What is the Structure of Dialogues

Dialogues, to differentiate them from the narration, are preceded by a dash ("—" other than the hyphen, or minus symbol, "-") and never end with a dash, but instead with the corresponding punctuation mark: full stop, close question mark, exclamation mark, or (less commonly) a colon or semicolon.

" — I'm a little tired."

Note that there is no space between the dash and the first letter.

To introduce a clarification from the narrator, the line is also used:

"— I'm a little tired — he said. "

"— I'm a little tired — he said —.

Bearing in mind that two cases must be distinguished:

The narrator's intervention refers to a verb or action of speech or thought ("he said," "she thought," "his friend replied," etc.).

  • A blank space is left between the end of the sentence and the line, and the narrator's sentence begins with no space between the line and the line: " Tired — he said."
  • The sentence begins in lowercase: “— said he.”
  • The punctuation mark corresponding to the character's sentence ends after the narrator's clarification: "— I'm a bit tired — he said —. So I'm going home."
  • If the dialogue continues, it is closed with the line; otherwise, no: "— I'm a bit tired — he said —. I'm going home."
  • If the phrase of the dialogue is not complete, but another punctuation mark (such as a comma) would correspond to it, it is put as in the previous example with the point: "—I am tired —he said—, and that I have slept well. "

If the narrator's comment has nothing to do with the action of speaking, thinking, or any of the related actions (yelling, whispering, etc.), the sentence is closed, if necessary, and the text of the narrator begins with a capital letter:

-I have to go. The door slam echoed throughout the house.

(I owe this contribution to Iván, thanks to his comments).

And with certain exceptions:

  • The exclamation and the interrogation are always closed (if the sentence has finished) before the line: " — Are you tired? — said his wife —. Maybe you should sleep more."
  • In the same way, the ellipses also precede the line: " — I see you tired ... — she observed —. Maybe you don't sleep well."
  • If the narration requires a colon, these replace the punctuation mark corresponding to the dialogue phrase: " — I see you tired — she observed, and added —: Maybe you don't sleep well."

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.


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