Basic Dialogue Format for Narrative
When characters speak, their exact language should be in quotes, and the reader should know who’s speaking, thus these rules:
- Each speaker gets his or her own paragraph; a return and indent. This mimics real conversation, indicating pauses and so forth.
- Attributions (“He said, “She said” and variations) should be used, but not too much, and varied so they’re not repetitious; they can be used at the start of quotes, in the middle, or at the end. When attributions are overused, they get in the way; the key is that the reader should always know who’s speaking.
- Always use a comma after attribution (She said,) when introducing a quote.
When I was eight, my father dragged me into my bedroom after I lit a folded pile of his shirts on fire. I sat on the edge of the bed, not looking up, my hands folded mannerly in my lap.
“What’s wrong with you?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You lit my shirts on fire, boy? Where’d you learn that?”
“What? Daycare? You learned how to light shirts on fire at daycare?”
I froze and looked up the ceiling, trying to backtrack. I actually learned how to light matches by watching him light his pipe, but I couldn’t tell him that.
“A kid brought matches one day. I told him matches were bad.”
“I’m calling your daycare.”
“No,” I said. Okay, I screamed it, and he scowled at me.
“Tell me the truth, lad.”
I took a deep breath and let is slide out: “I hate your shirts, Dad.”
There are two types of dialogue: direct and indirect
Direct dialogue is speech using the character’s exact words. In this case, quotation marks are used.
Indirect dialogue is a second-hand report of something that was said or written but NOT the exact words in their original form.
When writing a narrative essay, you are telling a story. That story can become confusing for the reader, though, when dialogue is added, unless it’s very clear who is doing the talking. Knowing how to quote someone in an essay can help your reader more easily follow the flow and action of the story.
Let’s focus on the writing of direct dialogue by looking at some narrative essay example sentences.
There are some rules to follow when writing direct dialogue in your narratives:
Rule #1: Use quotation marks to indicate the words that are spoken by the characters.
Example: “Help me!” exclaimed the little girl.
Rule #2: Always begin a new paragraph when the speaker changes.
“I am coming home,” Sue announced. “I am really tired and can’t work anymore.”
“Okay, I think you should do that,” her husband agreed.
Rule #3: Make sure the reader knows who is doing the talking.
Rule #4: Use correct punctuation marks and capitalization.
“May I buy a new pair of shoes?” Lauren asked her mom.
Note that the quotation marks are outside the end punctuation of the quote; the rest of the sentence has its own end punctuation.
If the quote is not a question or exclamation, use a comma and not a period before the second quotation marks.
“I bought a new jacket yesterday,” Tammy said.
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