comma after Angry:

Angry, and feeling as if he didn’t leave right away he was going to hit someone, John stalked to the door, threw it open so wide driving rain sprayed him and the foyer floor. He marched into street without looking back. He knew he’d never return.

Tighter, and more expressive, it shows the event more than tells it—our main goal as writers of fiction.

If you find yourself using one particular filler word a lot, or any word/phrase for that matter, it might be time to rethink the use of the word. Whereas the use of a word such as that or like is common in everyday language and so is fine for your characters to use, they can begin to act like roadblocks to a reader’s attention. I’m not saying these words can’t be used…on the contrary, sometimes it just can’t be said another way without changing your voice but when certain words occur in every sentence, it’s time to rethink your vocabulary. The use of a good thesaurus or online thesaurus can be invaluable.

Repetition can be a flow killer. It can be anything from using the same word to describe a movement, a body part, or even an emotion…remember to shake things up…keep it fresh.

Remember, it’s all about flow. Keeping the action moving is important, but if the flow is awkward and the reader’s eye has to stumble over rocks in the form of repetitive words then eventually the reader is going to quit. Good writing makes reading effortless, and you a success.

When you’re ready for editing, talk to me about how I can assist you in finding that success.

Come back next time to continue learning how to turn your manuscript into something worth reading.

Happy Writing Everyone!

Client Release Day Joy for Susan Fisher-Davis for SAM, a Men of Clifton, Montana novel with #excerpt

SAM_digital front cover final_2 600 x 876

SAM

A Men of Clifton, Montana novel #7

by Susan Fisher-Davis

 available now at Amazon

An honest man wants an honest woman to love. But when a lie comes between them, can their love be saved?

Everyone tells Sheriff Sam Garrett to find a good woman and settle down. When he sets his sights on Clifton’s veterinarian, he fears she despises him yet he’s desired her from the first moment they met. She is quite possibly the only woman in town who isn’t attracted to him which might be why he wants her even more.

Tessa McGuire has a secret and she fears anyone learning it, especially Sam who she can’t seem to resist even though she knows she should. After arresting her for outstanding warrants, desire fuels their mutual needs to the point where neither can resist its pull. Once they start seeing each other, she’s happier than she’s ever been but knows she should tell him the truth.

Tessa wants Sam to be happy, but wanting him for her own is dangerous because her secret could change everything… When her secret comes out, Tessa’s life and hopes fall apart, possibly putting everyone around her in danger. What once was a hopeful relationship with Sam comes to a heartbreaking end. Now can she win him back and save what they had?

Excerpt from SAM:

Tessa wiped the tears from her face as she drove back to town from Ryder’s place.

What kind of veterinarian are you? You’re not supposed to cry over the loss of an animal.

Continue reading

Revisions: Turning Your Manuscript Draft Into Something Worth Reading

I am a writer

If writing was easy, everyone would do it and do it well.

As I’ve mentioned, a draft is NOT, and NEVER will be ready for anyone other than the author to see…I wouldn’t even venture a friend…but certainly not an editor, and not a reader. So how do you take that draft and get it to a level where an editor at a publishing company might accept it for publication or a hired editor might assist you in turning it into something a reader will just eat up?

Revisions. Revisions. And more revisions.

When you start revising your manuscript, you’ll begin fleshing out characters – making them three-dimensional, and more alive – developing action as well as setting, and emotion. It’s about stepping into your characters’ shoes and living the story with them. It’s about building the life and depth of the story line through layers of words like a bricklayer builds a wall.

  • An example, let’s say your draft gives you:
  • John strode to the door, opened it, and walked out on the street.

That sentence is fine. It’s grammatically correct…it shows the action, but what does it really present to the reader? It says he opened the door and went out to the street. Simple and to the point, but that’s a draft.

Revision one:

  • Angry, John stalked to the door, opened it, and walked out onto the street.

Now we know he was angry, by both stating it and making it evident in the way he walked to the door.

Revision two:

  • Angry and feeling as though if he didn’t leave immediately, he was going to hit someone, John stalked to the door, threw it open, and despite the pouring rain, marched into the street.

Now we know just how angry he was as well as creating atmosphere because now we know it was raining outside but it’s not very smooth so let’s take a step further.

Revision three:

  • Angry, and feeling as if he didn’t leave right away he was going to hit someone, John stalked to the door, threw it open so wide driving rain sprayed him and the foyer floor. He marched into street without looking back. He knew he’d never return.

By layering emotion, setting, action, and expanding that simple line, you can create a scene and that’s what we, as editors and readers, want to see in a story. Through revisions, you can layer into it so much more without writing eons of words.

If you’re struggling with revisions, not understanding what needs expanding or what needs cutting, come back next time and I’ll start breaking things down with you. Remember…when you think you’re really ready to show it to the world, having a professional editor like me look at it can only make it shine brighter.

Let’s find success for you – together.

Happy Writing Everyone!

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