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How to Format a Lengthy Talk : Tips and Advice • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

How to Format a Lengthy Talk

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Spinners
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How to Format a Lengthy Talk

Postby Spinners » Mon Jan 16, 2017 5:37 pm

I have a character telling a short story about 3-4 paragraphs long. On one hand, I understand one might place quotes around each paragraph. I also know one might use a block quote format. Which is preferable, and what are the margin settings for a block quote?

Spinners
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Re: How to Format a Lengthy Talk

Postby Spinners » Mon Jan 16, 2017 5:40 pm

Addendum: If I use the block quote format, and a character from this short story speaks one line (within the block quote), would that one line of dialog be placed in single quotes within the block quote? What is the correct way to do this?

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Crono91
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Re: How to Format a Lengthy Talk

Postby Crono91 » Wed Jan 18, 2017 2:38 pm

I've never seen blocked quotes used in novels before, only in formal writing, so I'm not sure how one would do it in a book.

However, the other option is simply doing it as paragraphs. Michael Crichton uses this a lot in his books, since a lot of his characters explain lengthy scientific concepts.

The way it is done is like this:

Michael said, "Sometimes I go to the store and...

"Yet, after I leave the store, I go to another store and...

"Finally, I go home to see my wife."

You begin the first paragraph with the initial quotes. You don't add a quote at the end of the paragraph if you plan to have another paragraph after it. However, you have to start that new paragraph with another quote. The "ending" quotation mark only goes at the very end.

I would say, though, to be careful with "speaking" a short story in a book. I typically only use this long-talk format when a character is sharing something or giving a powerfully long speech. Sharing a short story in this format can be a little exhausting to read, especially if you're having different characters speak within this character speaking the short story. It may be best to split up the short story in chunks with interesting endings.

Meaning, have the character share the first part of the short story, and end the quotation. Have something happen--have it be a simple action like the character taking a sip of a drink, or a facial expression that gives more insight into what the character is sharing, or even another character saying something. Then begin the next part of the short story.

Granted, there's no hard fast rule. If a telling a long short story in quotes works for your story, then do it.

---

As for blocked quotations. I've never seen it in a novel, but you'd handle the quote within a block quote like this:

[beginning of block quote] I ran through the forest, dodging the arrows zipping by. "We need to run," Sarah said to me. "We need to run before they get us, because back when I was in the market, a man told me, 'The archers in the forest do not miss. When I was there, I almost died, until someone saved me. He flew down from the trees and yelled, "You will not kill this man!"'" [ending of block quote]

You begin with double quotes, then go into single quote if the double quoter is speaking. And keep alternating. As you can see, it can get confusing fast.
Be proud of your mistakes when they form from blinding passion. But now edit them.

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haynes
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Re: How to Format a Lengthy Talk

Postby haynes » Mon Feb 06, 2017 9:37 am

Thanks, Crono91! It was helpful!
.

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cynicalwanderer
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Re: How to Format a Lengthy Talk

Postby cynicalwanderer » Mon Feb 06, 2017 2:22 pm

Yes, the convention for multiple run-on speech paragraphs is to quote-mark the start of each new paragraph, but only close off the final one.

That said, while it's a valid convention, to my mind it always stands out as looking somewhat artificial when I see this done in a book, and pulls my immersion out of the story ever so slightly. Also, this is only catering to a single sense (sound) for an extended section, which risks breaking immersion for some readers. In case anyone's not aware of the science: studies have found that most people generally gravitate towards one of the big three senses (sight, sound, touch) as their predominant preference, with the statistical distribution being roughly in that order. So if the descriptions in your story, or the current section of your story, focus too heavily on only one of these senses, you may alienate a reader whose sense personality is tuned differently. That's why it's a good idea to blend in all three senses regularly, so that you cater to all reader types, with the occasional dip into smell and taste too, when relevant, of course.

What does all this guff mean in the context of the original post, I hear you ask? Well, it means that I'd suggest breaking up a large monologue with actions:

"Blah, blah, blah." She swept a stray hair away from her face and fixed me with her steely gaze. "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!"
I thought about inserting some random comment to break up the flow of her impassioned lecture. But just as I was about to interject with a truly biting remark, she continued her harangue.
"Blah! Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, and a heavy dose of blah.
"Blah!", she said. "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."

Of course the amount of how much break-up-the-dialogue action feels right will be different in every case. The main thing to remember is that these monologues don't happen in a vacuum. You have people reacting to the speech, you have natural interruption points where someone might reasonably break in to the conversation, you have the speaker pausing to gesture or move around the room. Work in those neglected senses that sound is trying to muscle out! Remind the reader that there are more players and things happening in the scene than just one character rambling on for half a page. Break up the clumps in that verbal bowl of flour to help the cake rise. And be sensual, in all of the ways that matter, not just the one that defines you.
"I've stopped giving advice. Even when people ask for it, they resent getting it." -Ross Macdonald.


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