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Paragraph breaks

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

We've talked about this endlessly, but I'm unclear about the specifics of paragraph breaks (concerning only featuring a single character per paragraph).

My editor broke up my dialogue into the following paragraphs:

Em was heading for her apartment when she heard a door open behind her.

"Oh good, I caught you."

Em recognized the voice immediately.

"I hope you don't mind, but I let someone into your place today," Amanda continued. She was a pretty young thing, struggling to get her music career started. She had the brightest smile and a pleasant, positive attitude. She was also Em's "key pal."


I guess I understand that "Em recognized the voice immediately." reflects a different character's perspective, but in a third-person omni story, why should this be broken into a separate paragraph? After all, the comment about Em recognizing the voice is make by the narrator, just as the observations about Amanda's personality.

Wouldn't this passage be better as two paragraphs? I feel like it would be easier to read if the related information (Amanda's comments) were grouped together.

Where would each of you choose how to divide this dialogue (and observations)?

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I guess I understand that "Em recognized the voice immediately." reflects a different character's perspective, but in a third-person omni story, why should this be broken into a separate paragraph?


The reality is there's no grammar rule that requires it to be split up that way. However, some people teach that all dialogue should be as a separate paragraph of its own and totally divorced from all narrative. In the sample that's what it looks like the editor did and suggests she's one of the people who follow that line. This is a personal choice issue and not a grammar rule.

When you get into going through all the experts blogs on writing you'll find some agree with your editor, some will say it can be two paragraphs, and some will say it can be one paragraph. And it all comes down to personal choice.

The only hard and fast grammar rule on paragraphs in dialogue is not to have two speakers in the same paragraph, and is usually expressed as new speaker = new paragraph and it's because it's expressed this way some people feel all dialogue should be in a paragraph by themselves, but that isn't required.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  tppm
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

When you get into going through all the experts blogs on writing you'll find some agree with your editor, some will say it can be two paragraphs, and some will say it can be one paragraph. And it all comes down to personal choice.

That's what confused me. She (my editor) created a single sentence paragraph to isolate one narrator observation, but then left three such lines in another paragraph of dialogue (i.e. she's not consistent in her approach).

Since I dislike awkward single sentence paragraphs (at least one's which aren't single focus paragraphs, like an exclamation), I'd prefer grouping dialogue and observations into more logical groupings. I feel it makes for easier reading as all the relevant information is grouped together, instead of being broken into multiple paragraphs.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  tppm
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I'd prefer grouping dialogue and observations into more logical groupings. I feel it makes for easier reading as all the relevant information is grouped together, instead of being broken into multiple paragraphs.


I agree with you, and in the sample you gave I can see it as either all one paragraph, or split at the end of the first sentence so the new paragraph starts with the dialogue - for me, a lot would depend on the material before and after it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

for me, a lot would depend on the material before and after it.

Here's the additional material, after editing (note that the initial line is about the main character, while the last is Em's dialogue, which wouldn't fit into the other paragraphs:

Em was heading for her apartment when she heard a door open behind her.

"Oh good, I caught you."

Em recognized the voice immediately.

"I hope you don't mind, but I let someone into your place today," Amanda continued. She was a pretty young thing, struggling to get her music career started. She had the brightest smile and a pleasant, positive attitude. She was also Em's "key pal."

"Nah, that's why I gave you my spare key," said Em. "Who was it? A delivery guy? I wasn't expecting anything."

I'd prefer it as:

Em was heading for her apartment when she heard a door open behind her.

"Oh good, I caught you." Em recognized the voice immediately. "I hope you don't mind, but I let someone into your place today," Amanda continued. She was a pretty young thing, struggling to get her music career started. She had the brightest smile and a pleasant, positive attitude. She was also Em's "key pal."

"Nah, that's why I gave you my spare key," said Em. "Who was it? A delivery guy? I wasn't expecting anything."

Frankly, if it's all in one paragraph, there's no need for the "Amanda continued" comment, allowing me to drop that attribution entirely, changing it to "Amanda was a pretty young thing ...".

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  tppm
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Frankly, if it's all in one paragraph, there's no need for the "Amanda continued" comment, allowing me to drop that attribution entirely, changing it to "Amanda was a pretty young thing ...".


That's OK, however, I'd probably write it as:

Em was heading for her apartment when she heard a door open behind her. "Oh good, I caught you." Em immediately recognized Amanda's voice. "I hope you don't mind, but I let someone into your place today." Amanda was a pretty young thing, struggling to get her music career started. She had the brightest smile and a pleasant, positive attitude. And was also Em's 'key pal.'

"Nah, that's why I gave you my spare key," said Em. "Who was it? A delivery guy? I wasn't expecting anything."

............

I find all those 'she' words a bit too much that close together, and using the double quotes for 'key pal' makes it look like dialogue at first.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

and using the double quotes for 'key pal' makes it look like dialogue at first.

That was another of my editor's choices. "Key pal", as used here, is not a quote by anyone. No one said the term "key pal". It's instead a common term which readers not from a major American metropolitan area likely wouldn't recognize. (It was a common practice in Manhattan, where everyone used specially designed keys which couldn't be picked or even duplicated, which meant, if you lost your keys, you were out of luck and couldn't call a locksmith. Thus you had to rely on your neighbors to have a backup set.)

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

First, I would guess today's editors are not proficient in omniscient.

I would not have combined those paragraphs. In fact, I added one. However, I don't like dialogue when it's not clear who's speaking. So I would have written it as:

Em was heading for her apartment when she heard a door open behind her.

"Oh good, I caught you."

Em recognized Amanda's voice immediately.

"I hope you don't mind," Amanda continued, "but I let someone into your place today."

Amanda was a pretty young thing, struggling to get her music career started. She had the brightest smile and a pleasant, positive attitude. She was also Em's "key pal."

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

"Key pal", as used here, is not a quote by anyone.


I'd never heard it before, but worked out what it meant from the context. However, I saw it like a title or a nickname and that's why I put it in single quote marks, like you usually do for the name of a book or nickname etc. Some people don't use quotes at all, just italics for those situations, I sue single quotes and italics the first time it's used, then drop them. But double quotes are just wrong for that usage.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

But double quotes are just wrong for that usage.


Double quotes are fine. I wouldn't use single quotes at all (unless there's a quote within a quote). It could be italics, like a foreign word. But I'd probably do it the way your editor did it or simply have it like all the other words.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

On second thought, I'd probably do it as:

Em was heading for her apartment when she heard a door open behind her.

"Oh good, I caught you." Em recognized Amanda's voice immediately. "I hope you don't mind, but I let someone into your place today."

Amanda was a pretty young thing, struggling to get her music career started. She had the brightest smile and a pleasant, positive attitude. She was also Em's "key pal."

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

Double quotes are fine.


The reason I wouldn't use the double quotes is it looks like more dialogue and you have to stop and think about it to realise it's not Amanda saying something else. You shouldn't need to have to think about it that much, it should just read with the meaning quickly clear.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


She was also Em's "key pal."


That can't be dialogue. I don't want to reopen the disagreement we had before, but dialogue has unique punctuation rules.

"key pal" can't be dialogue in that sentence.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

That can't be dialogue. I don't want to reopen the disagreement we had before, but dialogue has unique punctuation rules.


which 99% of readers have no constructive knowledge of.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son


which 99% of readers have no constructive knowledge of.


I believe most people have at least a basic reading comprehension. So who would be saying "key pal"?

Here it is again:


She was also Em's "key pal."


In that sentence, who would be saying "key pal"?

sejintenej

@Switch Blayde

Switch Blayde wrote:

She was also Em's "key pal."

In that sentence, who would be saying "key pal"?


I would like to hope that you are querying the double inverted commas. The writer has a problem here in pushing the two common words together to create a single quasi noun. In the original the meaning is absolutely clear; Amanda is the pal (friend) of Em and is entrusted by Em to hold the key. I have seen this done with single inverted commas and elsewhere with italics; you pays your money and takes your choice.
It's all about clarity

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I would guess today's editors are not proficient in omniscient.

Her confusion of the use of Omni threw me. I wrote it, as I do all my stories, as 3rd person omni. However, after considering it for a couple months, I now realize that perspective is a relative thing. It's what's in the story that counts, not one's intents.

The entire story revolves around the main character, so it comes across as 3rd person omni limited (limited to the main character), so every time I describes the motivations of the other characters, she ripped them out, leaving the story with one dimensional characters.

What I gathered from this, is that if you write a 3rd person omni, you've got to constantly announce it to your readers by continually reporting what everyone is thinking throughout the story, less they forget. Sigh! Writing to counter reader expectations and assumptions is really exhausting!

As for it not being clear who's speaking, the reason why I combined the paragraphs is because it's clear the entire passage is about Amanda and no one else. Even though it mentions Em (the MC), it's about her recognizing Amanda. But you're right, Switch, shifting the observations about her to a separate paragraph does read better.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

The reason I wouldn't use the double quotes is it looks like more dialogue and you have to stop and think about it to realise it's not Amanda saying something else. You shouldn't need to have to think about it that much, it should just read with the meaning quickly clear.

I agree with Ernest's thinking, but from a different perspective. I reserve double quotes for actual quotes from someone. I typically use single quotes for a movie or theater title (ex: 'Godfather'), so why would I apply it to a concept?

However, I assumed no one other than New Yorkers would recognize the term, so I presented it like that so they'd recognize it as a regional usage, and I defined it for them in the next line.

@Switch

In that sentence, who would be saying "key pal"?

I'm confused, Switch. Are you suggesting I switch back to single quotes, or drop the quotes entirely (leaving the fact it's a regional usage up to the readers to figure out on their own)?

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

In the original the meaning is absolutely clear; Amanda is the pal (friend) of Em and is entrusted by Em to hold the key. I have seen this done with single inverted commas and elsewhere with italics; you pays your money and takes your choice.
It's all about clarity

Thanks, Sejintenej, that makes me feel more confident about my usage. Using double quotes is clearly wrong, as it's not a quote, but not using single quotes is also wrong, as it leaves the readers floundering.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I'm confused, Switch. Are you suggesting I switch back to single quotes,


No no. I was responding to someone who said 99% of the people don't know punctuation rules. I don't agree with that, but my point was you don't have to know punctuation rules to know that's not dialogue. All it takes is basic reading comprehension. There's no way "key pal" is dialogue in that sentence.

I was born and raised in NYC and never heard the term "key pal."

I don't know about other style guides, but a movie title, book title, etc. are in italics not single quotes. A short story, article, etc. are in double quotes.

Single quotes are reserved for quotes within quotes.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

The entire story revolves around the main character, so it comes across as 3rd person omni limited (limited to the main character), so every time I describes the motivations of the other characters, she ripped them out, leaving the story with one dimensional characters.


There is no such thing as 3rd-person omniscient limited. There's 3rd-person omniscient (POV of an omniscient narrator) or 3rd-person limited (POV of one of the characters or more than one (sometimes called limited multiple)).

My guess is your editor did not understand omniscient so any time the omniscient narrator was getting into another character's head she thought it was head-hopping. Of course this assumes you did omniscient correctly and never got into any character's head directly.

What I gathered from this, is that if you write a 3rd person omni, you've got to constantly announce it to your readers by continually reporting what everyone is thinking throughout the story, less they forget.


No, you never announce it to your readers. They should know right up front. What I read is you establish the omniscient narrator as soon as possible so the reader knows it's omniscient. But that's the academic rule. I doubt if most people would know the difference between limited and omniscient.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

No, you never announce it to your readers. They should know right up front. What I read is you establish the omniscient narrator as soon as possible so the reader knows it's omniscient. But that's the academic rule. I doubt if most people would know the difference between limited and omniscient.

I believe my stories are clearly 3rd person omni, just from the style I use, though I never explicitly state "I remember when ...", or "I was told".

I suspect you're right. I keep trying to give this idiot editor credit, despite her giving me fairly consistent bad advice. She did a good job, as I'm keeping the majority of her suggestions, but when she goes off base, she goes way off into left field!

tppm
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

I stopped reading Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" because I couldn't take it's paragraph breaks any more. They (I don't know whether it was Mr. Conrad or the publisher who did it) had a paragraph break every 20 or so lines, whether it was needed or not, with the only concession to content being that they didn't break in the middle of a sentence.

BTW I agree with CW's editor. Every time the action character changes, whether they are speaking or not, should be a new paragraph.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

I believe most people have at least a basic reading comprehension.


True, but no one is taught anything about special rules for punctuating dialog in any English course below college level creative writing courses.

In that sentence, who would be saying "key pal"?


No one, which is why it shouldn't be in double quotes.

Dominions Son

@sejintenej

The writer has a problem here in pushing the two common words together to create a single quasi noun.


it isn't a quasi noun, its a compound noun. If the writer is uncomfortable leaving it as two words without scare quotes or italics, it should probably be hyphenated, key-pal.

Replies:   sejintenej  sejintenej
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

No no. I was responding to someone who said 99% of the people don't know punctuation rules.


I did not say that 99% of people don't know punctuation rules. I said that 99% of people don't know that there are special rules of punctuation for dialog there is a difference.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
tppm

@Crumbly Writer

That's what confused me. She (my editor) created a single sentence paragraph to isolate one narrator observation, but then left three such lines in another paragraph of dialogue (i.e. she's not consistent in her approach).


She seems to be following the rule as understand it. The final paragraph in your example is all Amanda, and so one paragraph. Starting with Em you have two actors alternating their actions, with each change of actor being a new paragraph.

sejintenej

@Dominions Son


it isn't a quasi noun, its a compound noun.

OK, so I didn't get advanced edicashun like you - at least you worked out what I meant. Equally 'key pal' might be from part of New York but putting the two words together {italics}in context{/italics} made it easy to understand.

Replies:   Dominions Son
tppm
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Why did Em change her name to Amanda between recognizing the voice and continuing? And whose voice did she recognize, and what did they say?

In this layout there is one speaker, Em, who is called Amanda once, presumably by mistake.

@Ernest Bywater


"I hope you don't mind, but I let someone into your place today." Amanda was a pretty young thing, struggling to get her music career started.


OK I got confused here in the original. I missed the lack of quotation marks around "She was a pretty... etc." and thought Amanda was describing the person she'd let in.

Crumbly Writer

@tppm

Why did Em change her name to Amanda between recognizing the voice and continuing? And whose voice did she recognize, and what did they say?

In this layout there is one speaker, Em, who is called Amanda once, presumably by mistake.

I'm sorry, tppm, but I can't agree. The statement about Em recognizing the voice wasn't an action by Em, but a comment by the narrator, just as the comments of Amanda's looks are. There's a big difference between narrator descriptions and character comments and actions.

Replies:   tppm
Crumbly Writer

OK I got confused here in the original. I missed the lack of quotation marks around "She was a pretty... etc." and thought Amanda was describing the person she'd let in.

That's why I said I preferred the way Switch broke it into a separate paragraph, though it leaves the attribution dangling (I never reinserted it after removing it earlier).

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

I did not say that 99% of people don't know punctuation rules. I said that 99% of people don't know that there are special rules of punctuation for dialog there is a difference.


Like a comma splice or a run-on sentence, or when the verb is missing. I don't think you give readers the credit they deserve.

sejintenej

@Dominions Son

it isn't a quasi noun, its a compound noun.

OK so I did science, not language and I didn't have a chance to go to what you call college. The important thing is that you worked out what I meant just as I was able to work out the New York patois.

I still argue that an author should be able to write whatever he wants so long as, in one way or another, the reader can readily understand his/her output. That last is far more complex than it looks - we had a brainstorming session when a Spanish guest was given as homework a sentence written in English and she was told to work out the meaning. The sentence was about as long as the previous one and we got about 20 possible meanings because English is a tonal language.

Switch Blayde

@tppm

In this layout there is one speaker, Em, who is called Amanda once, presumably by mistake.


Em never spoke. Amanda spoke and the omniscient narrator "spoke."

Dominions Son
Updated:

@sejintenej


OK, so I didn't get advanced edicashun like you

Edited:

I have not ever claimed an advanced education in language, however I do a lot of reading and what I have seen in local and national press in the US, the most common approach with compound nouns is hyphenation.

To me, scare quotes makes it look like the writer is questioning the validity of the term. Scare quotes are a indicator of sarcasm.

Personally, I don't think the term key pal is that hard to understand even left as two words.

It's more of an apartment living thing than a New York thing. It's not a common term, but I have heard it used in the mid-western states.

You have someone in another apartment in the same building (or complex) that you leave a spare key with for emergencies and/or so they can water the plants or feed the cat while you are away on vacation.

tppm
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

How is recognition not an action?

@Switch Blayde

Em never spoke. Amanda spoke and the omniscient narrator "spoke."


And that's clear the way the editor broke it up.

Dominions Son

@tppm

And that's clear the way the editor broke it up.


I think it's perfectly clear the way CW prefers it.

Crumbly Writer

@tppm

How is recognition not an action?

When it's not made by the person mentioned, but by the narrator. The problem is the editor never grasped the story was told in 3rd person omni, which she doesn't seem to comprehend.

If it said, "Em responded to the question, spinning around," I'd agree with you. But Em never responded in either words or action.

Replies:   tppm
tppm
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


@tppm

How is recognition not an action?



When it's not made by the person mentioned, but by the narrator. The problem is the editor never grasped the story was told in 3rd person omni, which she doesn't seem to comprehend.

If it said, "Em responded to the question, spinning around," I'd agree with you. But Em never responded in either words or action.


It clearly says "Em recognized the voice." that's Em doing the recognizing. If it had said "I (your omniscient narrator) recognized the voice." I'd agree with your assessment here.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@tppm


It clearly says "Em recognized the voice." that's Em doing the recognizing.


Tim,

An omniscient narrator is telling the story. One thing I don't like about omniscient is it's more telling because, well, the narrator is telling you what everyone is doing and thinking.

So the narrator is telling the reader that Em recognized the voice.

Replies:   tppm
tppm
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Agreed, that's how the reader knows Em recognized the voice, but the action of recognizing the voice is Em's, not the narrator's, nor Amanda's, thus requiring a new paragraph.

Crumbly Writer

@tppm

the action of recognizing the voice is Em's, not the narrator's, nor Amanda's, thus requiring a new paragraph.

Switch is correct. 3rd person is more telling than showing. If Em had responded, jerking back or nodding, then I could see it as her acting. But it's not. It's an unidentified person telling you how what she observed.

Switch Blayde

@tppm

Tim,

Yes, the action is Em's. The narrator is telling the reader how she reacted.

But I wouldn't put it in another paragraph. I like it this way:

"Oh good, I caught you." Em recognized Amanda's voice immediately. "I hope you don't mind, but I let someone into your place today."


because the narrator is inserting what happened in the middle of Amanda's dialogue. But there's no right or wrong. Whatever feels right to the author is the way he should do it.

Replies:   tppm
tppm
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Seeing that cold, and particularly as it's taken out of context, I would interpret that as:

Amanda says something not recorded here.

"Oh good, I caught you," Em says, recognizing Amanda's voice immediately. "I hope you don't mind, but I let someone into your place today."

And I still see recognition, by itself, as an action, especially if it's 3rd omni, or even 3rd limited with Em as the veiwpoint character, as those allow the narrator to see in Em's head.

And, of course, the narrator is telling the reader how Em reacted, just as he's telling the reader what Amanda said, and later, what Amanda looks like and what her relationship to Em is (key pal). Telling is the only tool he has as he's relating the story in words.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@tppm

Seeing that cold, and particularly as it's taken out of context, I would interpret that as:

Amanda says something not recorded here.

That's partly covered by context. The scene occurs at the beginning of the chapter. Em's just run up the stairs and is heading for her apartment, so it's clear there's no one else there. She hears a door opening, turns and ... I can't imagine anyone thinking someone not present in the story is talking.

Replies:   tppm
tppm
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

And that has to do with whether someone recognizing a voice is, in and of itself, an action or not, how?

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

"key pal" can't be dialogue in that sentence.


Switch I didn't say it had to be dialogue, I said at first glance it looked like dialogue and that can be confusing. The whole idea is to not have any confusion. Which is why I make sure all my dialogue is the only thing that looks like dialogue.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

Which is why I make sure all my dialogue is the only thing that looks like dialogue.


Ernest, I use italics for internal dialogue (thoughts). But I also use italics to emphasize a word (it can also be used for a foreign word, but I don't typically use foreign words). So I assume when a reader sees a word in italics he doesn't assume it's internal dialogue.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Ernest, I use italics for internal dialogue (thoughts). But I also use italics to emphasize a word (it can also be used for a foreign word, but I don't typically use foreign words). So I assume when a reader sees a word in italics he doesn't assume it's internal dialogue.

I occasionally use italics to emphasize how certain words are stressed during conversation, so I was worried highlighting a particular term would be interpreted as the term's delivery. I thought single quotes would distinguish it from a quote and show it as a regional usage. The next-best option would probably be hyphenation, rather than italics. But I'm still not sure it's entirely needed. According to most responses here, the meaning is fairly clear from the limited context.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


I use italics for internal dialogue


Switch, I also use italics for thoughts (didn't always, but do now). I also use italics and single quotation marks for the first time I use a nickname and also for the first time I use a formal name for of an object or a book title. This way I leave the double quotation marks for just dialogue because most readers' first thoughts on seeing the double quotation marks is it's dialogue. Thus I have things like:

Mike thought, I hope he likes the story.

Fred 'Hoppy' Levit - Hoppy being his nickname

Fred gave Jim his copy of 'Tom Sawyer' to read.

Joe went for a ride on the 'Southern Belle' because he'd not been on a riverboat before.

Jim said, "Go away!"

this way the formatting helps with the identification of the text.

sejintenej
Updated:

@tppm


And, of course, the narrator is telling the reader how Em reacted, just as he's telling the reader what Amanda said, and later, what Amanda looks like and what her relationship to Em is (key pal). Telling is the only tool he has as he's relating the story in words.


I am worried about the use of the word "react" in this; it implies a movement, a raising of the eyes, a change in voice and certainly something a trained observer (at least) would notice. Recognising a voice does not implicitly imply any movement; the author is simply clarifying for the reader that she knew who Amanda was.
I can see that there might be questions from the intelligensia about that insertion within the speech but for me it works as written.

Replies:   tppm
tppm
Updated:

@sejintenej

The reaction is entirely within Em's head, recognition is, IN AND OF ITSELF, a reaction.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@tppm

The reaction is entirely within Em's head, recognition is, IN AND OF ITSELF, a reaction.

So you're telling me, if I wrote the following paragraph:

Sally recognized the tune. Sam sang along.

that it would require two separate paragraphs because it includes two different actions by two different characters?

Sorry, but I don't buy that. The common element in the paragraph is the music, not Sally's actions. These are narrator descriptions, and have nothing to do with character speech. (The rules about 'one character/one paragraph' are dialogue guidelines.)

Replies:   tppm
tppm

@Crumbly Writer

If I were writing it, it would be two paragraphs.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@tppm


If I were writing it, it would be two paragraphs.


If I was reading it, I would prefer CW's version over yours.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

If I was reading it, I would prefer CW's version over yours.

The nice thing is, it's a style difference, not dictated by any "Rules", meaning we can each use what we think best. Few are likely to call us on it (unless we're clearly ignorant on a particular subject) and the style differences help define you as an author.

Crumbly Writer

Tppm, I'm curious. What do you think of the following (from a new chapter in a new story):

"It's tricky passing over this uneven terrain," Delilah advised, as Lamar and Mui lifted Al's gurney. "We've marked out the safest path. Beyond that, it's up to Xi to figure out where we're going."

Would you break the first line into two separate paragraphs (since it involves actions by people other than the speaker)?

I feel secure leaving it as I wrote it, as the actions by Lemar and Mui are only mentioned to give an indication of the sequence of events (what was happening as Delilah was speaking), but I'm curious how far you take the 'one speaker/one paragraph' guideline?

Replies:   sejintenej  tppm
sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

Tppm, I'm curious. What do you think of the following (from a new chapter in a new story):

"It's tricky passing over this uneven terrain," Delilah advised, as Lamar and Mui lifted Al's gurney. "We've marked out the safest path. Beyond that, it's up to Xi to figure out where we're going."

Would you break the first line into two separate paragraphs (since it involves actions by people other than the speaker)?

As a reader I would be happy with that with a minor proviso. I do not like overlong paragraphs - I like to pause and reflect on what I have read so if this was simply a part of a two screen paragraph then I would be unhappy

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

I do not like overlong paragraphs - I like to pause and reflect on what I have read so if this was simply a part of a two screen paragraph then I would be unhappy

A three sentence paragraph is overly long? The longest sentence in the paragraph is 16 words, well below my 'rethink the sentence' limit. I'll admit, though, that the reference to the others (Lamar and Mui) means the one sentence has two different topics/subjects, which makes it harder to read.

tppm
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

It's fine as is, except that it should be clearer that it's still Delilah talking in the second quote. Or, if it isn't still Delilah, the speaker should be identified, and it should be a new paragraph.

Conversely, rearrange it slightly:

While Lamar and Mui lifted Al's gurney, Delilah advised, "It's tricky passing over this uneven terrain. We've marked out the safest path. Beyond that, it's up to Xi to figure out where we're going."

richardshagrin
Updated:

@tppm

"Advised" versus "Said"? Or have we already beaten that to death?

"Good advice, good advice, costs you nothing and worth the price." Is the statement Delilah makes advice?

"Read stories on SOL" is advice. A prescription that will make your life better in some way. Most comments are not "advice".

Crumbly Writer

@tppm

It's fine as is, except that it should be clearer that it's still Delilah talking in the second quote. Or, if it isn't still Delilah, the speaker should be identified, and it should be a new paragraph.

The fact it's the same paragraphs shows it's the same speaker. That's why I'll often replace dialogue tags with actions (by the speaker). The placing of the tag, and the subsequent action, was intended to slow Delilah's speech, so it feels more natural. She mentions how difficult the passage is, helps with the gurney, then continues describing what they're plans are (separating the problem statement and the solution).

By the way, I'm not expecting readers to know the rules of English in this case, but most readers have read enough to recognize that you don't mix speakers in the same paragraph (except in special cases, which we've discussed in the past).

Perv Otaku

TL;DR on the thread, but as to the block of text in the first post, if it were me writing I would have rendered that all as one paragraph.

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