[Writing guide series] That’s What She Said- Dialogue Part 1

Hello, Imouto-chan.

I’m back once again for another installment of this writing guide that isn’t much of a guide. I already told you my disclaimer on the first one so I’m just gonna go right ahead.

So you wanna learn about dialogue, huh? It’s gonna be long and hard.

that's what she said

Where do I begin? I could tell you about writing good dialogue between characters or help you out in how to write the structure correctly. My inner beta reader is screaming at me to help you write a proper quotation sentence, or whatever they’re called. (I’m such an expert, aren’t I?) Ah! Before I go on, let me remind you that I use American English, so if it looks like I used the wrong quote marks (you know, British English uses single quote marks vs. double quote marks when writing dialogue), that’s why. Still the same structure, though.

So here’s a quote:

(1) “Wait, I’m not ready,” Nino said.

Here’s the formula:

open quote mark + blah blah blah + comma + close quote mark + subject + dialogue tag + punctuation

Yes, it’s really the formula. Look it up. It’s scientific.

Another example:

(2) “Well, hurry up!” yelled Jun.

Le, gasp! Shadz-nee, you didn’t capitalize “yelled.” Ooh…

Uh, how should I say this, it’s not wrong. I think I’ve already established that English is one confused bitch, and likes to confuse English speakers on how to explain to non-English speakers. Yeah, I didn’t get it, either, when I first started, so let me explain what I sorta kinda figured out. A dialogue sentence is a complete thought even if there are question or exclamation marks inside the quote marks, so if you use a dialogue tag, it is within the dialogue sentence. Understand? Okay… what’s the rule for a sentence? When it’s a complete thought.

“Well, hurry up!” Yelled Jun. <- That is not a complete thought (bolded phrase). Unless it is the first word of a sentence, dialogue tags are never capitalized.


(3) “I told you,” Ohno said. “He is never ready.”

Always end a sentence with a punctuation mark. In this case, the mark is inside the quote, even if you “interrupted” the quote with a dialogue tag, the last part of the quote has to end in its proper punctuation.

(4) a. “Ah, Sho-chan,” Aiba said, “so good.”
b. “Ah, Sho-chan-“ Aiba licked his lips “-so good.”

What happens when you want to interrupt a quote with an action? Shit hits the fan. It’s also scientific. Look it up. No, actually this is another example of the dialogue sentence as complete thought. True, in the second sentence “Aiba licked his lips” is a complete thought and can have period in the end, but it is really just a preference of style and how you want the dialogue to flow.

And those are basically some of the common dialogue structures. There are other special punctuations that can be used in dialogue, but I’ll talk about them when the time comes.

Awesome. Now I can write better dialogues using this!

Whoa, hold up. Not quite. Knowing how to write a dialogue structure correctly doesn’t mean it’s enough.


But this post is long enough already. I’ll post a part two of this. Till then, adieu.

Any questions or comments? Anything to add? Let me know, comment below. (Oh, hey, I rhymed.)

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