Standard Dialogue Punctuation

Making sure that your dialogue is properly punctuated is one of the most important things you can do as a writer, because these are literally your characters’ words coming to life. Funny dialogue will fall flat if a comma in the wrong place breaks the emotion or creates confusion.

You want your reader to read the dialogue the way you imagined the character said it, and unless they are listening to an audiobook, the reader can only rely on appropriate punctuation and dialogue attribution words to clue them to how the dialogue is to be read.

The standard punctuation for dialogue is determined by the placement of the dialogue attribution (def.: any words that describe the way the dialogue was said).

If the dialogue attribution comes after direct speech, then the word following the closing quotation mark shouldn’t be capitalized, unless it is a proper noun.

“I shouldn’t have done it,” he moaned.

“Holy crap, was that a bat?” Andrew asked.

“Jesus, you scared me!” she screamed.

If the dialogue attribution comes before direct speech, then you capitalize the first word of the spoken sentence.

He moaned, “I shouldn’t have done it.”

Andrew asked, “Holy crap, was that a bat?”

She screamed, “Jesus, you scared me!”

If the dialogue attribution happens in the middle of the dialogue, then appropriate punctuation and capitalization depends on whether or not the dialogue itself is a full sentence or consists of two independent clauses.

Scenario A

When the dialogue is a complete sentence, the dialogue attribution is set off by commas, and the first word of the second part of the dialogue is not capitalized.

“Adam,” Nancy called, “can you grab the hammer on your way down?”

Here the dialogue is a full sentence that reads: “Adam, can you grab the hammer on your way down?”

Scenario B

When the dialogue consists of two independent clauses, the dialogue attribution is followed by a period, and the first word of the second part of the dialogue is capitalized.

“I don’t know guys,” Pam murmured. “If Carmen finds out about this she’ll be pissed.”

Here, attempting to separate the dialogue with a comma would result in a comma splice:

“I don’t know guys, if Carmen finds out about this she’ll be pissed.” Pam murmured.

By simply using the right punctuation and capitalization in the right place, your reader can better sense Pam’s trepidation, as the period makes the reader pause before discovering what Pam is afraid of (Carmen’s reaction).

Post SignatureWhat is the funniest dialogue punctuation error you’ve found in your own work? Tell me in the comments!

Commonly Confused: Know vs No

While not as common a mix up as other homonyms, I still see this one quite frequently. This particular word swap is a matter of spelling, context, and usage.

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Know implies a context where one’s comprehension, understanding, or awareness is being discussed.

“Do you know where my hairbrush is?”

Are you aware of where my hairbrush is.

No implies a context where one is disagreeing, negating, or refusing whatever is being discussed.

“That’s a no on going to the store today, Cameron.”

They are negating their plans to go to the store.

Sometimes your brain thinks one word, and your hands type another. It’s okay. As long as you conscientiously read through your work, you can avoid this homonym confusion.

Post SignatureHave a funny Know vs No typo story? Share in the comments!



The Psychology of Hurt/Comfort Romances

When most people think about romance novels they focus on stories that work toward a HEA or even HFN ending. But recently, Hurt/Comfort (H/C) stories are becoming more and more popular, where the journey to that HEA is painful, torturous, and downright gut-wrenching. These are the epic love stories that make you hurt so bad that you keep on reading in the hopes that the characters will find that HEA, because, Damn it! They deserve it. But what makes this antithesis journey to romance so desirable?

Defining Hurt/Comfort

Hurt/Comfort stories are defined as stories that have one character who has physical/emotional/psychological trauma and another character who heals/nurtures/comforts them through it.

H/C stories go beyond your average alpha male/spunky female couples (or whatever tickles your fancy), in that in there is an intensity and an openness with which the hurt protagonist’s pain and struggle through that pain is explored. It gives the reader an all-access pass in to the character’s world of pain, and their struggle to overcome or deal with that pain.

They showcase how pain is seldom experienced alone. That the ones around us, the ones who care, have a deep-seated desire to comfort and nurture us through the pain. How the nurturing protagonist learns about themselves in comforting the hurt protagonist.

H/C stories are about the reciprocal nature of hurt and comfort, neglect and nurture, and weakness and strength.

Continue reading “The Psychology of Hurt/Comfort Romances”

Pacing Yourself

One of the most common critiques authors get from a beta read or content edit of their manuscript is to watch their pacing. Pacing will make or break your book, because it’s what helps keep the reader engaged. If your pacing is off, then you’ll lose your reader as they’ll cease to care what is happening, even if your character is perfectly crafted. Therefore, pacing is one of the things an editor will look at to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Defining Pacing

First let’s look at what an editor means when they say the pacing of your book is off.

Pacing is defined as the speed at which a story’s plot moves forward. Now, the pace of your book doesn’t, and probably shouldn’t, stay the same over the course of the book. You want action scenes that read fast and get your blood pumping, but you also want moments where your character has down time to chill with their friends, or reflect on past events. What matters is consistency. A consistently paced book that has well planned plot points ensures that there isn’t too much action or to little in large chunks that make the readers lose interest. Consistent pacing is a God send because it keeps the reader engaged, builds the suspense, and makes for a smoother read.

The standards for what is considered to be a “good” pace are very much determined by the genre of your book. If you are writing an action-driven thriller, mystery, or urban fantasy novel, then you must have a quicker pace than if you were writing a more emotionally driven romance or spiritual journey book.

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The Importance of Beta Readers: To Pay or Not to Pay?

As you guys know, I have recently opened The Ribbon Marker Editorial Services, and I offer a variety of services, from book reviewing to content/developmental editing. My current, most used service is beta reading.

For those of you who don’t know what a beta reader is, a beta reader is the first person to take a look at your manuscript who is not a caring loved one. A beta reader is there to represent the reader’s interest and conflicts with your manuscript, such that they give the author a preview of possible problems that readers might have with their story. Their feedback gives authors an opportunity to improve things before their book is for sale and their reputation is on the line. Betas don’t necessarily have to have editing experience, but they do need to know enough about the genre for them to tell you what works in your book, and what doesn’t.

So what makes for a good beta?

A good beta reader is:

  • A reader of the genre  – being a reader of the genre means that the beta has already done the background research of what readers of that genre like, and what they never want to see.
  • Open-minded – in a continuously changing industry, where books straddle genres and sub-genres, you need someone who can see the possibilities for manuscript blurring lines and testing boundaries. Just because your book isn’t a classical contemporary romance, it doesn’t mean it couldn’t spawn a new sub-genre or theme with in that genre.
  • Critical – you don’t want a beta who says “the book was great and I really liked your characters”. You want a beta who will say, “While I like Stacy and Ben, I thought that Ben was too permissive to really be the alpha male that Stacy had hoped for the entire book (and her entire life). Particularly, I feel like he really needs to be more outspoken in their arguments. Ben is a guy who really knows himself, and he wouldn’t let Stacy just steamroll him into letting go of the argument.” Notice, there is a difference between critiquing (insightful but polite analysis), versus fault-finding and being judgmental (rudely listing all the thing wrong in the manuscript and then hatefully questioning the authors attempts).
  • Reliable – you want a beta who will actually:
    1. Read the manuscript
    2. Give constructive criticism
    3. Get back to you in a timely manner
    4. Keep you appraised of their progress
  • Supportive – at the end of the day, you want a beta who wants to help you make your book into the best version of your book that they can, from the reader’s perspective.

Continue reading “The Importance of Beta Readers: To Pay or Not to Pay?”