Gather around for this very important hint. It's the one that takes the most time to correct (format) so the judges can actually read your work. Just sayin' . . .
First off, you have to have a NEW PARAGRAPH (indent) every time a new speaker talks. PLEASE remember this! I've seen stories where all the conversation is run together and I can hardly make heads or tails or it. I feel badly for the writer, because it makes me not even want to READ the story, honestly. It's too much work. So, here we go . . .
The natural thing for people to do when they get together is talk. This is called dialogue. It should be a natural and important part of your story too. Characters talk to each other out loud. Another type of dialogue is internal. Internal dialogue is used to show the characters’ thoughts and lets the reader inside their heads. Thoughts are usually written in italics in a published book. These are quotation marks:
Dialogue Hint One—Quotation marks
Use quotation marks to show when a character is speaking. Put quotation marks around the exact words a character is using. Periods, commas, question marks, and exclamation marks always go inside the quotation marks. (You have no idea how many stories I see with punctuation marks OUTSIDE the talking. Look at these examples.
“What time is it?” “I’m coming,” she said. “My cat is missing!” “I like chocolate.”
Don’t use quotation marks for internal thoughts. Use italics. I wish I could fly, Jason thought.
Practice Quotation marks are missing! Copy and paste this into the comments below and see if you can put all of the marks in the correct places. I'll let you know if you did it right.
Andi pricked up her ears at Justin’s next remark.
Say, Chad. Speaking of what’s new on the ranch since I’ve been away, I see you finally got hold of that stallion you’ve been itching to buy. Did it cost you as much as you figured?
Chad laughed. More actually. But he’s worth it.
How is he working out? I know the senator would enjoy a demonstration of what you’ve accomplished. Justin turned to Senator Farley. What Chad can’t do with a horse can’t be done, Jim.
I would certainly be interested in an exhibition, the senator said. I saw the horse briefly when we rode up. He whistled. Gorgeous animal.
He has a few rough edges, came Chad’s hesitant reply. I’m afraid he won’t be up to any kind of display within the next few days. He’s still jittery.
Andi groaned inwardly. Justin had chosen the worst possible subject for table talk. Please change the subject, she pleaded with her eyes.
Justin plunged on. Is that where the new corral fence came from? His rough edges? He waved his hand in the direction of the yard. I saw the new railing on the section closest to the barn.Of course you did, Andi thought. Her oldest brother never missed anything. That’s what made him an excellent attorney.
How did you do? Here's the next hint:
Dialogue tags are words used to identify who is speaking. They are helpful but can easily be overused. Examples of dialogue tags are:
John said, she answered, Paul shouted, Mary replied, he called, she whispered, they yelled, Susie muttered, Tom asked.
Many beginning authors punctuate dialogue incorrectly. If you add a dialogue tag, you must use a comma when someone is talking (not a period). The period goes at the end of the tag.
Wrong: “I really like chocolate.” Ann said. Correct: “I really like chocolate,” Ann said.
Dialogue tags are often overused. The reader soon tires of reading “he said” and “she said” every time a character speaks. You can add variety to your dialogue by using action tags instead. An action tag shows the character doing something during the conversation.
The teacher clapped her hands. “Quiet, class!”
If you know who is talking, you don’t need to use any tags at all. You can also use straight narration between the speakers’ dialogue.
Next, INDENT THOSE PARAGRAPHS. This is the whole truth. I have received stories like this one . . . all run together. AUGH!!!! Not fun to read or to format.
Andi propped herself up on one elbow and looked over the wagon side. She saw a camp. Whether it was temporary or permanent, she couldn’t tell. “Buenas tardes,” a strange voice uttered. Andi whirled. A young girl not much older than herself was staring at her. “Good afternoon,” Andi replied in Spanish. “Who are you?” “I’m Rosa,” the girl answered with a smile. “And you’re Andrea.” “That’s right.” “How do your feel?” “Much better. My head hurts only a little.” She grinned. “What is he doing with that burro?” She pointed to a small gray donkey and a boy struggling with it. “My brother is trying to hold him still long enough to get on,” Rosa replied. “Joselito dreams of becoming un gran vaquero someday.” She giggled. “He uses our burro to practice riding.”
Yeah, not a lot of fun to figure it out. Please don't do that to me. Rather, send it like this example below: (see how easy it is to read!)
Andi propped herself up on one elbow and looked over the wagon side. She saw a camp. Whether it was temporary or permanent, she couldn’t tell.
Finally PLEASE NO EMPTY CHATTER! I call it "talking heads." Please have your dialogue going somewhere (moving the story along).
I exaggerated this example below, but trust me, I've read stories very similar. It's like . . . Okay, move on.
“You’re going to sign this paper,” Felicity said.
Andi shrugged. “No, I’m not.”
“I say you are,” Felicity said. “Do it quick and get it over with.”
“No,” Andi said.
“You’ll be sorry,” Felicity said.
“I’m already sorry.”
“But you’ll be sorrier,” Felicity said. “I’ll make sure of it.”
“I’m sure you will,” Andi said. “But I’m still not going to sign the paper.”
“You are stubborn,” Felicity said, “but I’ll make you sign this paper.”
“Never!” Andi shouted. “I’ll never sign it.”
“Yes, you will,” Felicity shouted back.
“You can’t make me,” Andi said.
“I sure can.” Felicity held out the paper. “Now, sign.”
Andi turned her back. “No.”
“I won’t ask you again,” Felicity said.
Andi smiled. “Good.”
I'm glad too! (relief that this never-ending conversation finally ended). Just back and forth "talking heads." You could fix it by inserting a little action or what Andi's thinking, or something to break up the back and forth stuff.
Well, that's it for today.