The Noble Pen for April 23, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 23rd, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids


The summer (Northern Hemisphere) edition of Science Fiction News is out.


Dylan got a good review of Sand and Blood in the Mark Lawrence competition (see March 26th victories) among 260 submissions, and goes to the second round.  He got a fan mail for a work under a pseudonym.

Ciuin wrote a few pages that, for a change, were not academic papers.


Writing dialog is unnatural, because good dialog is different from ordinary speech and different from formal writing, and the punctuation rules are not obvious.

Here’s a good overview that also has some punctuation rules for special situations: Part 1 and Part 2 and another summary.

People don’t talk in complete sentences and with precision like they would write a report, so your dialog needs to reflect that while maintaining clarity.  Practice listening to nearby conversations with the purpose of thinking about what it would look like written down.  It may not read very well if written verbatim.  Write it, and then clean it up only to the point that it reads smoothly enough readers won’t get lost — not to the point of becoming report-style English.

Dialog tags (“Hi,” Joan said.) should be used often enough to remove all doubt who is speaking.  Each speaker must have their own paragraph.  Tags can, however, be omitted from many paragraphs in a two-person conversation, especially if the characters’ voices and message are distinct enough that the reader can easily keep them straight with only an occasional tag.

Do not try too hard to put variety in dialog tags.  Said and asked will carry most of the load and their repetition will go unnoticed like “the”.  Others such as shouted or whispered can be useful when they impart information not obvious from the dialog.  Trying to make every tag different  results in undue attention to the tags instead of the dialog.  Demanded, wheedled, complained, offered, opined, etc. should be obvious from the character’s words and not need the tag to explain the intent.

Another trap is adding an adverb after said.  If you need to write that the character said it sadly, angrily, or forcefully then you probably need to use stronger dialog instead of an adverb to pump it up.

An alternative to a dialog tag is an action that also tells whose paragraph it is, like picking up their coffee cup, looking around the room, laughing, or tightening their finger on the trigger.  Note that the action should be a separate sentence, because it is NOT a dialog tag.  You don’t laugh, smile, or sigh your words.

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