Thursday, May 1, 2014

May 2014 - Don't be a grammar slave master with dialogue

Stop . . .    Stop!      Stop,     "Stop."   'stop' 
Stop—         Stop.      STOP!     Stop!    Stop?

Effective dialogue relies on the placement of punctuation and appropriate grammar (not necessarily correct grammar) so the reader "hears" the tone of the words or thoughts, which, in turn, makes for the distinct voice of the person speaking or thinking those words.
With dialogue, the simplest change of a punctuation mark or italics or capitalization can affect how the words are translated by the reader. So, pause a moment and go back and look at— slowly look at— and read each "stop" out loud using the pause or emphasis that the pieces of punctuation call for.

Do you hear the differences?

If you don't, it could be because you are skimming as you read.  In other words, you are just reading the words and ignoring the power and connotation of the punctuation.

You see, in order to "hear" your characters or the story's narrator as they speak or narrate, it's necessary to understand the silence and pause of punctuation marks. After all, readers are not mind readers. They only have the words— and the punctuation— to transform what they're reading into a "visual" and "audio" that is the movie unfolding in their mind when they read.

For those who wonder why I did not include a colon or semicolon among the punctuation, that's because in all the years of my being a secretary, taking dictation and listening to people speak, I have never heard a person use a semicolon or colon (and some of my bosses were very highly educated). But there's also the fact that when a reader sees colons or semicolons on a page of informal/genre fiction, the reader is, for a split second, jerked out of the story world and reminded they are reading. Which means that the colon's and semicolon's use has put a flickering glitch in "the movie" that is a story. Too many glitches and suddenly the story isn't worth reading, is it?

So, when next you revise your fiction, take a look at the punctuation. Does it serve the narrator of your tale? Does is give an accurate voice to your characters?

****AVAILABLE MAY 2, 2014:    (Click the books for more information)

***This blog is updated the first of each month. Topic for June 2014 is --  Don't repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat . . . 

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