How to Format Dialogue

Formatting dialogue can be tricky, but consistency and familiarity with convention are essential to proficient writing. Use these nine formatting rules to structure your dialogue on the page.

1. Use Quotation Marks to Indicate Spoken Word

Whenever someone is speaking, their words should be enclosed in double quotation marks.

Example: “Let’s go to the beach.”

2. Dialogue Tags Stay Outside the Quotation Marks

Dialogue tags attribute a line of dialogue to one of the characters so that the reader knows who is speaking. Dialogue tags stay outside the quotation marks, while the punctuation stays inside the quotation marks.

Example: “There was blood everywhere,” Karen explained.

If the dialogue tag comes before the dialogue, the comma appears before the first quotation mark.

Example: Karen explained, “There was blood everywhere.”

If the dialogue ends with an exclamation point or a question mark, the tags that follow begin in lowercase. The dialogue punctuation still goes inside the quotation marks.

Example: “There was blood everywhere!” she explained.

3. Use a Separate Sentence for Actions That Happen Before or After the Dialogue

If an action occurs before or after the lines of dialogue, it should be given its own sentence. For instance, if Daniel gasps and then speaks, it would look like this:

Example: Daniel gasped. “You’re dying?”

4. Use Single Quotes When Quoting Something Within the Dialogue

If a character is quoting something or somebody else within their dialogue, use single quotation marks to indicate that the character is quoting someone else.

Example: Sam started to cry. “When you said, ‘I never want to see you again!’ it hurt my feelings.”

5. Use a New Paragraph to Indicate a New Speaker

Any time you change speakers, you should begin a new paragraph with an indent. If the speaker performs an action after speaking, you should keep that speaker’s action in the same paragraph. Then, move onto a new line in the next paragraph when someone else begins speaking. This helps the reader know who is speaking and who is performing the action.

Example: “Danny, I’m going to need you to take a look at this,” said Captain Mark. He gestured to the photograph on his desk.
“My God,” muttered Captain Mark. His eyes darted from the photograph to his empty coffee cup. He knew it was going to be a long night.

6. Start With a Lowercase Letter If Action Interrupts Dialogue

If action comes in the middle of a sentence of dialogue, the first letter of the second fragment should be in lowercase.

Example: “At the end of the day,” he bellowed, “there’s always more soup!”

7. Long Speeches Have Their Own Rules

If a person speaks for a long enough period of time so as to necessitate a new paragraph, the dialogue formatting rules are slightly different than normal. The opening quotation marks are placed at the first part of the first paragraph as well as each subsequent paragraph. The closing quotation marks, however, are placed only at the end of the last paragraph.

Example: Jasper took a deep breath and began. “Here’s the thing about sharks. They’re vicious, vicious creatures. They only know how to do one thing: kill. Have you ever seen a shark in the open water? Probably not. Because if you had, you’d already be dead.

“I saw a shark once. I was scuba diving off the marina, looking for starfish to give to my sick wife. She believes that starfish are good luck. Well, one man’s fortune is another man’s folly. All of a sudden I found myself face to face with a great white. My heart stopped. I froze up. I knew that was the end. If it hadn’t been for that pontoon boat, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

8. Em Dashes Indicate Interruption

Em dashes (not to be confused with hyphens) are used to indicate interruptions and abrupt endings in dialogue. When formatting dialogue with em dashes, the dashes should be placed inside the quotation marks.

Example: Bethany began to speak. “I just thought we could—”
“I don’t want to hear it,” interrupted Abigail.

9. Don’t Add Additional Punctuation When Using Ellipses

If you’re writing dialogue that ends with an ellipsis, you should not add a comma or any additional punctuation. Ellipses are used to indicate the trailing off of dialogue.

Example: Lindsay let out a low whistle. “I guess this is the end of the line…” she said, her voice trailing off.

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-format-dialogue-in-your-novel-or-short-story#how-to-format-dialogue-in-a-story

https://self-publishingschool.com/how-to-write-dialogue/

From 2020 to 2021

What a year it was. Like so many other people, families and groups who were used to meeting in public places (inside or out), we were suddenly faced with the question of how to keep meeting under the restrictions imposed by Covid-19. There was a seismic shift towards the use of Zoom technology as the primary way of continuing to meet safely online. Some of us were already familiar and comfortable with video/audio conferencing while for others it involved acquiring new skill sets (social and technical). Kit (President) very kindly agreed to purchase it rather than rely on the free version, which often throws everyone out of the meeting after about forty minutes.

We launched our first Zoom meeting on Saturday, April 18th 2020 after a slight hiatus (the previous meeting having been held in the Eau Gallie Library on February 22nd, 2020). Teething troubles were minor; consisting only of whether or not we could change our background (from our ‘boring’ interiors to an exotic beach or even outer space) or remember to hit our mute buttons when someone else was talking. Some members have said they prefer this method of meeting together for its convenience (you don’t have to leave home and you can cunningly disguise the fact that you may still be wearing your pyjamas) but I think most of us miss the coffee, the Dunkin’ Doughnuts, Gloria’s home baking and the conviviality. The experience of hugging someone warmly whilst looking at their face is an irreplaceable tactile feeling that generates communal joy. The consensus is that Zoom is an excellent substitute for physical meetings but it is still that – a substitute.

Attendance at the Zoom meetings has been good and the readings have been of a consistently high standard. David Clarke introduced us to his novel: From Dove Creek To Who Knows Where and Lou Kicha tantalized us with extracts from his upcoming novel: Girls Don’t Play with Dinosaurs (working title). Kay Williams and Linda Paul took us into the realm of musicals and songs; Kay sang her musical to us and Linda played the ukulele as an accompaniment to her poetry. Mac entertained us with his nostalgic, autobiographical tales of life in Florida and the Keys, on a motorbike, whilst Norm wove magical spells with his evocative and deeply personal poetry. This, of course, is just a sample of the many fine works that were presented for opinion and feedback. On average, twelve readers present their work each month across two meetings and some of them read four or five poems – so a lot of writing has been presented to the group and enjoyed. Criticism is, as always, constructive and helpful without being unkind.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, it has been a productive and exciting year for the Scribblers of Brevard. We launched our anthology (XXXIX) and an associated writing competition – with a deadline of April 1st 2021 (see the menu to link to details of those) – and there have been several publications. Lou Kicha published Permafrost Rising on Amazon (see the previous blog for details); Peggy Insular published Waiting Rooms also on Amazon and Scott Tilley published his collection of writings on the theme of the virus, entitled Pandemic (also on Amazon). Several members had contributions included in this book, including Nancy Clarke (I Had To); Anne-Marie Derouault (Borders); Nicholas Kaplan (What New Normal); Carolyn Newby (A Most Unusual Year) and Scott Tilley (Covid-19).

In the pipeline: we are planning to launch our own You Tube channel that will feature audio recordings of our work, accompanied by music, backdrops or even video. We also plan to publish a collection of Christmas-themed Mini-Sagas (fifty words) and a collection of Tributes to Our Mothers for Mother’s Day. Scott Tilley has put a call out for work on the theme of ‘what next after the pandemic’ – aptly entitled Aftermath and several members will undoubtedly contribute to that.

It’s been a year. We start 2021 full of optimism. The vaccination programme has started. We have a new president and a change of ideology in the government. We are starting to make tentative plans for holidays and trips to see loved ones, friends and family. Maybe these longed-for events can take place in late summer or autumn. All of this hope and anticipation provides us with plenty of stimulus for writing projects. So now that we have turned our back on 2020 and look forward to the rest of 2021, let’s keep writing and sharing our efforts – the pleasures and the frustrations of writing!

We extend a warm welcome to old, lapsed and new members. Please use our contact page if you would like to find out more about us and sample one or two of our Zoom meetings before joining us. You will find us to be a very friendly bunch of people with one common interest and lots of other interesting talents and skills too. Our next Zoom meeting will be on Saturday January 23rd, 2021 at 9.30 a.m. for chat and 10.00 a.m. for readings. All details are on our contact page (there’s a link in the menu if you surf away from this news blog page).

Lou Kicha on Amazon

One of our members – Lou Kicha – has been attracting some fabulous reviews on his Amazon page, where several of his novels are available to buy or download to your Kindle. Check out this latest review of his novel Permafrost Eruption, which is very timely but did in fact pre-date Covid-19:

“Once again Louis Kicha has proven to be a wonderful writer with a scientific background. Permafrost Eruption is an important read as we deal with a global pandemic. The work could not be better or worse depending on your outlook.
Mixing the science of a virus and adding just enough character development is a special talent. Kicha has it in spades and has proven it in his two previous works.
Permafrost Eruption is the story of a discovery in the Arctic of ancient humans who have been buried for thousands of years and are newly found because of climate change. After a series of events, one body releases a toxic virus that threatens humankind today.
Fast paced, the science will not make your head spin as researchers discover the source of the virus and then rush to find a cure.
In today’s world where people do not respect or acknowledge the benefits of science, especially government leaders, Kicha waves the scientific flag high. He also does not shy away from acknowledging that humans are flawed and have an agenda not always in line with the public good.
The book is a page turner. Your heart may skip a beat or two. That’s the sign of a great writer.
Kicha continues to be a great writer who walks the fine line between not too much science and not enough about characters. He’s up there without a net and he is splendid.
Even without Covid-19 wreaking havoc, you should read this book.”

Reviewed by Judy Clay

Zoom Meeting

We have decided to try holding a virtual meeting using the popular Zoom app. The meeting will be held on Saturday April 18th, 2020 at 10.00 a.m. This meeting will only be open to Scribbler’s members but if it is successful and we have to continue meeting this way for the foreseeable future, then we will enable guests to join us us well, just as they do usually when we meet at the Eau Gallie library.

It would be a good idea to have the app downloaded before the meeting. You can download it to a phone, tablet, laptop or computer and you can get the free app from the Google and Apple stores. On a computer, just search for it. You need to download the video conferencing version. Here is a link to a useful and user-friendly web site on how to join a Zoom meeting https://www.howtogeek.com/662339/how-to-join-a-zoom-meeting/ as there is more than one way. There are hundreds of other tutorials if you don’t like this one. Just search for ‘how to join a Zoom meeting.’ You can watch videos (including on YouTube) or read documentation, including PDF files.

Here is the Zoom web site if you feel confident to go ahead and sign in, create an account and get your software https://zoom.us/ Your page should look like this:

You will receive an email on Saturday morning at 09.45 a.m. inviting you to the meeting. It will contain a link. Clicking the link will take you into the meeting. You may need to allow your device to use your microphone and camera. You may also need to adjust your volume and you will get an opportunity to test the sound level, at the beginning.

We have sent an email out to all members asking you to let Elayne (Secretary) know if you want to read. She will then give the final list (by Friday night) to Kit (President) so that he can determine the running order of the meeting. Kit will host/chair the meeting so he will instruct everyone when it is their turn to speak – both to read and to comment.

Zoom states that the allowed meeting time is 40 minutes but we are finding that this is not necessarily the case and they let the meeting run on. However, just to be on the safe side, we will plan a strategy for what to do should the meeting end after forty minutes (Kit will see the warning on his screen), which will most likely be that we wait a few minutes and then go back in on the same link (or Kit may have to send you a new one by email).

We need three readers for 40 minutes but we need to have more on standby because we hope the meeting can last for the usual time of an hour and forty five minutes.

Feel free to arm yourself with all of your customary food and drink so that we can enjoy the virtual experience of sharing nibbles and coffee, as we normally do.

If you have any questions about this meeting and specifically about Zoom, then please email Elayne. Otherwise we look forward to seeing you all on Saturday at 10.00 a.m.

Writing Competitions

We are very excited to announce that we’ve just added a new page to our web site, which aims to keep Scribblers’ members, subscribers and visitors to this web site, updated with writing competition news.

We will update competition details month by month initially and archive previous months so that, next year, you can remind yourself about some of the regular competitions that run annually.

Most of the competitions require an entry fee but the prizes can vary enormously. Some give modest cash prizes while others give more substantial amounts and sometimes offer publication of winning entries too.

Writing competitions offer an opportunity to practice your craft and to write competitively. If you have previously only been self-published, it’s an opportunity to have your writing assessed by literary experts who, if they award you a place, judge your work to have serious merit. It can give you a powerful boost of confidence and spur you on to submit work for professional publication.

Our first list of competitions is for short stories and poetry but we will go on to list details of competitions for different age groups, genres, socio-demographic profiles (e.g. residents of a certain state) and published status (e.g. some state that you must be published, others not, some say one novel must be under your belt, others do not regard self-publishing as having been published at all, etc.)

So what are you waiting for. There are over a dozen on offer on our new Writing Competition Page (April 2020 Deadline) so get writing or dust off that old manuscript that needs a little bit of editing or tidying up.

Self Publishing

It used to be called ‘Vanity Publishing.’ The term conjured images of would-be writers who couldn’t write very well at all, pandering to their own egotistical and self-delusional ideas that they could, by publishing their own work. There were fears that the market would be flooded with inferior quality, badly written books that de-valued the profession and made it all the more difficult for good authors to be recognised.

If we look at the book industry now (which includes fiction, non-fiction, prose and poetry, novels and short story collections) it is probably true to say that it is over-saturated. This relates to both published books and self-published books and the label of ‘badly written’ could probably be hung on both. That’s what happens whenever there is a ‘glut.’

The necessity for self-publishing was provoked by several factors but possibly the most significant was the way that an oligarchy of ‘western’ publishing houses were able to determine who would be read and who wouldn’t, simply by virtue of what they were prepared to publish. It was not so long ago, relatively-speaking, that ‘minorities’ including women and non-white writers struggled to have their literary ‘voices’ heard especially if their work articulated their fight. Independent publishing houses were established as a direct response to this, where the founders had the means and the finances, to address this situation, but even within such noble enterprises there was the potential for ‘elitist’ or ‘separatist’ agendas to reject the work of anyone who did not quite fulfill their ideals.

In 1995, Jeff Bezos launched his online bookstore Amazon.com and in so doing, changed the dynamics of the publishing world forever. His concept legitimised self-publishing and relegated the term ‘vanity’ to the back seat of the discourse of publishing. Two decades on, there are millions of self-penned books uploaded to the site. This hasn’t hurt the publishing giants; they continue to vertically-integrate and consolidate their media companies and products (in the interests of more audiences and bigger profits) so that they can benefit from their best-sellers, especially those that become films with popular music scores. So there is room for two kinds of players.

The big question is, how do those self-published books square up to those that have been published by one of the giants? Do they have a monopoly on quality as well as popularity? In this interesting article (2013) Dr Jim Taylor pointed out that ‘despite their warts, the publishing industry does serve a valuable role as an initial arbiter of literary quality (however flawed it may be). Books that are accepted by a genuine publisher go through a rigorous (though obviously imperfect) multi-layer vetting process that includes an agent, an editor, several outside reviewers, an editorial committee, a sales and marketing committee, and often the publisher him or herself.’

He also reminds us that ‘a few self-published books have had great success and the authors have since received contracts from established publishers, for example, Amanda Hocking, who has sold more than 1.5 million copies of her self-published books, and E L James, the author of the Fifty Shades trilogy. Additionally, established authors, including David Mamet, have chosen to self-publish as a means of gaining more control over their works and keeping more of their profits. Many famous authors started out self-publishing their works including John Grisham, Jack Canfield, Beatrix Potter, and Tom Clancy. Here’s a factoid: Twelve publishers rejected J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book before she found a relatively small publishing house (Scholastic isn’t small any longer!) willing to give her a chance. And you know how she’s done since! There are, I’m sure, many great works of literature that have not seen the light of day because of the myopia of the book industry. And self-publishing gives those works a chance to shine.’

There are some important messages that can be taken from what he said. If you are going to self-publish then you really should make sure that your work has been scrutinised through all of its edits. An appraisal of some of the collections of self-published poetry out there, for example, demonstrates a misconception about what ‘poetry’ actually is. It certainly is a very maligned discipline, sometimes thought of as the poor relation to prose. In many ways the comparison is the same as the way painting has been privileged over photography. A lot of the bad press, in the case of poetry, is simply due to a lack of understanding but some of it, worryingly, is because there are too many self-proclaimed poets out there who have not studied the various forms of poetry and do not follow their rules. Even blank and free verse should be recognisable by its conscious deployment of form, language, metre, stress, syntax or literary devices, but for some it is the license to re-package and re-present prose as poetry just by breaking paragraphs down into uneven lines. When the art and quality of poetry is undermined so is its reputation.

If you are undeterred by the challenges that face you as an authorpreneur (the latest buzz word in the self-publishing industry) who wants to self-publish or use an independent publisher to facilitate the production and distribution of your self-published book then this article is really worth reading: https://www.book-editing.com/how-to-self-publish-a-book. It is very comprehensive and covers every process, starting with the questions: When to Self Publish? and When Not To Self Publish?

Few writers who self-publish are going to hit the literary jackpot and be subsequently picked up by a publishing house that can deliver the kind of distribution that self-publishing just can’t achieve. Self-published authors are unlikely to become rich, let alone earn a living from doing it this way but, as so many who have done it this way can attest, there is an unquantifiable joy in seeing their work in print and online (on sites such as Amazon Kindle) as the tangible evidence of all their hard work and creativity. For some it is even their legacy.

In addition to using an editor to make sure that your writing holds up to grammatical and presentational/format scrutiny (and assuming you have studied the form you write in and know it really well) then you could consider getting peer reviews of your work-in-progress. This is what we do at The Scribblers of Brevard. We are home to several published and self-published authors and we are very diverse in the forms, styles and genres we write in. This guarantees that at any meeting, you will find there are people there who have the knowledge, skills and experience to be able to appraise your work as you present it.

Our next meeting is on Saturday February 22nd, 2020 at Eau Gallie Library, starting at 9.30 a.m. for convivial chat, nibbles and coffee with lots of support and encouragement thrown in. Come and join us!

Next Meeting 02.08.2020

The next meeting of the Scribblers of Brevard is Saturday February 8th, 2020 at Eau Gallie Library. We gather at 9.30 a.m. for coffee, nibbles and chat after which the meeting itself starts at 10.00 a.m. with members’ readings of their work and members’ feedback.

We aim to give positive, constructive and helpful advice on what is good about members’ writing and what could be developed or improved. This mutually supportive platform gives everyone who participates in it the opportunity to try out their writing on an audience of their peers who understand and recognise the joys and frustrations that are involved in polishing a piece to publication standard.

We are always delighted to welcome visitors of any level of writing ability from complete beginner to published author. You are most welcome to attend for two sessions before deciding whether or not we are right for you. We are a very warm, friendly and inclusive group and if you feel you would like to join us then you will find that the annual membership fee is very modest. That will entitle you to attend all of our bi-monthly meetings and the annual post-Christmas luncheon. You will also have the opportunity to participate in our Annual Anthology: Driftwood, which we are aiming to have published on Amazon in the near future.

Our meetings take place on every first and fourth Saturday of the month with some exceptions near to Christmas. As a member you will be notified of the dates of all meetings in advance via our regular emails.

We look forward to welcoming everyone this Saturday.

Scribblers Annual Luncheon January 11th 2020

A long-held tradition for this writing group is to meet annually in January, at a chosen eatery, for good food and conversation. It is a chance to build and strengthen friendships, outside of our more traditional meeting format, which is dedicated largely to the appraisal of each others’ works.

This year, we met at The Olive Garden, Melbourne, a venue we had not chosen before, as a group, and we can now say wholeheartedly that we were delighted with our choice. It was a memorable day. The food was excellent. It was very well attended by members old and new. We were especially delighted that Mac was in attendance, after he was forced to miss some meetings because of a serious illness. If the smile on his face is anything to go by, he’s recovering nicely and he was given a round of applause to show him how delighted the group was to see him.

Richard Marschall, the new President for 2020, presented Nancy Clark, the outgoing President, with a plaque and a bouquet, to affirm the groups’ appreciation of her four years of hard work and commitment to the post.

It looks set to be another exciting year for the group and members look forward to attending the first meeting of the new year at the Eau Gallery Library, 1521 Pineapple Avenue, Melbourne, Florida, 32935 from 9.30 a.m. to 11.45 a.m. We start with coffee, cakes and savories plus chat for half an hour then move on to the official meeting at 10.00 a.m.

First Meeting of 2020

The first meeting of 2020 for the Scribblers of Brevard will be held, as usual, at the Eau Gallie Library, 1521 Pineapple Avenue, Melbourne, Florida, 32935. The date for that meeting is Saturday, January 25th, 2020. at 9.30 a.m.

We start gathering at 9.30 a.m. for food, coffee and chat (several members bring home-made or bought cakes and savories – though there is no obligation to do this) and then commence the meeting at 10.00 a.m.

The largest part of the meeting is devoted to members’ readings of their work, which can be work-in-progress or completed work of any genre or format, fiction or non-fiction. Each reader is given ten minutes to read their work aloud to the group after which the group offers thoughtful, appropriate and relevant feedback. All critiques are positive with remarks on the very successful aspects of the work and suggestions for any changes or improvements that might be made, if the author so wishes to make them. Any member who wishes to read at a subsequent meeting can put their name down on the list. Occasionally, some members can read a second piece, time permitting, and new visitors are always welcome to bring something to read if they so wish and there is time to include it.

After the readings have concluded, the president deals with any other business, which can include:

  1. Members’ writing successes or publications
  2. News about local, national and international writing competitions
  3. Upcoming events that Scribblers of Brevard are participating in
  4. Recommended book reads and film viewings
  5. Suggestions for changes to the format of meetings
  6. Minutes from the Previous Meeting
  7. Treasurer’s Report
  8. Any other business

The Scribblers of Brevard is a very long-standing writer’s group on the Space Coast of Brevard County with a strong current and past membership. We have an exciting agenda planned for 2020 and look forward to welcoming everyone to our lively, informative and encouraging meetings where we foster burgeoning talent and network with each other in ways that build long-lasting friendships and promote creative writing.

We also have a Facebook page, where all the information about meeting dates and dates can also be found and visitors to that page are welcome to post comments or send messages/enquiries, which will always be responded to.

We look forward to welcoming you to our next meeting!

Saturday 8th June 2019

We held a very lively meeting which was preceded, as always, with the customary coffee and cakes/snacks, many of which were home made. Several members read their work out, which included extracts and complete pieces of prose and poetry. The themes and styles were wonderfully diverse – there was definitely something for everyone – and the standard of writing was excellent. There was a sense of achievement as it was acknowledged that we had reached the deadline for manuscript submissions to our 2019 anthology: Driftwood and everyone is looking forward to seeing it in all its glorious printed form with illustrations. We are all eagerly looking forward to the opportunity of seeing next year’s 2020 anthology go on to Amazon/Kindle.

Do you want to write or are you a burgeoning writer and looking for a supportive group to give you feedback? Come and drop in on us on a Saturday morning at Eau Gallie Library from 9.30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. Turn right as soon as you come in the main door. We are very friendly and you will be made most welcome. We meet every other Saturday so check here for upcoming dates or on our Facebook page. We would love to see you. You can choose to read or not at any meeting and our feedback will never be hurtful or judgmental. It will be helpful and positive.

Next meeting is Saturday 22nd June 2019. We hope to see you there.