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A sentence repeatedly interrupted by action

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Feo Takahari, Dec 5, 2013.

  1. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    I'm editing a fanfic by a Swedish fellow, who often uses constructions that are a bit unusual in English. In one particular case, I'm genuinely unsure whether or not the construction used is considered "acceptable." Below:

    Is that way of writing a split-up sentence okay? If not, how should it be written?
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  2. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

    I might suggest putting the action in after a complete thought. For instance moving the "she led him" after "behind the privacy screen", then continue with the dialogue.

    To be honest, if this was the way the character always talked, I'd edit it down once the flavor is established. It's a little...annoying.

    Although, this does read a bit scripty. Is it intended as a story or as a script?
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  3. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I'm not an expert, but to my understanding the way they're using the ellipses is incorrect. An ellipses (...) indicates a trailing off, a persons voice getting softer and softer.

    I believe em-dashes should be be used as follows with capitalization only at beginning of sentences. Also from my source, it indicates no periods in the action descriptions. Here's a link to my source Em Dash

    Of note putting em-dashes inside or outside quotes will indicate two different things. If the em-dashes are inside the quotes, the action and the dialogue are happening at the same time. If the em-dashes are outside the quotes, it indicates that the dialogue as stopped while the action is performed. So, asking what they're intention may be helpful here.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2013
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  4. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    It's a story. I guess he does do a lot of description of characters' actions, but I didn't think it was particularly distracting in earlier scenes.
  5. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

    I think the key to doing lots of character description is placement. I interrupt my characters, but I choose to do it by em-dash, and mostly by using another character. I try to limit how often I do this, as it distracts from the point of the conversation.
  6. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    This would get seriously annoying to me if it were continued for much of the book. Literally, it would make me put the book down if the author used this construction more than infrequently.

    Once or twice in the book? Not noticeable.

    Once or twice a chapter? I'd definitely notice, but probably wouldn't do more than make a comment about it in the review.

    Once or twice a page? I'd throw the book across the room.

    Obviously, however, I tend to get easily annoyed over such things, much more so than the average reader.

    I agree with penpilot, however. If he's going to do this, he needs to research the proper format.
  7. C Hollis

    C Hollis Troubadour

    I'm going to assume the author is trying to set a pace, or show some "distracted" type dialogue, like someone speaking to another while their mind is elsewhere, or the one they are speaking to is not paying complete attention. And if written right, I think it can be quite effective.

    One thing that has already been brought up; ellipsis for trailing thoughts, dash for interruptions. So, ditch the ellipsis and give it some dashes. I would also break this into separate paragraphs instead of one. All of this assuming the author is wanting the dialog to have this impact.

    Even then, after looking at it, the dialog and narrative may still need a little airbrushing.
    Feo Takahari likes this.
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I still have a problem with the way this is broken up. As a reader I'm being asked to believe that between "you" and "get" (the first two sentence fragments), Someone leads someone else to a screen and gently pushes him behind it. Then, between "I" and "make" -- two words that in just about any circumstance would come close together, Fluttershy walks over to her friend, links arms, and leads her towards the kitchen.

    Logistically it just doesn't work. Maybe Fluttershy can be doing her leading while "she" (not sure who the referent is) also does her leading -- there's probably more leading going on here than is necessary -- but even granting that simultaneity, there's just not enough time.

    Most importantly, I can't see any reason for it. Someone speaks while others do things. As buyjupiter says, the passage reads more like stage direction. I would ask the author what is most important in the scene: what is said, getting to the kitchen, or changing clothes.
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  9. Shockley

    Shockley Maester

    I've seen this strategy used well, to show one character very vested in saying something and the other not interested at all. Even then it is used sparingly, and there tends to be real meaning in both the words being spoken and the action being done. In this context, with the lack of finesse in the depiction, it doesn't work.
  10. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    Agreed, I think this is trying too hard to show the moment-to-moment interlacing of their walk and talk, when that precision is more a distraction than not. If the scene were about some distinct, interesting process (assembling a unique object, ritual magic, etc) it might be more justified, but not for this.

    The content doesn't even want to be divided up that way, because the action part of it is so much generic "doing this would take several seconds" that wouldn't make them stop talking for so long. I could see it more as

    but not for a whole block of "linking arms and walking to the kitchen," and not three or four moments like these crammed together.

    (And I assume the story has the My Little Ponies in human form, rather than trying to walk with interlinked forelegs. Oof!)
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