Pay attention, please: the reader has only the words on the page to go by to form a movie in their mind and to HEAR the voice of the narrator or character.
Whether writing spoken, internalized, or telepathic dialogue, you are not writing exactly what a character says or thinks but what's been termed "Standard Written Dialogue." That's to avoid such things as: "Ah, you know, George, I—I—think, um, he's dead." Instead you write: "George, I think he's dead." or even "George! The guy's dead."
Pay attention, please: the rules of grammar and punctuation go out the window when writing dialogue.
Why? Because to follow the formal rules of English nets stilted and unrealistic sounding characters or narrative voice. For example: To whom are you talking? That would suit a character with a lofty attitude and education but not an ordinary Joe. So just simply state: Who are you talking to?
A lot of problems with dialogue can be fixed by paying attention to the punctuation and using ones that convey the meaning, the voice of the speakers (or thinker), and provides the correct rhythm for the voice (the pause of silence).
As you read the following, LISTEN for how you hear the word when you see it and its punctuation mark—
Stop . . .
Stop (or Stop)
Notice that there is no colon or semicolon among the above. That's because colons and semicolons are symbols that do not instantly convey the rhythm or sound of silence.
Okay, so it might be correct grammar and proper English to use colons and semicolons, but in fiction, using them actually hinders a reader's enjoyment because it's a rough spot in the text. Those colons and semicolons take the reader out of the story world. On a subconscious level, that grates. Do it enough times and the reader finds your five-star story worth only two stars.
Need to hone your skills with dialogue mechanics? For a limited time, I'm offering a one-on-one online course on DIALOGUE MECHANICS. You can find information here.Of course, if you want to know more about dialogue and dialogue mechanic do's and don'ts, read Sections 9 and 11 of REVISION IS A PROCESS.)
Your input is needed for 2018's blog topics.
Are you struggling with some aspect of writing fiction? Well, here's your chance to get help. I am opening the 2018 Writers Cheat Sheets monthly blog posts up to your questions.
You can state your question or state your problem with a comment at this blog site or, if you wish to remain anonymous, email your question to me at
Deadline is December 5, 2017.
November's blog topic is Never Assume
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