AN ENIGMA GAVE A PARADOX A VERY SPECIAL HUG (melayneseahawk) wrote in fandom_grammar,
AN ENIGMA GAVE A PARADOX A VERY SPECIAL HUG
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Answer: First-Person Narration and Dialogue

campylobacter asked:

Can one interrupt dialogue with first person narration? (with examples from Firefly, Stargate SG-1, and The X-Files)

The short answer is yes.

Interrupted dialogue is not only okay, it's a great way to make your sentences more interesting. The challenging part is formatting. Depending on how your story is structured, interrupted dialogue will look different.

This article will focus on how to format the narration around the dialogue. If you're looking for articles on punctuating dialogue, check out these ones on stammering and trailing off or interrupted speech.

For more on narrative point-of-view, check out the second half of this article on tenses and point of view.


In this context, there are two kinds of first person thoughts that could interrupt one's dialogue.

When the story is being told in straight first person, your character is already speaking directly to the reader, using "I". In this case, one doesn't need any special formatting:

"You know I hate it when you--" poke at my things "--handle delicate artifacts, Jack," I said, steaming.


or

"Gorram it, Jayne, get your--" (irresistible) "--ass to the cargo bay," I yelled, wrestling several thousand pounds of bovine flesh away from the spilled feed sacks.


Some people find the parentheses option to be visually disruptive, but it's the author's preference.

You can also introduce first person observations when the overall story is being told in third person, where the reader is in the head of the narrating character--either a single character or more than one--but there's a separation. Then, one would use some kind of formatting to indicate that the observation is taking place inside the character's head:

Daniel turned around and was greeted by a most unexpected sight. "Vala, what in the--" is she even wearing a bra?, he thought "--hell are you doing in a see-through nightgown on the bridge?" He shifted uncomfortably, and resolutely ignored Sam's smirk.


For more on formatting, check out differentiating internal thought and dialogue.

And side-by-side:

I shook my head. "Agent Scully, I'm going to defer this--" complete and total cluster fuck "--matter to the Attorney General before Agent Mulder decides to rally MUFON in a protest on the National Mall."


versus

Skinner shook his head. "Agent Scully, I'm going to defer this--" complete and total cluster fuck "--matter to the Attorney General before Agent Mulder decides to rally MUFON in a protest on the National Mall."


This same technique can be used for action narration, rather than thought:

"Mulder, you're being ridiculous," I said, handing him a file folder, "but here are those test results you asked about."


No matter whether you want to interject thoughts or narration, interrupting dialogue is perfectly fine.
Tags: !answer, author:melayneseahawk, formatting, punctuation:commas, punctuation:em dash, punctuation:parentheses, style
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