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More dumb questions

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

I know I've asked this before, but I'm still unsure how to handle this (and realize I'll get a variety of opinions which will only confuse me more).

In the following paragraph, should it remain a single paragraph, or be split into three separate single line paragraphs?

"Tell me, just how many frogs have you kissed up to this point?" Betty blushed, unable to meet her eyes. "That's what I thought. Not only can't you find anyone else, but you so want to be with Al, you can't spare any time looking for a substitute."


By the way, there's only one speaker there, Betty never says anything, so I'm keeping to the 'one speaker per paragraph' rule.

In another question, how would you phrase this sentence?

I actually put my own parents on my do-not-contact list.


Would you say "do-not-contact list" or 'Do not contact' list? Frankly, I'm confused because I've never written that term down before, and am unsure how to phrase it.

Zom
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Single paragraph, but maybe better something like:

... up to this point?" she asked, causing Betty to blush, and be unable to meet her eyes. "That's ...

Zom

@Crumbly Writer

do-not-contact list

is correct.

tppm

@Crumbly Writer

Three paragraphs. There are two people communicating back and forth, you make a new paragraph for each person, so it should be:

"Tell me, just how many frogs have you kissed up to this point?"

Betty blushed, unable to meet her eyes.

"That's what I thought. Not only can't you find anyone else, but you so want to be with Al, you can't spare any time looking for a substitute."

Betty may not have used words, but she did "speak".

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

CW, I'd leave the first conversation as a single paragraph because the focus of it is the first person talking to Betty about her relationship. Being one speaker and one subject it's one paragraph, despite there being some action in response to her words in there.

with regards to the list question the correct way is to hyphenate it, like you have, to make it a compound noun instead of a phrase. It's the same process by which a teen who goes to high school becomes a high-school student.

Replies:   richardshagrin
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Either one paragraph or three. It's one of those "what feels right to you." Me, I would want to emphasize the blushing so I would make it three paragraphs. That way it stands out.

I'd go with:
do-not-contact list.

I just had a similar situation that I went back and forth on and ended up with:

I strolled on the sidewalk until a blinking red do-not-walk sign stopped me.

Dominions Son

@tppm

There are two people communicating back and forth, you make a new paragraph for each person, so it should be:


What if one speaker says something longer in an on-going conversation that comes to more then one paragraph?

Replies:   aubie56  Ernest Bywater  tppm
aubie56

@Dominions Son

Like this:

"the first paragraph goes here

"the second paragraph goes here"

Note the way that only the last paragraph has ending quotation marks.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

The best advice I've ever received on how to write a monologue was: "If the speech looks like going more than a full page you should split it at a logical point near the bottom of the page or near the middle." In this case it isn't going anywhere near as long.

Think of it this way, if there's a break for the speaker to pick up something, why change the rhythm and flow because it's the other person doing something related to what's said? Splitting the paragraph up makes it look like different subjects, despite there not being a change of speaker requiring a split.

Switch, if I was wanting to emphasise the blushing, I'd still leave it as one paragraph but either bold the blushing or add an adjective or two. However, you're right in CW should do what feels right for him.

Ernest Bywater

@aubie56

Note the way that only the last paragraph has ending quotation marks.


aubie, technically you're right, but I hate that system because it's so easier to miss the missing ending quotation mark and see it as a change of speaker, and thus confuse the reader. That's why I never use that system.

awnlee jawking

@tppm

To answer the first question, I personally would go with three paragraphs. I would also confirm the speaker of the second piece of dialogue because I'm anal about making sure readers don't have to think about such things.

However, from what I remember of your style, I don't think it would be the right solution for you.

Did your editor see this example? What did she think?

AJ

Bondi Beach

@tppm

Three paragraphs. There are two people communicating back and forth, you make a new paragraph for each person, so it should be:


Second that.

bb

Bondi Beach
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


I strolled on the sidewalk until a blinking red do-not-walk sign stopped me.


Funny, I think this is one case where the whole compound-word [!] thing doesn't apply

Everyone has seen and knows what a DON'T WALK or DO NOT WALK sign is, so it's a case where you can use the actual words, probably capitalized or italicized, but not set off in quotes. It's the same as a STOP sign.

bb

sejintenej

@Bondi Beach

Funny, I think this is one case where the whole compound-word [!] thing doesn't apply

Everyone has seen and knows what a DON'T WALK or DO NOT WALK sign is, so it's a case where you can use the actual words, probably capitalized or italicized, but not set off in quotes. It's the same as a STOP sign.
bb

NOT "Everyone has seen and knows what a DON'T WALK or DO NOT WALK sign is", It is American so for non Americans I would hyphenate it just like the "do-not-contact list". That way it is beyond clear to everyone.
Looking at it again, it is a stupid sign - do they really tell you not to walk along the sidewalk / pavement? I think you mean "do-not-cross-the-road". I wonder what our antipodean readers think

Replies:   Bondi Beach
tppm
Updated:

@Dominions Son

What if one speaker says something longer in an on-going conversation that comes to more then one paragraph?



Write the multi-paragraph monologue as multiple paragraphs, leaving the closing quotation marks off until the monologue ends or is interrupted. Following Aubie56's example.


BTW, looking at it more closely, it should still be separate paragraphs without describing Betty's actions.

"Tell me, just how many frogs have you kissed up to this point? That's what I thought. Not only can't you find anyone else, but you so want to be with Al, you can't spare any time looking for a substitute.

It needs something in the middle there, as two paragraphs:

"Tell me, just how many frogs have you kissed up to this point?

"That's what I thought. Not only can't you find anyone else, but you so want to be with Al, you can't spare any time looking for a substitute."

Even if the middle thing is implied. It's one side of a conversation otherwise.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@Bondi Beach

Everyone has seen and knows what a DON'T WALK or DO NOT WALK sign is, so it's a case where you can use the actual words, probably capitalized or italicized, but not set off in quotes.


I tried it in italics. Didn't look right.
I tried it in quotes. Didn't look right.
I tried it by capitalizing the first letters. Didn't look right.
I didn't think to capitalize all the letters. That might look right. I need to try it.

And now I'm wondering if it's "do not walk" or "don't walk." Probably the latter.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Switch Blayde

@Bondi Beach

wikipedia has this sentence:

At crossings controlled by signals, the most common variety is arranged like this: At each end of a crosswalk, the poles which hold the traffic lights also have white "walk" and Portland Orange "don't walk" signs.

So I guess it should be in quotes (I tried all caps and it was too bold looking.)

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Thanks, Switch, seeing your example on the [electronic] page make the point clear. I agree with Ernest and your point, but saw them as two legitimate options, rather than a single right/wrong decision.

Switch, I really dislike single-sentence paragraphs. (I see it as lazy writing.) Stringing together multiple single-sentence paragraphs just sets my teeth on edge. I think I side with Ernest on this, that the focus is on Delilah (the first speaker), and while Betty is acting (blushing), she's not actually saying anything.

Did your editor see this example? What did she think?


Awnlee, different story entirely. I'm sure I had a similar situation somewhere, but she deleted SO much text, I have to wander through the entire mess a line at a time before I'll know.

Though, I've got to admit, she was sneaky. Instead of marking all my serial quotes as errors--as she'd pointed out before--she simply reduced all my multiple point lists to single items, reducing my entire plot to a single suspect, a single action and a single motive. I was trying to present a chaotic environment which reflected the situation the character finds herself in, and she reduced it to sheer simplicity.

Funny, I think this is one case where the whole compound-word [!] thing doesn't apply.


Switch, I think I agree with Bondi in this case. It isn't a do-not-walk sign, it's a "DON'T WALK" sign (I've never seen "DO NOT WALK" either spelled out of written in mixed case).

On second thought, I also agree with Sejintenej. You've got no way of knowing which countries have "WALK"/"DON'T WALK" signs, or in which usages. Thus it makes no sense making it American citizen dependent. I'd go with "don't-walk sign" to avoid cultural confusion.

Switch, it's definitely "DON'T WALK". They reduced it to two words to make the message shorter, requiring smaller neon. As I said, I've never seen it spelled out in any of my travels (if the can't afford the electronics, they substitute red and green hand signs).

To All, when I asked, I doubted we'd find a complete consensus, but I think we've got enough of a plurality to feel comfortable with my initial approach. (I personally like interspacing dialogue with action tags to indirectly identify characters and speakers.) An action is an indirect tag, it's not dialogue, and it sure heads 23-straight "XXX said".

Thanks all, the discussion was appreciated.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Bondi Beach

@Switch Blayde

And now I'm wondering if it's "do not walk" or "don't walk." Probably the latter.


It's DONT WALK without the apostrophe

(see https://www.pinterest.com/pin/101260691598179974/)

but to keep the spelling weenies off your back you'd best include it.

bb

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Bondi Beach
Updated:

@sejintenej


NOT "Everyone has seen and knows what a DON'T WALK or DO NOT WALK sign is", It is American so for non Americans I would hyphenate it just like the "do-not-contact list". That way it is beyond clear to everyone.


Well, maybe, but I wonder, really truly, how many non-English-speaking Chinese die in NYC because they don't know not to cross when they see that sign. Really? I doubt it's a problem. EDIT: Any more than the problem of being run down by a taxi in the crosswalk, but that happens to everyone, without respect to language ability.

Much less of a problem than Americanos who die frequently in London and Sydney and other places where they drive on the wrong side of the road, not because they cross against the light but because they fail to LOOK RIGHT (just like it says on the sidewalk at their feet) when they step off the curb.

I don't know what a do-not-contact list is. In the U.S. perhaps you're thinking of the defunct Do-Not-Call list, hyphenated and capitalized according to the U.S. FCC. It's defunct because while it still exists there's no enforcement and it's widely ignored.

Ernest Bywater

@tppm

looking at it more closely, it should still be separate paragraphs without describing Betty's actions.


Both sections of dialogue relate to the same subject: Betty's personal relationships, thus it's one subject and one paragraph.

Replies:   Zom  tppm
Zom
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

do-not-walk sign

Should be "do not walk" sign, because you are quoting a written text, from the sign itself. And do-not-contact list is correct as a single hyphenated word because it is only describing the list, not quoting anything.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Bondi Beach

I don't know what a do-not-contact list is


Many organisations have a Do-not-contact list, often called a DNC list. It's a list of people associated with the organisation who no longer wish to be active members of the organisation, or no longer wish to active with the local chapter of the organisation. A lot of churches have such lists, the people don't wish to interact with the locals, but don't wish to be totally cut off, either. While with some churches it's the list of people wishing to be removed from the church's list of members but haven't yet pushed an official request through the system.

Zom
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

Both sections of dialogue relate to the same subject: Betty's personal relationships, thus it's one subject and one paragraph

Agree entirely. Also, there is no actual separated "conversation" in there, only one speaker, and one reaction.

richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

I suppose if the hyphen is omitted a high school student is intoxicated, probably with opiates or marijuana or perhaps just alcohol.

The same way free customer parking is parking for free customers. Assuming the free customers are not enslaved, escaped prisoners, or perhaps not married.

There is a reason you can get advanced University degrees in English. If it were easy, anyone could do it. If I wrote, if it was easy, I would have flunked. Although a lot of people who believe they speak English say if it was.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@richardshagrin


I suppose if the hyphen is omitted a high school student is intoxicated, probably with opiates or marijuana or perhaps just alcohol.


It all comes back to what is and isn't a noun and what is and isn't an adjective. School is most often a noun, as in primary school, grade school, high school, technical school, welding school, night school. In each case the word school is the noun and the word before it is an adjective. But when you wish to identify the student (the noun) goes to high school you have the change the word school from a noun to an adjective and the method for that is to make it a compound word with a hyphen. This is a common trick in English.

edit to add: compounding words with a hyphen can be used to make a compound adjective or a compound noun.

Switch Blayde

@Bondi Beach

It's DONT WALK without the apostrophe


I think what I meant by the "blinking red do not walk sign" wasn't DONT WALK (the actual sign). I meant a sign that told him not to walk. It could actually be a red blinking hand that means do not walk (but is still a do not walk sign).

Replies:   sejintenej
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Switch, I really dislike single-sentence paragraphs. (I see it as lazy writing.)


Nothing lazy about it. I think you try to tell the reader too much which is probably why your editor cut so much out. Sometimes less is better.

Replies:   Dominions Son
sejintenej

@Switch Blayde

I think what I meant by the "blinking red do not walk sign" It could actually be a red blinking hand that means do not walk (but is still a do not walk sign).

We have red and green stick men plus sound when it is OK to cross. Sometimes the green man is animated. The sidewalk is also ridged so blind people can feel the crossing waiting area through their shoes.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Sometimes less is better.


Sometimes it's not.

richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

Money, sex, applause more is better. Abuse, taxes, aches and pains less is better. SOL stories, more is better.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son


Sometimes it's not.


'Showing' is usually longer than 'telling'. Consider the alternatives to 'Betty blushed'...

AJ

Replies:   tppm
tppm

@Ernest Bywater

Both sections of dialogue relate to the same subject: Betty's personal relationships, thus it's one subject and one paragraph.


So, when one is relating half a telephone conversation, then it should all be one paragraph?

tppm

@awnlee jawking

'Showing' is usually longer than 'telling'. Consider the alternatives to 'Betty blushed'...


"Betty blushed" IS showing, "Betty was embarrassed" would be telling.

Ernest Bywater

@tppm

So, when one is relating half a telephone conversation, then it should all be one paragraph?


If you're showing only the one person speaking, yes, it can and should be the one paragraph until it gets to such a length it needs to be broken up for the same reasons a monologue is. I often have a single paragraph that only includes a number of statements on one side of the conversation and break them up with comments like 'he pauses to listen, then says' because there's only the one speaker.

Naturally, if you show both sides of the conversation you have to change paragraphs with the change of speaker.

Replies:   tppm
Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

I don't know what a do-not-contact list is. In the U.S. perhaps you're thinking of the defunct Do-Not-Call list, hyphenated and capitalized according to the U.S. FCC. It's defunct because while it still exists there's no enforcement and it's widely ignored.

Sorry, but a 'do-not-call list' is the thing you find on your email of cellphone, where you ban people from contacting you and put them in your 'junk' mail folder.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Crumbly Writer

@Zom

Should be "do not walk" sign, because you are quoting a written text, from the sign itself.

Except it's not! The neon signs specifically state "DONT WALK" (with no hyphen).

Replies:   Switch Blayde  Zom
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

Money, sex, applause more is better. Abuse, taxes, aches and pains less is better. SOL stories, more is better.

Except for incomplete SOL stories.

Crumbly Writer

@tppm

So, when one is relating half a telephone conversation, then it should all be one paragraph?

Technically, you can, but it helps to convey the time delay, so tossing in some actions helps to show their waiting for a chance to speak (it's not a telephone monologue, rather a conversation the reader only hears one side of).

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Except it's not! The neon signs specifically state "DONT WALK" (with no hyphen).


Actually it's not because I wasn't quoting the sign. I was referring to a do not walk sign which could be DONT WALK, a red hand, a red stick man, or maybe a circle around feet with a diagonal line (I made the last one up).

It wasn't until this discussion that I didn't even realize it.

tppm

@Ernest Bywater

If you're showing only the one person speaking, yes, it can and should be the one paragraph until it gets to such a length it needs to be broken up for the same reasons a monologue is. I often have a single paragraph that only includes a number of statements on one side of the conversation and break them up with comments like 'he pauses to listen, then says' because there's only the one speaker.

Naturally, if you show both sides of the conversation you have to change paragraphs with the change of speaker.


Bullshit! It's a conversation, and the rules for conversations apply. That the viewpoint character only hears one side of it is irrelevant.

Switch Blayde

@tppm

Bullshit! It's a conversation, and the rules for conversations apply. That the viewpoint character only hears one side of it is irrelevant.


I think I agree with Tim. The new paragraph indicates the person on the other end of the phone line said something even if the reader can't hear it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@tppm

It's a conversation, and the rules for conversations apply.


Only applies when you have both sides of the conversation and you have the back and forth of the spoken word. With only one side it's more like a monologue.

Ernest Bywater

The two keyfactors of a paragraph are the subject of the paragraph and if it is dialogue because dialogue paragraphs have an additional rule. In short, when the subject is the same it stays in the one paragraph; where this has a problem is many writers have issues working out or deciding what the subject is.

With dialogue the additional rule is when the words being spoken are by another character you have a new paragraph. It's very simple, a new person says something you have a new paragraph for their dialogue, but if they don't have any spoken words then there's no need for a new paragraph because there are no new spoken words.

So, back to the examples under discussion, only one person has dialogue in the example, thus the dialogue rules don't apply. The subject is the other person's behaviours and personal life, and the other person's physical responses to the words are on the same subject, thus the multiple speeches by the one character belong together as they have the same subject.

With a telephone conversation where only one side is heard the subject is the telephone conversation, not the words in it, thus they stay together as the one paragraph with a single subject.

Bondi Beach
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Sorry, but a 'do-not-call list' is the thing you find on your email of cellphone, where you ban people from contacting you and put them in your 'junk' mail folder.


Oh how I wish there existed such a thing for my landline. The Do-Not-Call list I'm thinking of is for landlines, where you list your phone number and, except for about three million different kind of organizations who have reason to call you, telemarketers are supposed to leave you alone. They did, sort of, for a year or so after it was implemented, but that was a long time ago. Now 9 out 10 calls we get are telemarketers, none of whom have any prior relationship with us to justify a call. The others are charities who get to bug you as much they wish.

Read all about it here:

https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/unwanted-telephone-marketing-calls

bb

Ernest Bywater

@Bondi Beach

telemarketers are supposed to leave you alone.


I'm an Australian living in Australia, if my son doesn't recognise the number he answers in Japanese - telemarketers quickly hang up because they don't speak Japanese and know it's a waste of time.

Replies:   sejintenej
Zom
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Except it's not! The neon signs specifically state "DONT WALK" (with no hyphen).

Then if you want to be accurate you should call it a "dont walk" sign. The point is that it should be quoted like a "stop" sign, or a "give way" sign etc. etc. If you aren't quoting what is on the sign then it should be described as a pedestrian traffic light or some such.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Bondi Beach


The Do-Not-Call list I'm thinking of is for landlines,


bb,

You're supposed to renew your do-not-call every couple of years. I've done that. However, as was previously mentioned, it's not enforced so the telemarketers do it anyway. I've even filed complaints, but never heard back from the government. And it's supposed to be for both landline and cell.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

Only applies when you have both sides of the conversation and you have the back and forth of the spoken word. With only one side it's more like a monologue.


Ernest,

I agreed with Tim because the side of the conversation you do not hear is implied. If you made it all one paragraph, you'd have to inject words to tell the reader the guy was listening and not speaking otherwise you'd never know when the other person was speaking.

Think of a movie when the character is on the phone. You see his pauses and know the other person is speaking. Starting a new paragraph is basically doing that.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


I think I agree with Tim. The new paragraph indicates the person on the other end of the phone line said something even if the reader can't hear it.


I had to stop and research how I handle my own phone conversations. Here's a sample from my most recent [unedited] sample:

Betty didn't bother responding, placing her call.

"Hello, Mom? This is Bett-"

"Hold on, let me at least finish speaking. We're both fine. We've been busy, as I'm sure you can tell, and there have been way too many disruptions. We turned our phones off to reduce our stress levels." She was silent, as someone on the other end carried on the conversation. "That would have been nice to know." More silence on Betty's part, followed by "Damn, I don't like the sound of that." Betty's face conveyed a range of emotions, worry, concern, happiness and relief, but anger wasn't one of the contenders. "Thanks Mom. This was important. I shouldn't need to tell you, but certain groups are after us. No, Mom, we haven't done anything, besides being in the right place to save a couple lives, but everyone's beginning to ask all the wrong questions, jumping to conclusions.


It seems that I do a mixture of the two. Once the initial conversation is interrupted from the far end, I use action tags to convey the time delays in the conversation (rather than saying "she paused while waiting").

Note: OK, rereading it, that's exactly what I'm doing. My 'action tags' aren't so much showing anything as they're telling the readers what's happening (though they still convey the time involved). But I don't break the one speakers paragraph for the response of a non-speaker.

This flies in the face of Tim's argument (that anything involving more than a single person (present or absent) is a conversation), but it illustrates my earlier point about an alternative way of conveying the silences in the conversation.

I'm not married to this position, so I'm eager to hear the conversation, but this is where I am at the moment, after years spent writing phone dialogues in cars (my character's, not mine).

The key, though, is the dialogue is between the speaker and a remote party, not between the speaker and the listener, which breaks all the standard rules about standard dialogue. In this case (at least in my opinion), the normal dialogue rules apply to the two people present (since they're the only ones the reader might be confused over). The action tags show the delays as well as Betty's reactions to what's been said.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

Oh how I wish there existed such a thing for my landline.

That's the reason why landlines are increasingly only used by old fogies like us. Most young people I know how no notion or use of landlines. It's another beta-tape to them.

Replies:   Joe_Bondi_Beach
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I agreed with Tim because the side of the conversation you do not hear is implied. If you made it all one paragraph, you'd have to inject words to tell the reader the guy was listening and not speaking otherwise you'd never know when the other person was speaking.

Switch, I'm interested in how you interpret my telephone dialogue alternative (using action tags instead to telling the reader that someone is "listening".

However, if you convince me that I'm in the wrong, it means I'll have to go back and change every single telephone conversation in about five different stories in different stages of development. groan!

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


However, if you convince me that I'm in the wrong,


You're not wrong. Again, it's whatever feels right to you.

I like dialogue to jump out at the reader. I do inject action sometimes, but not as often as others. I usually want the reader to listen to the words and only the words which is why it's best to avoid dialogue tags when you can. So I prefer:

"You're wrong," he said.

"I'm right!"

"Wrong!"

"Right!"

To me that's stronger than:

"You're wrong," he said.

She glared at him. "I'm right!"

John shook his head. "Wrong!"

She stamped her foot. "Right!"

So back to your paragraph, although it's correct, the reader has to dig out the dialogue. It doesn't pop. Which is okay if that's what you want. As I said, do what feels right for the situation.

I just think it's clearer (bolder) to start a new paragraph each time he speaks. As I said earlier, the new paragraph implies the other person has spoken.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Except, Switch, your example of how to write a one-person dialogue is to present a two-person dialogue? Clearly, your example doesn't factor in here. No one has suggested that all dialogue should be abandoned. Instead we're discussing how best to present distant third-party discussions.

I'm not saying that your technique is wrong, only that you aren't presenting your argument as concisely as you think you have.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
sejintenej

@Ernest Bywater

I'm an Australian living in Australia, if my son doesn't recognise the number he answers in Japanese - telemarketers quickly hang up because they don't speak Japanese and know it's a waste of time

I always answer "Allo" which could be any language; if I don't want the call I simply swear as fast as possible in a different language.

sejintenej
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


It's a conversation, and the rules for conversations apply.

Only applies when you have both sides of the conversation and you have the back and forth of the spoken word. With only one side it's more like a monologue.


Infinitely more complicated than that.

Look at yourself when you are in a conversation; you are looking at the eyes, the hands (or fists), the way the shoulders slump or go back; the foot taps or the speaker wanders around; starts sweating profusely; smiles, scowls: sight tells you a lot which the sounds do not whether or not you can hear the other side of a conversation. THEIR movements, attitudes, clues are what you can describe as someone in your presence takes a phone call or is in conversation at the other side of a crowded room.

Next think about what you ACTUALLY hear in a conversation. Assuming the language is your own or one you are confident in you actually process perhaps one word in three or four. Your brain works out what the other person is going to say but puts you on high alert when something different is said. Those assumptions by your brain account for messages being wrongly passed on.

Just a few ideas for more input into conversations

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer


"Hold on, let me at least finish speaking. We're both fine. We've been busy, as I'm sure you can tell, and there have been way too many disruptions. We turned our phones off to reduce our stress levels." She was silent, as someone on the other end carried on the conversation. "That would have been nice to know." More silence on Betty's part, followed by "Damn, I don't like the sound of that." Betty's face conveyed a range of emotions, worry, concern, happiness and relief, but anger wasn't one of the contenders. "Thanks Mom. This was important. I shouldn't need to tell you, but certain groups are after us. No, Mom, we haven't done anything, besides being in the right place to save a couple lives, but everyone's beginning to ask all the wrong questions, jumping to conclusions.


What POV is this - third party limited?

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Clearly, your example doesn't factor in here.


Sorry, I answered that earlier when I said the paragraph break implies the other person spoke (the one the reader can't hear).

The point I was making was now what do you do? Do you put a lot of words in to indicate the other person had spoken, or is it stronger for the reader to assume the other person spoke, even though they don't know what was said? I'll use the beginning of your large paragraph to illustrate.


"Hold on, let me at least finish speaking. We're both fine. We've been busy, as I'm sure you can tell, and there have been way too many disruptions. We turned our phones off to reduce our stress levels."

She was silent, as someone on the other end carried on the conversation. "That would have been nice to know," Mom said.

More silence on Betty's part, followed by "Damn, I don't like the sound of that."


That's breaking yours into multiple paragraphs. But I don't like the non-dialogue words added. In fact, was it silence? I got the impression Betty was talking. So I'd rather see it as:


"Hold on, let me at least finish speaking. We're both fine. We've been busy, as I'm sure you can tell, and there have been way too many disruptions. We turned our phones off to reduce our stress levels."

"That would have been nice to know," Mom said after Betty (replied or something else).

"Damn, I don't like the sound of that."


Now if Betty wasn't speaking, the way you wrote it is fine. But that's not what we've been discussing. We are talking about a phone conversation where you only hear one side.

Replies:   tppm  awnlee jawking
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


I agreed with Tim because the side of the conversation you do not hear is implied.


Switch,

I think this is another of those cases where we'll have to agree to disagree. Everything I've been taught or read on dialogue says you have a new paragraph to show what the other person says, if you don't show the words there's no need to have a new paragraph. That matches what I've been taught and read about the paragraph being on the one subject which is, in this case, the phone conversation by the character. This makes it easier to follow it's the one person speaking and saves space on the printed page. However, if you wish to do it in another matter, feel free, but don't get upset if readers get lost and don't understand the scenes well due to all the dialogue being by the one character.

edit to add; Having it as one paragraph is no different to having the film characters moving around and doing something while he talks to the other person and all they do is nod in reply at various points.

tppm

@Switch Blayde


"Hold on, let me at least finish speaking. We're both fine. We've been busy, as I'm sure you can tell, and there have been way too many disruptions. We turned our phones off to reduce our stress levels."

She was silent, as someone on the other end carried on the conversation. "That would have been nice to know," Mom said.

More silence on Betty's part, followed by "Damn, I don't like the sound of that."

That's breaking yours into multiple paragraphs. But I don't like the non-dialogue words added. In fact, was it silence? I got the impression Betty was talking. So I'd rather see it as:

"Hold on, let me at least finish speaking. We're both fine. We've been busy, as I'm sure you can tell, and there have been way too many disruptions. We turned our phones off to reduce our stress levels."

"That would have been nice to know," Mom said after Betty (replied or something else).

"Damn, I don't like the sound of that."

Now if Betty wasn't speaking, the way you wrote it is fine. But that's not what we've been discussing. We are talking about a phone conversation where you only hear one side.


In CW's original example "Mom" is on the other end of the line, we only hear what "Betty" says. In this you have "Mom" saying one of Betty's lines ("That would have been nice to know")

To break it up properly:

"Hold on, let me at least finish speaking. We're both fine. We've been busy, as I'm sure you can tell, and there have been way too many disruptions. We turned our phones off to reduce our stress levels."

She was silent, as someone on the other end carried on the conversation.

"That would have been nice to know."

More silence on Betty's part, followed by.

"Damn, I don't like the sound of that."

Betty's face conveyed a range of emotions, worry, concern, happiness and relief, but anger wasn't one of the contenders.

"Thanks Mom. This was important. I shouldn't need to tell you, but certain groups are after us. No, Mom, we haven't done anything, besides being in the right place to save a couple lives, but everyone's beginning to ask all the wrong questions, jumping to conclusions."

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Bondi Beach

@Switch Blayde

However, as was previously mentioned, it's not enforced so the telemarketers do it anyway.


Oh, we're all up-to-date-I checked, but haven't bothered for the past couple of years because it didn't make any difference, and hasn't since the late 1990s, more or less, and I've had the same experience as you in reporting.

Ernest, the speaking-Japanese idea is great, but our goal is not to answer the phone at all, so we don't. Except that we can't resist pausing whatever we're doing to listen to see if there's an actual person we want to talk to leaving a message. So I'm not sure what we're really gaining by using the answering machine to screen.

bb

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

Old Man with a Pen is a big fan of one-sided phone calls, a technique he uses to promote humour. In my opinion his look and feel are cleaner and more readily comprehensible than yours.

AJ

Replies:   tppm
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde


"That would have been nice to know," Mom said.


I believe that, like all the dialogue reported for that phone conversation, it was actually spoken by Betty, not Mom.

AJ

tppm

@awnlee jawking

Old Man with a Pen is a big fan of one-sided phone calls, a technique he uses to promote humour. In my opinion his look and feel are cleaner and more readily comprehensible than yours.

AJ


Bob Newhart's routine?

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Joe_Bondi_Beach

@Crumbly Writer

That's the reason why landlines are increasingly only used by old fogies like us


Heh. My sister, who is certainly approaching fogey status, upgraded to an iPhone a few months ago after years of complaining about her cheapie that (a) was too hard to operate and (b) she hated.

This is the woman so paranoid about her privacy that she asked me to run my duke-em and nuke-em (or whatever it's called) disk scrubber on her old laptop before she trashed (not donated) it.

bb

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@tppm

In CW's original example "Mom" is on the other end of the line, we only hear what "Betty" says.


You're right. It's Betty talking. She was interrupted in the first line but then continued on, sometimes waiting while her mother spoke.

I guess I don't like stuff like, "She was silent, as someone on the other end carried on the conversation."

I'd rather have something like, "She tapped her fingers on the counter while her mother spoke. Then she said, "..."

awnlee jawking

@tppm


Bob Newhart's routine?


I'm afraid that sank somewhere in the mid-Atlantic.

AJ

Replies:   tppm
Ernest Bywater

@Bondi Beach

So I'm not sure what we're really gaining by using the answering machine to screen.


You gain a lot. I know many people who use and answering machine to screen calls while at home. They let a message go to the machine if they don't wish to speak to that person at that time.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Ernest Bywater

@Joe_Bondi_Beach

disk scrubber on her old laptop before she trashed (not donated) it.


Joe, most tips recycle parts from computers and anything else they think can be made working and sold for cash. Safer to clean a drive before trashing it.

Years ago I was dumping several washing machines from an organisation because they had a design fault that resulted in frequent shorts to the outer case. When I took them to the dump I smashed them with a sledge hammer before tipping them off the back of the truck. The dump staff were mega pissed because they saw potential income being wasted by my actions. Once the item leaves the truck and hits the dump it's their property and I can't smash it, so I do it on the truck and then dump so no one else can get electrocuted by accident.

Bondi Beach

@Ernest Bywater

So I'm not sure what we're really gaining by using the answering machine to screen.

You gain a lot. I know many people who use and answering machine to screen calls while at home. They let a message go to the machine if they don't wish to speak to that person at that time.


Sure. Except that given the percentage of calls we know we don't want, we're kind of defeating the purpose by actually listening to her the caller's message, or the silence that signals a telemarketer waiting for someone to pick up, instead of ignoring the machine and checking later for real messages.

bb

Bondi Beach

@Ernest Bywater

Joe, most tips recycle parts from computers and anything else they think can be made working and sold for cash. Safer to clean a drive before trashing it.


Sure. Except that arguably most people, including my sister, don't need the military-grade-meets-USG-requirements-for-classified-information-removal setting the disk scrubber offered. (I did succeed in talking her down to the lower setting, which only took 6 or 8 hours instead of 16 or 24 or whatever.) I didn't need it either, and never used it myself.

As for the sledge hammer solution, a vet in a course I was taking a while ago told me they did the scrubbing first, then applied the sledge hammer at the end.

bb

bb

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

What POV is this - third party limited?

3rd person omni, just as ALL my stories are. I'm not where everyone keeps getting this 3rd person limited from, but that could be why my editor cut so much, thinking the entire book was 3rd limited.

When I was thinking about how I handle phone conversations, I went to my most recent, which probably wasn't my best choice. This version was mostly telling and requires several revisions to make it sound more natural (the descriptions, especially). I'll need to go back and check some of my revised and edited samples to see what my earlier examples are like.

Sorry, I answered that earlier when I said the paragraph break implies the other person spoke (the one the reader can't hear).

The point I was making was now what do you do? Do you put a lot of words in to indicate the other person had spoken, or is it stronger for the reader to assume the other person spoke, even though they don't know what was said? I'll use the beginning of your large paragraph to illustrate.

Switch, my complaint about your one example was that you used a two-person conversation to illustrate how to write a one-sided telephone conversation, so I was complaining it wasn't a clear example, not that you were wrong. I was just hoping for a better example.

I tending towards your multiple paragraphs at the moment, but I'd put in those extra tags to control the page. However, they're hardly perfect since they mention "silent", "waiting", and "listening.

I think I like sejintenej's suggestions better. By using alternate action tags showing Betty's reactions (biting her lip, holding the bridge of her nose, closing her eyes) would have better conveyed the passage of time as well as emphasizing her emotional reactions, making it more real for the reader.

I'll have to revise the whole passage to see how it works out.

Finally, ALL the words in my example were Betty's (since she was in another city hundreds of miles away). Betty's silence was supposedly temporary, but was mostly my TELLING what was happening. (That's the problem with using first-draft material in a discussion.)

Tim, you understood what I was trying to say.

Awnlee, I'll have to look up a few of Old Man with a Pen's stories to review how he conducted them.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Dominions Son

@Bondi Beach

As for the sledge hammer solution, a vet in a course I was taking a while ago told me they did the scrubbing first, then applied the sledge hammer at the end.


I've heard (in an urban legend sort of way, no idea if it's true) that the CIA grinds the individual hard drive platters down to dust.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

that the CIA grinds the individual hard drive platters down to dust.


I think they take the military option where the circuit board is removed and the rest is thrown into a furnace and melted down.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

Second Pass:

Betty didn't bother responding, placing her call.

"Hello, Mom? This is Bett-"

Her brows flared as she switched hands. "Hold on, let me at least finish speaking. We're both fine. We've been busy, as I'm sure you can tell. There have been way too many disruptions. We turned our phones off to reduce our stress." She chewed her lip and rolled her eyes. "That would have been nice to know." She leaned forward, drawing in her breath. "Damn, I don't like the sound of that." Betty's face conveyed a range of emotions, but anger wasn't one of them.

"Thanks Mom. This was important. I shouldn't need to tell you, but certain groups are after us. No, Mom, we haven't done anything, besides being in the right place to save a couple lives, but everyone's beginning to ask all the wrong questions, jumping to conclusions. Please, whatever you do, don't give these people more ammunition to use against us. I know you mean well, but you're liable to get us strung up instead of helping. We'll explain what we're facing once we understand it ourselves. Right now we're just trying to remain out of the limelight." Her mother continued debating the point, but Betty was firm. "No, Mom, it's not like that. But we've got to go, something's come up."

As she ended the call, her head fell back against the head rest as she closed her eyes and let out a long sign.

"Not an overly productive call?"

"No. Actually it was long overdue. It would have saved us a lot of trouble if we'd called before. But like everything else, whatever we do raises more questions than we can answer." She took another calming breath before relaying what happened.

Still more telling than I'd prefer, and I took a tepid approach to breaking the paragraph, breaking some while leaving others in place. I'm sure I'll have to play with this some more, but I still haven't arrived at a comfortable process to apply to all my literary 3rd-party phone conversations.

tppm

@awnlee jawking

@tppm

Bob Newhart's routine?

I'm afraid that sank somewhere in the mid-Atlantic.

AJ


30 to 40 years ago the American comic Bob Newhart, who was one of Carol Bernete's regular cast members, had a stand up routine in which he would present his audience with half of a telephone conversation.

Crumbly Writer

@tppm

30 to 40 years ago the American comic Bob Newhart, who was one of Carol Bernete's regular cast members, had a stand up routine in which he would present his audience with half of a telephone conversation.

Damn, I was around in those days and those shows were "Much Watch TV" (mainly because there was nothing else showing). Yet even I had no clue the reference. I was thinking it was a routine he used in his own TV show, years/decades later.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

By the way, there's only one speaker there, Betty never says anything, so I'm keeping to the 'one speaker per paragraph' rule.


And here's an example of how Dual Writer handles the same situation:

"Hey, Henry, if you're not exceptionally busy, come back over to the patio for a few minutes. We have some things we want to talk about." Tiny paused a minute, then said with a smile. "It's all good. You're gonna like what we're going to talk about."

Which is just like I've been saying all along and how you originally have it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@tppm

Thanks.

AJ

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer


3rd person omni, just as ALL my stories are.


Then why are you only giving us only one side of the phone call? 3rd person omni could give both sides and eliminate the misunderstandings and the formatting issues.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

And here's an example of how Dual Writer handles the same situation:

"Hey, Henry, if you're not exceptionally busy, come back over to the patio for a few minutes. We have some things we want to talk about." Tiny paused a minute, then said with a smile. "It's all good. You're gonna like what we're going to talk about."

Which is just like I've been saying all along and how you originally have it.

You're right, Ernest. But, I still dislike telling the reader what's happening. Shortening it makes it cleaner.

"... We have some things we want to talk about." Tiny paused, then smiled. "It's all good. You're gonna like what we'll talk about."

(Sorry, but I had to remove the double "going"/"gonna", it just annoyed me.)

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Then why are you only giving us only one side of the phone call? 3rd person omni could give both sides and eliminate the misunderstandings and the formatting issues.

Because the people the scene is dealing with are all in the same place. 3rd Omni says that the narrator knows what they're all thinking, but it doesn't justify jumping the scene to reveal what some unimportant third person is saying somewhere else. If it was essential to know Betty's mother's exact words, I could reveal it using 3rd Omni, but chose not be because I was focusing on the discussion between Betty and her friend, not between the incidental conversation between Betty and her mother.

(For context, her friend was the one prompting her to call her mother in the first place. The phone call was also foreshadowing future events, which I didn't want to give away yet.)

A complicated answer for a very straight forward question. 'D

richardshagrin

ET, phone home.

awnlee jawking

Something else that might be worth bearing in mind.

If you read a random cross-section of SOL stories, you'll find a number of the authors are either unaware of the 'one speaker per paragraph' convention or deliberately flout it. These are people who have enough confidence in their literary skills to share their work with us (for which they deserve our thanks, even if we don't like their stories).

So to presume that readers will use the assumption of 'one speaker per paragraph' to unravel a complex monologue or dialogue is not reader-friendly writing.

AJ

Replies:   tppm
tppm

@awnlee jawking

That's true, but, OTOH, there are also some who don't seem to have the concept of paragraphs internalized at all.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@tppm

Paragraphs are like parachutes. You need new ones every time you jump. Either to a new thought or out of an airplane.

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