Dialogue Format

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress

Dialogue Format

Postby dios4vida » 07 Oct 2011, 12:27

So when you have a dialogue with two people, and one's response is non-verbal, does it still need to be set in its own paragraph?

Example from my WIP:

<spoken by Raeb> “That’s the Mage’s Academy for you. Bastards through-and-through.”
She chuckled.
<spoken by Raeb> “So your magic wasn’t strong enough to keep them at bay.”

So, Raeb is speaking with no vocal interruptions from Saydee (the girl who chuckles). Should her chuckling be formatted like it is above, or with no paragraph?

“That’s the Mage’s Academy for you. Bastards through-and-through.” She chuckled. “So your magic wasn’t strong enough to keep them at bay.”

(Right here it looks confusing, but in the context it's very clear that Raeb is the one speaking.)

Which one's right? I've scoured my Chicago Manual of Style and can't find anything about this. (If it's in there and someone knows where it is, please tell me!)

Thanks all.
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson
User avatar
dios4vida
 
Posts: 1119
Joined: 22 Feb 2010, 14:08
Location: Tucson, Arizona, USA

Re: Dialogue Format

Postby polymath » 07 Oct 2011, 13:15

dios4vida wrote:So when you have a dialogue with two people, and one's response is non-verbal, does it still need to be set in its own paragraph?

Yes and no. Depends on narrative point of view. Who's narrating mostly. Since the examples are in third person, what I see as a nonnarrated third person reported from Raeb's immediate viewpoint, a separate paragraph is indicated for Saydee's reaction. The text switches from Raeb's speech to Saydee's reaction to the speech. Separate paragraphs because there's a perspective switch from what Raeb says (close to him) to what Saydee does in reaction (slightly farther away than his immediate viewpoint). I feel a little more context for Saydee's chuckle is indicated though, like Raeb has a thought or does something reacting to Saydee's chuckle.

If, however, a more overt narrator reports both Raeb and Saydee from a third perspective point, equally close to both, theoretically, the second example could work, though, again, I feel including a little more context is indicated, say, thought or physical description, some additional sensation other than the chuckle, or another intervening emotional action-reaction sequence.

Chicago doesn't address narrative point of view principles because they're not mechanical style principles, per se. These are more craft and/or voice principles, which are far more flexible from a methods of writing standpoint and too complex for a style manual to address.
Spread the love of written word.
User avatar
polymath
 
Posts: 1801
Joined: 08 Dec 2009, 09:22
Location: Babel

Re: Dialogue Format

Postby dios4vida » 07 Oct 2011, 13:21

Polymath, once again you're a lifesaver. That's exactly what I needed to know. As of right now this WIP is a third person, and Raeb is indeed the POV character. The distance is a little too far for what I'm eventually aiming for, but as this is a rough draft (the first writing of it, with no polish) I figured it's decent enough for now.

I originally had it in the separate paragraphs. That's what my gut said, and I guess it was right. I'll keep it like that.

And as to the context of Saydee's chuckle, in the course of the dialogue they've discussed her abject and rather rude rejection from the Mage's Academy. With the entire conversation and emotions behind it, the chuckle makes sense. It's hard to convey in three sentences pulled from the middle of the conversation. I will take a look at it, though, and see if it does indeed need more.

Thanks, poly. I owe you one (although by now it's at least a dozen, I think). :)
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson
User avatar
dios4vida
 
Posts: 1119
Joined: 22 Feb 2010, 14:08
Location: Tucson, Arizona, USA

Re: Dialogue Format

Postby polymath » 07 Oct 2011, 13:36

You're welcome, dios4vida. I'm seeing appreciable strengthening in those brief examples of your understanding of narrative distance, which I believe is one of the final hurdles struggling writers come up against before it all becomes second nature. A chuckle, for example, authenticates the secondary reality of a dialogue scene from being physically within the presence of the persons, time, place, and situation and event. The chuckle is still an aural sensation like the dialogue but with visual and emotional context. Because it's an emotional situation, I believe it calls for a second emotional context so the meaning of the chuckle is clear enough for readers. Is the chuckle one of amusement? Embarrassment? Stress? And so on. How does Raeb perceive Saybee's chuckle? The meaning to him of it, I mean.
Spread the love of written word.
User avatar
polymath
 
Posts: 1801
Joined: 08 Dec 2009, 09:22
Location: Babel

Re: Dialogue Format

Postby dios4vida » 07 Oct 2011, 13:50

polymath wrote:You're welcome, dios4vida. I'm seeing appreciable strengthening in those brief examples of your understanding of narrative distance, which I believe is one of the final hurdles struggling writers come up against before it all becomes second nature.


Aw shucks, poly. Thanks for that. You've made my day. I've been working and studying a lot lately, trying to get some of these finer points drilled into my head. It's been hard work - half of this stuff I didn't know existed before your mini-lessons around here - but it's been so good. I feel really confident about my progress and I'd like to think it's showing in my writing.

polymath wrote:Because it's an emotional situation, I believe it calls for a second emotional context so the meaning of the chuckle is clear enough for readers. Is the chuckle one of amusement? Embarrassment? Stress? And so on. How does Raeb perceive Saybee's chuckle? The meaning to him of it, I mean.


:idea: I see what you mean, here. How she chuckles, and how he interprets it, are huge clues as to the tone of the conversation and the relationship between them. A warm chuckle shared by friends is very different from an ironic chuckle interpreted as warm, or vice versa. Such a perfect place to show (not tell!) the depths of their relationship (or in this case, the lack thereof) and I nearly missed out on it. Yet another jewel of knowledge that I owe to you, polymath. :)
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson
User avatar
dios4vida
 
Posts: 1119
Joined: 22 Feb 2010, 14:08
Location: Tucson, Arizona, USA

Re: Dialogue Format

Postby polymath » 10 Oct 2011, 09:32

dios4vida wrote: :idea: I see what you mean, here. How she chuckles, and how he interprets it, are huge clues as to the tone of the conversation and the relationship between them. A warm chuckle shared by friends is very different from an ironic chuckle interpreted as warm, or vice versa. Such a perfect place to show (not tell!) the depths of their relationship (or in this case, the lack thereof) and I nearly missed out on it. Yet another jewel of knowledge that I owe to you, polymath. :)

You made the cognitive leap. I just suggested an area for consideration of what might be missing.

For emotional context, which is open to interpretation, like a blush, a harumph, a singular facial expression, a gesture, a fleeting body language cue, a one-two punch is indicated for clarity. Or three. No more than three in most cases. That's a principle of thumb for testing whether needed content is absent and might cause reader dissonance.

A writer knows what a chuckle means in a given context. It's part of the creative vision held in the mind. If parts of a writer's creative vision miss the page, a reader doesn't have sufficient context to remain oriented on a narrative's persons, times, places, situations, and events. Dissonance between writer and reader creative visions occurs. Discovering what's missing through dissonance evaluation for revision purposes is another of the last hurdles writers overcome before it all becomes second nature.
Spread the love of written word.
User avatar
polymath
 
Posts: 1801
Joined: 08 Dec 2009, 09:22
Location: Babel


Return to All Things Writing

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], Google [Bot] and 2 guests

cron