Narrative

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Formatting Dialogue

Start a new paragraph every time you change speakers. If the speaker performs actions linked to the dialogue, keep everything in the same paragraph. Why? Readers easily lose track of which character is speaking. A new paragraph helps readers by signalling a change.

Study the following dialogue. Notice how it flows down the page like a ping-pong match between two people. Each time someone else hits the ball, the author starts a new paragraph.

Dialogue Notes
"Did he hit you?" Deanna asked, looking at the cut and bruises on Laura’s face. This is a Deanna paragraph. Only Deanna is talking or thinking or feeling or acting.
   
"No. I hurt myself," Laura replied. Her brain scrambled to invent a story. "I, umm . . . fell." This is a Laura paragraph. Only Laura is talking or thinking or feeling or acting.
   
"That bastard!" This is a Deanna paragraph. The new paragraph signals a new speaker, so the reader can tell that it must be Deanna speaking, even without any dialogue tags.
   
"No. You don’t understand. It was my fault." This is a Laura paragraph. Only Laura is talking or thinking or feeling or acting.
   
Deanna pointed her finger at Laura. "Battered women always say that." She shook her head. "Please come with me. I don’t think you should be here when he comes back." This is a Deanna paragraph. Only Deanna is talking or thinking or feeling or acting.

 

Instruction for Quia Quiz

The quiz asks you questions like this:

 

Study the passage. In the above example, both paragraphs contain dialogue, so they are both dialogue paragraphs. (If nobody is speaking in a paragrah, you can ignore it).

Now check to make sure that the author has followed the dialogue formatting rule: "One person per paragraph." In other words, each dialogue paragraph should be devoted to one—and only one—person.

In the above example, the second paragraph contains words spoken by "I" ("No, I don't want to play cards . . ") and a gesture performed by "he" (He shrugged . . . ). This is a violation of the dialogue formatting rule; therefore, the answer is B.

Remember: If two people are speaking or thinking or feeling or knowing or doing something (shrugging, pointing, laughing, etc.) in the same dialogue paragraph, the answer is B) No, this dialogue is not formatted correctly.

Only if none of these things is true—that is, only if the author has faithfully followed the "one person per paragraph" rule—then the answer is A) Yes, this dialogue is formatted correctly.