Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dialogue Question

When Nancy Hunter meets Peter Allen, sparks don't exactly fly, but there is definitely something worth exploring between them. Imagine their surprise when they discover they have loved each other for centuries, through life after life after life.

Question from the e-mail:  I see in your submission guidelines that you say "Everything a person says should go in one paragraph, even if they change the subject." I was always taught to change paragraphs whenever the topic changed. And if someone continues to speak, not to close the quotes.  Why isn't that correct.

Answer: Good to hear from you Sherry.  I'm sure you were taught well. Those are the rules most of us are taught in college. You were probably also taught that the period always goes outside the quotation marks, too. That is correct, if you are typing an term paper, but not if you are writing a book.

In a book dialogue is when two characters talk to one anoyther. The object of the punctuation there is not to give two arguments that say the same thing, and from two different sources, but to make clear what emotions each character is showing, or concealing.

Writing teachers have lots of rules. Publishers only have two:

NEVER confuse the reader.

NEVER make work for your editor.

Now punctuating dialogue is a bit tricky. First of all, you never let two characters talk in the same paragraph. Commas and other punctuation go inside the quotes. And you must paragraph each time a new person speaks.

Finally, Everything a person says at one time (even if they change the subject) goes in the same paragraph. There are exceptions to that rule, for instance if someone is making a formal speech at a graduation or political rally. But in conversation, don't use the new paragraph, no close quote deal as most readers expect a new person to speak when a new paragraph appears and not giving them that cue will CONFUSE them.

When an editor sees that in a ms. it signals two things.

First and most important, they will have to scour all the dialogue in the book to fix it. That will take a lot of extra time and, if the book is a good one and they get distracted too much by the story, they are bound to miss some.

It also means the writer either hasn't read the submission guidelines, or he thinks the rules don't apply to him.

I can't stress too much how important it is to punctuate dialogue correctly.

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