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Another paragraph question

Switch Blayde
Updated:

I just wrote some complex dialogue because while Jenna is talking to Cory on the phone, her friend tries to take the phone away from her. So she's talking to two people in the same paragraph. Does what I wrote work?

btw, a few things up front:

1. because of the dialogue that precedes this paragraph, it's known that Jenna is the speaker in this paragraph without needing a dialogue tag.

2. When she's interrupted saying, "You're coming-" it is NOT "cumming."

3. It's written in 1st-person from Cory's POV.

4. the - is an em-dash that the forum software converted to hyphen

So here's the paragraph:

"Oh my god! You're coming-" I heard Jenna screaming away from the phone. "No! No! Stop that!" And then, with a rushed voice, she spoke to me again. "Cory, I have to go. Steph says I'm too loud. Everyone's watching me 'cause of my dad so I have to go. Please come home soon. Please. Please. Love you." She hung up.

Ernest Bywater

Switch, I see no actual problems with what you have. However, what I'd likely do with it is to change the second sentence a little to make a it a bit clearer she's talking away from the phone. Something like:

"Oh my god! You're coming-" Jenna sounded a little softer while screaming away from the phone to someone else. "No! No! Stop that!" And then it was louder when she spoke to me again in a rushed voice. "Cory, I have to go. Steph says I'm too loud. Everyone's watching me 'cause of my dad so I have to go. Please come home soon. Please. Please. Love you." She hung up.

Crumbly Writer

I'm still a little hung up on the 'one person'/'one paragraph' idea. In the previous question (mine), the one speaker was the crowd of reporters, so it made sense including multiple voices in one paragraph, as the character couldn't differentiate them. However, here, it's clear who each person is, and as such, they each need a separate paragraph.

However, I'm thoroughly confused in the paragraph, as I can't figure out who the two speakers are? Cory on one end of the phone and Jenna on the other, or Jenna, who screams at someone else, or Jenna and someone screaming at her (for shouting). The entire paragraph is confusing. Without knowing who's doing what, it's difficult to advice you on this. Out of the scenarios I painted, only one actually features two speakers in the same paragraph (Cory doesn't count, as she never says anything).

I'd also beef it up by describing the different sound volumes (from those distant, or when the phone is held away from their bodies). That would help the reader figure out the physical actions on the far side. I'm also fond of including em-dashes mid-word, to emphasize that the speech in interrupted (in case the readers don't get it from the punctuation), though that's hardly necessary.

One little nit: it should be "Oh, my God!". No one worships minor deities. Everyone knows which deity you're referring to, so you should capitalize it. Also, there's punctuation between the exclamation "Oh", and the curse. But that doesn't really change the paragraph.

It also sounds like your confusion isn't over whether two people are speaking in the same paragraph, as much as it is a timing issue: both are speaking at nearly the same time, which is a different problem.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

There's only one person speaking -- Jenna.
She's talking to Cory, then Steph, then back to Cory.

As to "Oh, my God!" I purposely didn't capitalize "god." It's an expression and not referring to THE God.

As to the comma, it depends on how the character said it. Did she put the emphasis on "oh"? Then I'd put in the comma. But if she said it as 3 quick words, like omg, then there's no comma.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde
Updated:

I guess it doesn't work to show a paragraph out of context when you're asking if it's clear. Here's what led up to that paragraph:

---------------------------------------------------

That night I sat in front of the television in my motel room like every night before. My life was washing dishes and watching television. I was supposed to play college baseball. Maybe professional. If not, I would be an engineer and build things or a scientist and win the Pulitzer. The phone ringing brought me out of my thoughts. I thought it was my mother, but as soon as I heard "Cory" I knew it was Jenna.

"Where are you?" I asked, my heart beating twice as fast as it had been.

"I'm at Steph's. I'm using her phone."

"Why haven't you called?"

"Couldn't. I'm never alone. Dad has someone watching me all the time. This was the first chance I had. Cory, I miss you so much."

"I miss you too."

"Then come home."

"You know-"

"Listen to me," she said. I heard the pleading in her voice. "I tried it your way. I really did. But that didn't work so you need to come back. I can't live without you. You're my whole life."

"But-"

"But what? People here hate you? I don't. I love you. We'll be together, have each other. Isn't that what matters? To be together?"

I hated my life. The only reason for living was Jenna. I had traded one lousy life for another, and in doing so lost her.

"Okay," I said.

"You mean it! Oh, Cory, thank you! Thank you! When?"

"I'll tell Buster tomorrow."

"Who's Buster?"

"My boss."

"Oh my god! You're coming-" I heard Jenna screaming at someone. "No! No! Stop that!" And then, with a rushed voice, she spoke to me again. "Cory, I have to go. Steph says I'm too loud. Everyone's watching me 'cause of my dad so I have to be careful. I have to go. Please come home soon. Please. Please. Love you." She hung up.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

There's only one person speaking -- Jenna.
She's talking to Cory, then Steph, then back to Cory.

In that case, I'd try:

"Oh my god! You're coming--" Jenna paused, covering the phone as she screamed at someone else. "No! No! Stop that!" Continuing, he rushed to conclude the call. "Cory, I have to go. Steph says I'm too loud. Everyone's watching me 'cause of my dad so I have to go. Please come home soon. Please. Please. Love you." She hung up.

It needs some action to ease the transition (to avoid the confusion over who's screaming at whom).

The guideline about 1-person/1-paragraph concerns the speaker, not the subject. I run into this all the time with my larger casts. One man will issue a set of instructions, telling which groups what to do when. It's all one conversation and one topic, issuing instructions to the group. In this case, she's trying to handle a conversation, but is too busy to spend any time at it. It's perfectly fine to include it in a single paragraph. Breaking it up wouldn't buy you anything.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Jenna paused, covering the phone as she screamed at someone else.


It's written in 1st-person. Cory could not know she covered the phone.

And she didn't, nor pause. I was trying to show it was frantic. Cory wouldn't know it, but I, as the author, saw the scene where Steph grabbed for the phone.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

btw, would you capitalize French in french fries or Russian in Russian dressing?

tppm
Updated:

Since all he KNOWS is what he's hearing, unless it's his actions, leave everything he's assuming out, making it:

"Oh my god! You're coming-" then Jenna screamed, "No! No! Stop that!" then, with a rushed voice, "Cory, I have to go. Steph says I'm too loud. Everyone's watching me 'cause of my dad so I have to be careful. I have to go. Please come home soon. Please. Please. Love you." She hung up.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

It's written in 1st-person. Cory could not know she covered the phone.

Understood, but I was looking for a more clear demarcation between who she's speaking to (and you can tell, by the sound of someone's voice, what they're doing with their phone. You don't have to physically see it).

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Understood, but I was looking for a more clear demarcation between who she's speaking to (and you can tell, by the sound of someone's voice, what they're doing with their phone. You don't have to physically see it).


Aha, that's because you want to tell the reader what you know (your omniscient narrator). As I said, I visualized what Jenna and Steph were doing -- what Cory couldn't see. Will the reader see it the way I did? Some might. Some might visualize it another way. That's one of the beauties of showing (vs telling). You let the reader make the story theirs.

Switch Blayde

@tppm

then Jenna screamed, "No! No! Stop that!" then, with a rushed voice,


Yes, that works. It's even less telling.

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