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Brenda Hill 

  Book Editing Services

Dialogue, Narration, Internal Dialogue

To make a story interesting, writers use different techniques:


DIALOGUE is one character talking to another. A character can also talk to a pet, an inanimate object, and if it's spoken aloud, it's considered dialogue and should be enclosed in quotation marks.

INTERNAL DIALOGUE is what a character is thinking and you do NOT use quotation marks.

DIALOGUE: “Are you going to the company dance?” Marisa asked Belinda.

DIALOGUE: “I’m not sure,” Belinda replied.

INTERNAL DIALOGUE: She wanted to go more than anything, and had been dreaming of the day when she could get all dressed up and feel beautiful. But her car’s engine started making strange noises and the repair bill wiped out her savings, so now she couldn’t afford to buy a dress.

NARRATION: That evening she tried on the blue cocktail dress she'd borrowed from her sister.

Internal Dialogue: It was a little loose in the bustline, but maybe, if she kept her arms down and didn't move too much, no one would notice.

NARRATION: She danced a couple of steps and the bustline sagged and gapped.

INTERNAL DIALOGUE: Okay, she just wouldn't dance.

NARRATION: In despair, she stared at her reflection in the mirror.

DIRECT INTERNAL DIALOGUE: But why go if I can’t dance? (No quotation marks)

With DIRECT INTERNAL DIALOGUE, we have something a little different. Instead of she/he did this or that, we now have the character thinking a direct active thought. It reads like dialogue, but instead, the character is thinking, so we do NOT use quotation marks.

Direct Internal Dialogue has gone through phases. At one time it was enclosed in quotation marks, then they disappeared. Next came italics, which are still used today. However, more and more publishers are dropping the use of italics because the new generation is saying, like dialect, it’s too hard to read. But it’s still your choice, or your publisher’s choice. I, personally, have completely dropped them.

If the terms are confusing, just remember that to write a saleable novel, you do not have to remember what the different terms are called as long as you recognize them and know how to use them. For those who disagree, I can't remember how to diagram a sentence, but I recognize a complete sentence when I see it.

As writers, we need to know as much as we can about the use of language, about grammar, and about punctuation. Not just because the rules say so, but when we use them correctly, our readers can understand our meaning without having to stop and wonder. And as writers, we do not want our readers to stop reading for any reason - other than falling asleep after an all-night session with our latest page-turner.

So make it easy for them to lose sleep. They’ll love you for it.