When the nation’s little sister,
IU, gets into a huge scandal, your agency seizes the opportunity to thrust you
into that now vacant spotlight. Your self-composed song Paper Doll becomes an overnight sensation, and soon people
are itching to find out who was the one who broke your heart. All hell breaks
loose once netizens discover that you used to date popular idol, Jeon Jungkook.
Little do they know that it wasn’t him who left the relationship unscathed
it was you.
↳ alternatively: a story on the consequences of a hit
lvtvr’s writing tutorials, pt 1: battling my nemesis (or, how to punctuate dialogue)
kids. I’m Charlie. I write.
translated and proofread four full-length novels, so I now suffer from the work-related
condition of never being able to turn my editing glasses off. This can make
reading fanfic a bitch for me. Because, let’s be real: unbeta’d amateur work easily lets a lot of mistakes slip through.
It is, however, possible to minimize those mistakes.
world going to end if there are errors in your fanfic? Of course not. If you
want to focus on the content of your writing more than adhering to rules of language, by
all means, do that. There’s time to learn this stuff later.
know what? Formatting matters. If you truly want to get better at writing, then
eventually you are going to have to
deal with this aspect of it. And yes, it’s hard work – but I hope to help you along the way.
THE POINT OF THIS ESSAY: PUNCTUATING
to be the #1 formatting problem that amateur writers struggle with. However, there are boatloads of experienced fanfic writers who still seem
to struggle with it, or are just so used to making mistakes that they’ve made
it “their style.” And at the risk of sounding like a total bitch, it doesn’t matter how amazing or
well-loved their work is otherwise: wrong
is still wrong. Just because someone is consistent about always writing “your”
instead of “you’re” doesn’t make it correct, and dialogue is no different.
If these kinds of persistent mistakes don’t bother you, then good for you. Your life is
probably a lot more fun than mine.
But if you want to learn to do it right – if you
want the great look and perfect flow that immaculate punctuation will bring
your writing – then you have to rise above this.
COMMA VS. PERIOD – THE ULTIMATE SHOWDOWN
with something simple.
This is a
good sentence. This sentence is an upstanding member of our society. You can’t
go wrong with this sentence. Got me? Okay.
have a look at another one.
sentence is a delinquent. In fact, it’s not even a sentence
it’s two sentences. And it is always, always, always wrong. Rule of thumb: never do this.
just some elitist, snooty gatekeeping crap, either. There’s a purely functional reason why it’s incorrect.
a period after your dialogue, you are cutting it off from whatever comes next. Whatever follows dialogue that ends with a
period has to be an independent sentence. This distinction is used to
regulate the rhythm and flow of the writing.
is a transitive verb, meaning it needs to
take an object. While you can sigh, yawn, or laugh independently of anything else, “saying”
isn’t possible unless you are saying SOMETHING. (I.e., “She laughed” is a
complete sentence on its own; “He said” isn’t.) Same goes for synonyms of “say,”
such as whisper, repeat, and exclaim. They almost always get lonely without some dialogue attached to
them with a comma.
at some examples.
“I’m fine,” he said.
example IS NEVER CORRECT. NOT EVER. It
should ALWAYS be the latter. ALWAYS.
“I’m fine.” He laughed.
examples are BOTH CORRECT, but convey different nuances. In the first example,
he laughs the words. In the second, he says the words first, and laughs
afterward. These are separate things, not
two different ways to express the same idea. No matter how much fic you’ve read
where they’re treated as synonymous, they are not. They are not. They are not.
FUNKY WITH “?” AND “!”
sentence in dialogue ends with a question mark or exclamation point, you always keep that punctuation – you never
replace it with a comma. This is where we use the above rule to make sure
things don’t get ambiguous.
“What’s up?” They yawned.
examples are BOTH CORRECT. In the first, they are yawning the words. In the
second, they yawn after speaking. By capitalizing “they,” you are indicating
that the question mark is behaving like a period. You are thereby orphaning the
sentence that follows the dialogue. In this case, since the sentence can stand
alone, that’s perfectly fine.
the boy repeated.
“I’m okay!” The boy repeated.
first example is CORRECT. The second is ALWAYS WRONG. Remember, capitalizing “the”
means you are drawing a line between the dialogue and the following sentence. “Repeated”
needs an object, but now, because the exclamation point is behaving like a
period, “The boy repeated” stands alone. That’s an ungrammatical sentence, and without the implied attachment to the preceding dialogue, it drifts alone in the void.
And, well, that’s not good.
section to address this other weird shit I’ve seen:
He murmured, pouring himself another cup of coffee, “I promise.”
This is a
big WTF that has basically just reversed the correct order of things. It should
he murmured, pouring himself another cup of coffee. “I promise.”
pretty cool.” The doctor laughed, turning to her girlfriend, “You should try it.”
We have two
options to fix this, depending on if we want her to laugh the words or not.
pretty cool,” the doctor laughed, turning to her girlfriend. “You should try it.”
(laughing as she speaks)
pretty cool.” The doctor laughed, turning to her girlfriend. “You should try it.”
(laughing after speaking)
especially when you start working with more complex sentences, things can get
confusing, and your options can increase. Feel free to shoot me a message if you’re not sure. However, the
rules above are the basic ones to keep in mind.
made it to the end! If it feels like a lot, that’s because it is. Yes, it’s
plenty to remember, because writing is hard. Try to think about these rules when you’re reading published books (not fanfic, you can’t trust fanfic), and
eventually you’ll get the hang of it.