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writing dialogue/childhood memory

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Heidi Edwards

on 16 April 2012

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Transcript of writing dialogue/childhood memory

Dialogue is critical for stories not only for plot, but also for character development. Readers can find out a TON about a character’s personality based only on what he or she says. However, in order to write effective dialogue, one must follow certain rules. The following dialogue is taken from the film, A Few Good Men, to illustrate how some of you write your dialogue, and how it can be improved. I have actually seen dialogue written like this. In fact, I've seen entire stories written like this… " " Dialogue You don't have to answer that question! I'll answer the question. You want answers? I think I'm entitled to them. You want answers? I want the truth! You can't handle the truth! Here we don't know anything about this conversation; who is talking, and when? How many people are talking? Who are they talking to? How and with what intents are the words being spoken? In fact, we can't even be sure that this is a conversation. You must follow the rules! RULE #1: Use quotation marks to indicate words which are spoken by characters.

"You don't have to answer that question!" "I'll answer the question. You want answers?" "I think I'm entitled to them." "You want answers?" "I want the truth!" "You can't handle the truth!"
Now we know that these words are spoken, but by whom? Before we can answer that, we have to make this look right by putting each line and speaker in its own paragraph.
RULE #2: Always start a new paragraph when changing speakers. You cannot have two people speaking in the same paragraph.
"You don't have to answer that question!"
"I'll answer the question. You want answers?"
"I think I'm entitled to them."
"You want answers?"
"I want the truth!"
"You can't handle the truth!"
Now we can identify who is speaking. Also, remember that punctuation marks at the end of a quotation go inside the quotation marks.

***If the sentence within the quote ends with a period (.), change it to a comma (,). If it's a question (?) or an exclamation (!), leave it the way it is.***
Rule #3: Identify the speaker RULE #4: Use correct punctuation, capitalization, and spacing.
"You don't have to answer that quesiton!" said the Judge.
"I'll answer the question. You want answers?" said Jessop.
"I think I'm entitled to them," said Kafee.
"You want answers?" said Jessop.
"I want the truth!" said Kafee.
"You can't handle the truth!" said Jessop.
Okay, this grammatically correct, but what's the trouble with it? This
brings us to the four GUIDELINES for writing dialogue, which can make
your writing more interesting and effective. GUIDELINE #1: Vary your verbs GUIDELINE #2: Use Descriptive Words GUIDELINE #3: Vary your structures. GUIDELINE #4: Use narrative to tell action. Here's an example of the same dialogue using all four guidelines:

The judge turned swiftly toward the stand and declared to the witness, "You don't have to answer that question!"
"I'll answer the question," Colonel Jessop asserted coldy, fixing his eyes on Kaffee. Growling, he asked the defense attorney, "You want answers?"
"I think I am entitled to them," Kaffee replied.
Jessop asked again, more forcefully, as if scolding an errant recruit, "You want answers?"
"I want the truth!" Kaffee shouted, banging his fist on the counsel table in direct defiance of Jessop's intimidating presence. The court members sat in stunned silence.
Rising to his feet, the colonel leaned forward and thundered, "You can't handle the truth!" You must use this format when constructing your dialogue.
As an extra credit opportunity, complete one of the dialogues suggested in the options.
This is not a part of your essay, it is a completely separate assignment worth 5 points of extra credit. It is due by Friday.
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