Ten Things You Need To Know About Speech in Fiction

I felt I needed a refresher course on the writing of dialogue, so I gathered all my books on grammar and punctuation, threw myself on my bed and dug in!

The following ‘ten things you need to know about dialogue’ are as a result of studying and interpreting: Penguin Writer’s Manual, Grammar for Grown Ups, Can You Eat, Shoot & Leave? and Butcher’s Copy-Editing.

Also looked at a couple published novels, when I had a question that none of the books addressed.

I hope you find this helpful.

1)      ‘I love him, more than he’ll ever know.’

“I love him, more than he’ll ever know.”

You can indicate speech with either single or double quotation marks.

 

2)      A reporting verb is the verb that indicates how the speech was said i.e. shouted, whispered, mumbled.

 

3)      She whispered, “I love him, more than he’ll ever know.”

He mumbled, “I wish I’d never met you.”

Randy turned and shouted with all his might, “All who wish to challenge me, step forward!”

A comma must be placed after the reporting verb, when it comes before the speech. The full stop is placed at the end of the speech before the end quotation marks to indicate the end of the sentence.

 

4)      “I love him, more than he’ll ever know,” she whispered.

“I wish I’d never met you,” he mumbled.

“All who wish to challenge me, step forward!” Randy shouted.

When the reporting verb comes after the speech, the comma is placed before the end quotation marks; and the full stop after the verb to indicate the end of the sentence.

 

5)      “I love him,” she whispered, “more than he’ll ever know.”

“I wish,” he mumbled, “I’d never met you.”

“All who wish to challenge me,” Randy shouted, “step forward!”

When the reporting verb is placed in between the speech it is broken up by commas. A comma is placed before the end quotation marks of the first half of the speech and after the reporting verb. A full stop is then placed before the end quotation marks of the second half of the speech.

 

6)       “I love him,” she whispered, “more than he’ll ever know.”

“All who wish to challenge me,” Randy shouted, “step forward!”

When the first half of the speech is not a complete sentence, the second half begins with a small letter rather than a capital letter. Nouns and the pronoun ‘I’ are the exception to this rule - “I wish,” he mumbled, “I’d never met you.”

 

7)      “I love him,” she whispered, “more than he’ll ever know.”

“Perhaps it’s time you told him.”

“No. Let sleeping dogs lie.”

Speech belonging to a different character goes on a separate line

 

8)      “He looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘Don’t ever come back here.’ And I won’t”

‘He looked me dead in the eye and said, “Don’t ever come back here.” And I won’t’

When you are quoting speech within speech it is best to use both types of quotation marks

 

9)      “There is a place, three days from here, and it will have all the answers you seek. But no-one has ever returned from that place sane. Sometimes it is better to leave things as they are, sometimes it is best to remain ignorant.

“Ten years ago, I lost my wife to this yearning to know…everything. Why is ‘knowing’ so important? I won’t lose you too.”

If one character is speaking more than one paragraph, closing quotation marks are used only at the end of the final paragraph but there are opening quotation marks for each new paragraph.

 

10)   ‘I love him,’ she whispered, ‘more than he’ll ever know.’

Then she sighed and folded her legs underneath her, closing her eyes and praying oblivion was just around the corner.

After the speech, the subsequent narration goes on a separate line.

 

 

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