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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Dialogue—interrupting

In real life, people interrupt each other all the time (especially in my family). Why not have your characters do it, too? It adds a bit of realism and depth to the dialogue, making it sound more natural.

Interruptions can also create more variety in your dialogue rhythm. It adds a nice change of pace without being too much of a hitch in the reading flow.

Now, don’t go overboard and have people interrupt each other all the time (even though we know that in real life, that can happen). Moderation is the key, as with any writing style.

Finishing a sentence:

This is a fun type of interruption, when the other character finishes the person’s sentence for them.

“This is a private Christian school, kiddo. You sure you’re supposed to be saying that kinda word around here?” Joel asked.

Bradley jerked his head around, his eyes rapidly scanning the perimeter as if they’d just come under enemy fire. “N-no. I ain’t supposed to. Good thing my teacher’s not—”

“Right behind you, Bradley?”

--From A Soldier’s Promise by Cheryl Wyatt


Cutting someone off:

This is a great device to heighten tension and conflict in a dialogue. Again, use this judiciously or else your character will sound like a jerk/witch for always cutting the other person off.

She snorted. “Some things never change. I made a mistake calling you, Luc. You’re too much like the old man to see reason.”

Ouch, that stung. “I’m sor—”

“Consider yourself warned. My family will fight you Trahans.”

--From Bayou Justice by Robin Caroll


Punctuation review:

When someone is interrupted, use an em-dash, like this: —. It’s a long dash, the length of the letter m on an old-fashioned typewriter. The short dash is called an en-dash (the length of the letter n), and that should not be used to indicate an interruption. If you don’t use an em-dash, use two short dashes like this: --

Do not use ellipses to indicate someone is being interrupted. Ellipses (three periods like this: ...) are used to indicate when someone’s voice is trailing off, but no one is speaking to fill in the gap of silence.

”It’s him, Ma. We know our own pa!”

“It’s ... it’s ...” Sophie struggled to let go of the wild surge of hope that was building in her.

--From Petticoat Ranch by Mary Connealy


Look at your dialogue passages. Can you add an interruption to vary the pace or increase tension?

3 comments:

  1. Great lesson. Thanks for real world examples.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, girl, thanks for using as a good example. I'm more used to being used as a horrible warning!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for these mini lessons, Camy. And thanks too for using my passage as one of your examples.

    Hugs,

    Cheryl

    ReplyDelete

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