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WiryMatthew
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Started May 02, 2012 - 10:17 AM

WiryMatthew

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New paragraph for every quotation?

From what I have read, there are two methods for formatting paragraphs during dialogue in a novel. The first method is to form a new paragraph each time a new person starts to speak, for example:"What time is it?" asked Sally quietly. "I don't have a watch on today.""It's a quarter after five," replied Timmy, looking at his own watch.I have also read books that include multiple characters' quotations in the same paragraph, for instance:"I don't want to go to school today," said Brad in a somewhat whiny voice. "You have to go to school," his mother replied patiently. "We want you to get perfect attendance this term."Which is the best way to format dialogue paragraphs in a novel? Or is there any difference at all?

#2 countrygirl321075 Replied May 08, 2012 - 11:13 AM

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This really is a matter of personal choice. How you format dialogue in a novel depends on multiple factors. The complexity of the dialogue and how often characters speak can help to determine whether you start a new paragraph or simply carry on from where you left off. If there is a lot of backwards and forwards between two characters, putting the commentary in one paragraph could be very confusing.

However, if its phrased correctly, it is possible and can help to create a more casual atmosphere for the reader which may be more appropriate for some novels.

JD Salinger is widely regarded as an author who created excellent dialogue so having a look at Catcher in the Rye may help give you some ideas or direction.

Hope this helps.

#3 Phillywriter Replied May 08, 2012 - 11:31 AM

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I did some research on this for you and according to Wiki and from what I have seen other writers do is to change paragraphs every time a character speaks. The reason for this is it is less confusing for the reader. If you write “Hey Joe what’s going on today?” Henry asked. “Oh hey I am fine what’s up with you?” Joe replies, I think it seems jumbled. I have several unpublished novels but when I did do these I always gave, each characters dialogue their own paragraph. Now I do believe that if there are thoughts from a character, what they call indirect dialogue that can be in the same paragraph. What I have seen writers do with this is put the indirect dialogue in Italics sometimes just so the reader can see that this is the characters inner thoughts and dialogue. I hope this helps you with your question. With writing, it seems there are so many different ways to handle things and everyone has their own style as well. Technically speaking each character should have their own paragraph when they are talking. This was a great question. Have a nice day.

#4 Phillywriter Replied May 08, 2012 - 11:32 AM

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I did some research on this for you and according to Wiki and from what I have seen other writers do is to change paragraphs every time a character speaks. The reason for this is it is less confusing for the reader. If you write “Hey Joe what’s going on today?” Henry asked. “Oh hey I am fine what’s up with you?” Joe replies, I think it seems jumbled. I have several unpublished novels but when I did do these I always gave, each characters dialogue their own paragraph. Now I do believe that if there are thoughts from a character, what they call indirect dialogue that can be in the same paragraph. What I have seen writers do with this is put the indirect dialogue in Italics sometimes just so the reader can see that this is the characters inner thoughts and dialogue. I hope this helps you with your question. With writing, it seems there are so many different ways to handle things and everyone has their own style as well. Technically speaking each character should have their own paragraph when they are talking. This was a great question. Have a nice day.

#5 Guest_obferve socallyn_* Replied May 09, 2012 - 02:15 PM

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It is standard practice to use a new paragraph for each new speaker in order to not confuse the reader. However, some creative writers may not adhere to this because of their personal writing style. That is their creative license.

#6 tpheels22 Replied May 09, 2012 - 02:19 PM

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Indirect dialogue is an excellent way to get past this question; if you want to incorporate dialogue from different characters in the same paragraph, try something like this:

"When is the math homework due?" asked Tim. John replied quickly that the homework was due the next day.

But I agree that when using direct dialogue, it can become confusing when there are multiple characters quoted in the same paragraph. I would stick to starting a new paragraph each time a new character speaks, since this is an accepted form that novel authors use more often than not. In fact, I do not think that there is any reason to not use this form, unless you are trying to save paper.

#7 Kris Replied May 14, 2012 - 03:27 PM

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Like Philly said, it really is correct to create new paragraphs when incorporating new dialogue. It's less confusing, and it makes for a nicer and easier to read page.

#8 buhi Replied May 16, 2012 - 06:59 AM

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As the posters here say, the most common thing you will see in narrative prose is a new paragraph every time a new speaker starts talking. In some older books, you do see two characters speaking in the same paragraph (I don't have any at hand, but I have noticed it from time to time). However, newer stuff pretty much keeps different speakers in different paragraphs.

Sometimes, one speaker goes on and on for paragraphs. In this case, you should start a new paragraph when necessary. Do not end the previous paragraph with a quotation mark, but begin the new one with one. At the end of the speech, diatribe or story, place a terminal quotation mark:


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