1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Vocab and Grammar

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by ArenRax, Apr 23, 2015.

  1. ArenRax

    ArenRax Sage

    268
    30
    28
    Okay I have a sort of problem.
    The structure of the sentence when someone is speaking especially for more than one sentence, I have no idea when I should end it with they said and such or if I start with that and then theres the grammer of like brow furrowing and such or Jovially I dont know when I should stick that in nor what some of it means and what it represents.

    You guys might think "Why am I asking this?" Well I can get myself pretty darn confused and it can sometimes help if I can fully understand something.
     
  2. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,947
    163
    I'm not sure what you're asking here. The structure of this paragraph and lack of punctuation makes it difficult to follow.
     
  3. ArenRax

    ArenRax Sage

    268
    30
    28
    I know I am thoroughly confused as to how to ask what I mean clearly so people understand. Ill think on it and then re-post the question on this thread.
     
  4. Russ

    Russ Istar

    2,161
    1,150
    163
    An example always helps me.
     
  5. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,947
    163
    Yes, an example would clarify this. Then we may be able to give you what you're looking for.
     
  6. AndrewMelvin

    AndrewMelvin Scribe

    35
    12
    8
    If I understand correctly, I think you're looking for phrasing like this: "[Dialogue]," [the person speaking] said.

    "The castle seems very far away," he said, his brow furrowing.
    "Oh, I don't know," she replied jovially.​

    If you have already made it clear who is speaking, their dialogue should normally start the sentence. However, if a new character is speaking, their name should come before their speech to show that somebody different has entered the conversation:

    "The castle seems very far away," he said, his brow furrowing.
    "Oh, I don't know," she replied jovially.
    Frodo added, "The eagles are coming!"​

    Apologies if I've misunderstood what you're asking.
     
    ArenRax likes this.
  7. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    1,908
    605
    113
    It sounds like you're talking about the difference between

    "This is an example sentence," she said.

    And

    She said "This is an example sentence."

    The short version is that "she said" at the end is the formal version. It's what you see in newspaper articles, and most novels use it as well. "She said" at the beginning is more casual, and denotes informal conversation. It's also used for short exclamations, e.g.

    She yelled "Crap!" and ran off.

    I'll give more explanation and some relevant examples when I'm not on my phone--it keeps deleting my drafts.

    Edit @Melvin: that part about using names to introduce new speakers is interesting to me. It makes sense, but I don't see it very often. Most of the stories that come to mind have a full non-dialogue sentence about the new character doing something, then dump their name at the end of their dialogue like usual.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2015
    ArenRax likes this.
  8. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    1,908
    605
    113
    Feo Presents: More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Dialogue Tags

    I was going to write up a big essay, but I think I can make the point with a few examples. This is how people in real life talk:

    This is how people talk in fiction:

    Seriously, the divide is immense. No matter how naturalistic the story is, and regardless of the POV used, it will almost always put "she said" at the end. The big exception is when one character is quoting another character:

    By and large, this exception will be observed in even the most formal stories. Quotes within dialogue will almost always put the dialogue tag at the beginning. (Of course, narration in first-person POV is not the same as dialogue, so you still see a ton of dialogue tags at the end in first person. It's kind of weird when you think about it.)

    Note 1: There is a rare phrasing where quotes put "she said" at the end, e.g.

    I'm not really sure what's up with this formulation, but it seems to be associated with bitterness and hostility. Perhaps it indicates that the speaker was "told a story"?

    Note 2: I mentioned in my previous post that newspapers put "she said" at the end. TV and radio reporters do not do this. They say things like

    "She said" at the end does not come naturally in most spoken dialects.

    Note 3: When people quote themselves, they begin with "I said."

    Note 4: Some speakers from unusual dialects naturally put the dialogue tag at the end, e.g.

    These people are weirdos.

    Note 5: It seems to be up to the author whether complete diary entries, sectioned off as their own little segments of the story, are treated as quotes or first-person narration.

    Note 6: I mentioned earlier that I sometimes see short exclamations get the dialogue tag at the beginning, but every example I can think of is a quote. Can anyone think of an example that's not?
     
  9. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

    3,093
    1,083
    163
    Hey, it works for Cormac McCarthy. :D But I hate reading his stories.

    I should make a trigger challenge where everyone has to write a story in that style.
     
  10. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    1,592
    1,019
    163
    This may be more general than the scope of this question, but I think that if you're having trouble composing sentences or creating grammar, style rules will help, but the best way to learn is to read. Read a lot of books, written in a style similar to how you mean to write, and pay attention to how the sentences are put together. Honestly, I don't know if there is another way to cultivate an innate sense of grammar besides reading, and time.
     
    ArenRax, Incanus and Russ like this.
  11. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

    1,024
    426
    83
    To add to Nimue's comments: Yes, read, read, read. Read old stuff and new. Read amazing stuff and mediocre. Read long things and short things. Read different genres. Get in a few 'classics'. Pay attention. Read the best stuff twice, and slowly. Read everyday. Then read some more.
     
  12. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    432
    83
    Absolutely, read.

    What you're talking about is called "tags" and "beats." I usually say you have four options for each paragraph, in order of increasing descriptiveness:

    no tag or beat-- okay if readers can tell who's who because the last few paragraphs have been just two people talking each in every other paragraph. If another speaker or a non-dialog paragraph breaks that pattern (or you've gone a while without tags) it's time to put tags or beats in again to reorient us.

    "said" tag-- a simple "he said" keeps things clear without distracting from the dialog.

    "supersaid" tag-- my word for all the "he yelled," "she said softly," and other ways to add very rough (telling instead of showing) description to a tag. More vivid but very easy to overuse, best when the line deserves just that bit of extra color and no more.

    beat-- using real description instead of a tag, often a whole separate sentence in the paragraph about what someone does or how they look or sound. The most descriptive, taking the most effort and sometimes more than a paragraph deserves.

    For example:

    "You get it?" asked Alice. (Supersaid tag)
    "Got it," said Bob. (Said tag)
    "Good." (no tag-- we assume it's Alice again.)
    "But what about me?" Carol flung the door open. (Beat.)
    "Just use enough tags and beats to keep us all straight," Bob sighed. (Supersaid tag)
     
    Shreddies and T.Allen.Smith like this.
  13. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    3,597
    1,516
    163
    Since folks have mentioned short examples of how to properly use tags, I'd like to add how NOT to use tags. Here's one of the things that irks me:

    AAAAAK! You couldn't tell me sooner who was speaking? WTF is the point that late? HA!

    This is much better:

    Ooh, or one of my favorites, the beat before the words, so we omit "said" entirely:

    And if I read your original posting right, you had a concern for people speaking for more than one line. Do you mean paragraph? If so, you leave off the end quote on the first paragraph and use the quotes on the next part as normal. That denotes that the same person is speaking, and that his conversation uses more than one paragraph:

    Best wishes!
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
    wordwalker likes this.
  14. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,860
    3,534
    313
    This is right. But IMO, avoid it as much as possible. It's one of those places where just the grammar starts to break immersion. If you have to break it into two paragraphs, try and open the next one with a dialogue beat.

    "If we go over the Misty Mountains," Gandalf said, "we'll be there by Tuesday. I know it isn't ideal, but it's the fastest route possible this time of year."

    Gandalf leaned in and added, "Don't worry about the Balrogs, either....."

    To me, that reads much more fluently.
     
    Shreddies and Mythopoet like this.
  15. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    3,597
    1,516
    163
    yeah, I just wanted to illustrate there is a correct way to do it with the quotes. Actually, The Lies of Locke Lamora was littered with multiple-paragraph dialogues (or monologues, sometimes, haha), and I don't usually see that sort of thing.
     
  16. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    432
    83
    Thanks for adding that, Caged. Delaying the tag can sabotage the whole paragraph by making the reader thinking more about who's speaking than what's going on. (Ask me about the armadillo some time.)

    But Devor, I have to disagree about splitting a speaker's paragraph. Your example has enough tags to keep it clear and it uses the beat to add a fun rhythm, but it also goes against another reader expectation that every other paragraph is the same speaker. You said,

    Just the fact that it's a second paragraph makes it feel a little like it's another person, even with the clear beat. The smoothest way is to make the beat a separate paragraph from both speeches so Gandalf is pausing and then resuming. It seems cluttered in theory, but the rhythm's actually better to make sure his dialog stays on every other paragraph::

     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2015
  17. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,860
    3,534
    313
    I don't know, maybe that's a good tip. But at least with this example I would find the dialogue beat on its own to be pretty distracting by itself. And I have noticed and been distracted by it in books that I've read.

    Expectation or not, "Gandalf leaned in before he finished" is simply not a complete paragraph.
     
  18. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    432
    83
    True enough. Not the perfect example.

    Also, I'll add that Caged's first thought of just one paragraph going straight to the next also works. It's more dialog with less description amid it, but it's the right effect when people just make longer speeches. Stories that use that put the reader more on alert for the quotation mark trick that show it's coming, so nobody gets confused, and the lack of tags lets reader (and writer) concentrate on just the dialog. For a less talky story (or moment), I'd rather break it up with something, though.
     
  19. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,860
    3,534
    313
    Yeah . . . . I mean there's only so much you can do to avoid proper grammar.
     
  20. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    3,597
    1,516
    163
    I found that in a few scenes, where one character had to explain several things to another character (yes, I already trimmed it so it was necessary, interesting, and flowed well), I had resulting fidgety characters if I threw in too many beats that didn't have a purpose or whatever. It was better to just give them three paragraphs of dialogue and be done with it.

    When I read The Lies of Locke Lamora, I was pleasantly surprised to see that's exactly how long conversations are handled there, too. That made me much less nervous about those few instances where I just had talking and less movement than ordinarily.
     
    T.Allen.Smith likes this.
Loading...

Share This Page