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Author Topic: How should conversation be structured?
Member # 9687

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When I am writing a conversation between a talkative person and a quiet one, the introvert often responds without actually speaking. My instinct is to separate the introvert's gestures with new lines, as though the narration were dialogue, to preserve the form of the conversation.
Thank you!
Two examples:

That made me chuckle. "I did at that. Why'd you ever like her?"
Gavin looked at me oddly, then, as though I were a curiously shaped insect under a glass.
I tried to explain, "I mean, she was always a bit weird..."

Even if that form works, I need advice on another part of the same conversation. This time the narrator is putting words in Gavin's mouth, but the reader should not get the impression Gavin actually said them.
"I went to get the egg back," I said.
Gavin looked at me in that silent way of his, which I took to mean, "I'm listening, please go on."
"I changed my mind, I just couldn't do that to her..."

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Member # 8019

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Dialogue with interspersed actions basic paragraph syntax principle is to set apart each participant's actions and dialogue by paragraph.

The first example seems to me an action sentence, a dialogue line, a thought, and another dialogue line by the first person narrator. Gavin's action doesn't, to me, stand out independently from the narrator's thoughts.

Similarly, the second one, Gavin is secondary to the narrator's observations and thoughts reacting to Gavin's nonverbal expressions.

This clause, though, seems like tagged indirect thought. //which I took to mean, "I'm listening, please go on."// Because it's not direct discourse I'd suggest setting it without the comma and the quote marks, for reading ease.

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Member # 5512

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The first example looks good to me. In fact, I'll try using it myself the next chance I get.

For the second it could get confusing. Perhaps instead of "" marks you could use some other way: italics, for example, though you can use a simple way: He nodded for me to continue or She looked confused so I added.

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Member # 9345

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When I have that kind of interaction, I tend to separate it if the silent action comes across as dialog, but not if it's part of the speaker's flow.

However, if your intent is to establish that this is how Gavin communicates, then it may be appropriate to separate it at a lower level, such as when it's a discrete response even tho unspoken.

I would use italics instead of quote marks in the 2nd example, as quote marks cue the reader to stop hearing the narrator's or POV's voice and start hearing the speaker's voice, and in this example that's not quite how it happens. Rather, the POV is thinking the other person's dialog, which basically makes it a discrete thought -- thus, italics, per my preferences, which cues us that it's still in the narrator/POV's voice.

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Robert Nowall
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I think either would work, since it's not about what Gavin says, but what "I" thinks he's saying. I wouldn't go with italics in the second example, though...
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