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Punctuation Part 2 and Thanks

January 6, 2014
Posted at 6:48 am
Updated: January 6, 2014 - 7:29 am

Actually, this will be more about dialogue, but first I want to thank the readers who've boosted Dee STP to a tie for 15th on the High Scores list and those who have given me such upbeat feedback. THANK YOU.

Now, as to dialogue, where I encountered the punctuation problems I cited in my previous posting on the subject.

One way to minimize that problem is to minimize the "he saids" and "she saids" and all their many variations in your dialogue. As long as it is clear WHO is talking, they're not needed and only slow the story down. Take this passage from the latest chapter of Dee Saves the Program. There are three people at the table, Dee, Mom and Maria:

"That meeting in the squad room? They're setting up a major, major bust, should be starting already, and it all came from that name you gave me. I can't tell you anything more than that."

"What? You can't leave us hanging like this!"

"Gotta, Chiquita. Can't say more. Come on, let's get you home. I bet your answering machine is jammed by your friends calling about that article. Watch TV tonight. You'll find out then."

I groaned at the thought of the phone calls. "I don't watch TV."

"Ay caramba! What do you do for entertainment?"

How does the reader know who's talking? Simple. In the first paragraph it is the context and content -- it is obviously Maria talking. While I don't include it here the line preceding it is a question from Dee and this is Maria's answer.

The second paragraph, a single line, it's pretty obvious it is Dee responding to Maria. It could be Mom, but that's a stretch, given the situation.

Third paragraph -- nobody but Maria calls Dee "Chiquita."

I leave the last two paragraphs for you to analyze.

There's not a single "she said" or "Maria said" or "Dee said," but the reader knows in every case who is talking. It not only eases the punctuation problem but it reads more smoothly as well.

Granted, you do need to be careful. I've read some dialogue where I've had to go back and figure out who is saying what and, in some cases, I think even the writer has lost track.

Come to think of it, I've read some dialogue which is loaded with "he saids" or the equivalent where I've still had trouble figuring out who was talking.

But you can drop in clues, such as Maria saying "Chiquita" to keep the reader on track.

Thank you, fellow writers, there will be NO TEST on this but I think your readers will appreciate your writing even more than they already do if you use this technique.