Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dialogue and Paragraphs

Do you ever have trouble figuring out who said what? I do, and it stops me. I have to go back and figure out the speaker. One of the reasons for the confusion is the way paragraphs are laid out. If one person's actions are lumped in a paragraph with dialogue, it looks as if they go together.
Each time the speaker changes, begin a new paragraph. If the dialogue doesn’t make it clear who’s speaking, use an attribution or action. The reader gets a picture of the scene and knows who’s talking. The action can also reveal the speaker’s mood. Was he excited, striding back and forth? Was he thoughtful, scratching his chin? There are many ways to show it; just make sure each paragraph clearly belongs to someone.
The following examples show why each person has his or her own paragraph with the dialogue in it. 
Read the next paragraph and see who said “I’ve never seen it before”? 
Mark cut the tape and opened the box. “What’s this?” he said, lifting a wooden case out of the foam packing. “I’ve never seen it before.” Karen took the case from him.
From the way the paragraph is put together, it could be either Mark or Karen.
To make it clear, separate Mark’s actions and Karen’s with different paragraphs and put the dialogue with the person who’s saying it.
Mark cut the tape and opened the box. “What’s this?” he said, lifting a wooden case out of the foam packing. “I’ve never seen it before.”
Karen took the case from him.
This way, the reader knows it was Mark who said he’d never seen it before.
Mark cut the tape and opened the box. “What’s this?” he said, lifting a wooden case out of the foam packing.
“I’ve never seen it before.” Karen took the case from him.
This way it’s obviously Karen’s remark.

How about you? Any examples? 

1 comment:

Polly said...

There are time when I don't see these things on first read, but after a period of time when rereading/editing, I question who's speaking--and I wrote it. Having some distance from your writing is one of the best teachers.