jl85's picture
jl85 from originally East Tennessee now Southern California is reading everything I can November 12, 2011 - 1:43pm

I'm taking a quick break from my NaNo novel because I'm just wondering if you guys have any way you show a pause in your character's dialogue?

For example, one of my main characters throws a pack of smokes to his friend and says:

You might need it more than me, man…Plus my old man doesn’t like me bringing home smokes anyways.

Does anyone else use the "..." to show a pause or do you have a better method?

Sometimes I break it up into different paragraphs and my character does some sort of gesture with what he is saying, but I feel like that might get confusing sometimes since some people may read it as two different characters speaking back and forth when it is just one character pausing while he speaks. (Hopefully what I said doesn't sound to confusing.)

Any tips?

I trust the LitReactor community more than the NaNoWriMo forums. Just saying.

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest November 12, 2011 - 2:09pm

 Josef...

What you have works, so long as we know that he's holding a pack of smokes before the dialogue. The ellipsis should be saved for use in dialogue, mainly to show the character trailing off his/her words.

Fuck it. You know you're such a... Nevermind.

- Something to that effect. I pulled that from an actual chat message to my ex.

In the example you have it may be clearer for you to say something like: "You might need it more than me, man," and I toss him the pack. "Plus my old man doesn't like me bringing home smokes any way."

The Harbrace College Handbook says of the Ellipsis: 'Ellipsis points mark an omission form a quoted passage or a reflective pause or hesitation.

Hope this helped in some way.

~Rian

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin November 12, 2011 - 2:10pm

Your character doesn't have to make guestures, they could feel things internally (endorphines, adrenaline, anxiety) or focus on specific and relevant details that emphasize the nature of the pause.

But for that one, I would be too tempted to use that pause to let the man light up his smoke.

Steve's picture
Steve from Southwestern Chicagoland, IL November 12, 2011 - 3:09pm

As a reader, I find ellipses rather grating. Used sparingly, they're not so bad, but too many people way overdo it. Nothing makes me want to smack a character harder than when every other sentence ends that way. nkwilczy has the right idea here--use the pause as an opportunity to add characterization or other detail.

 

misskokamon's picture
misskokamon from San Francisco is reading The Moonlit Mind November 12, 2011 - 3:11pm

I agree with Moon on showing a pause with an action. When you use an ellipses, the pause I feel is softer. If you want a hard pause, I'd toss in an action. It depends on the sort of feel you want in the dialog. 

 

jl85's picture
jl85 from originally East Tennessee now Southern California is reading everything I can November 12, 2011 - 4:39pm

Great points guys.

I have avoided using the ellipses up to this point (that was around the 10k mark I think), and every pause I had in dialogue, when it was appropriate, I had gestures and attributions revolving around the dialogue. Just wanted to break up the style a little so at least I felt like I wasn't creating a monotonous style of prose.

Before the quote the second main character had just thrown the first main character the soft pack, I just put the dialogue in there to focus on the exact quote.

Seems pretty standard for most writers to use it every once in a while, it just seemed a little weird when I was typing it.

- @Rian - I think I have the 2009 AP Stylebook (maybe the 2010 edition, not sure off the top of my head right now), but I will definitely check out The Harbrace College Handbook to reference future questions.

- @nkwilczy - I am going to focus more on "going on the body" - something I've kind of ignored with this first draft since I'm trying to hit my word counts - good reminder!! 

THANKS!

Typewriter Demigod's picture
Typewriter Demigod from London is reading "White Noise" by DeLilo, "Moby-Dick" by Hermann Mellivile and "Uylsses" by Joyce November 12, 2011 - 4:46pm

what i do is use an elipsis, and/or an um or a yeah or a like, or even a S/HE PAUSED or S/HE BREATHED IN

Charles's picture
Charles from Portland is reading Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones November 12, 2011 - 6:51pm

he talks out the side of his mouth, the way liars do, the cherry of his camel writing in smoke and after images. smoke comes out the corner of his mouth and it stops, contemplating the next sentence of fire and smoke....

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 12, 2011 - 9:45pm

I think either an ellipses or breaking the dialogue up with an action work. An action may be preferable, but if it exists solely to create a pause, I think it's better to go with an ellipses. Also, I think of an ellipses as being similar to a comma or an emdash, so I don't capitalize the word that follows it.

You can also use a dash and follow that with a quotation mark if the character is interrupted while they are speaking rather than pauses.

misskokamon's picture
misskokamon from San Francisco is reading The Moonlit Mind November 12, 2011 - 11:01pm

I see commas, em-dashes, periods, and ellipses as very different types of sentence traffic control. For me, a period is a stop light that marks the end of a stretch of words. A comma is a stop sign where you pause briefly before continuing on. An em-dash is blinker warning of an oncoming change, and ellipses are those signs that tell you to slow the hell down. (In addition to this, an ellipses with a question mark or explanation point a the end of it is a yellow light warning you a red light's on it's way.)

As you can see by my descriptions, I don't know how to drive.

Forgive the childish comparison, but my creative muscles are a bit sore from lack of use this week. 

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 12, 2011 - 11:23pm

I think ellipses should only be used to signify a pause in dialogue or in prose that is conversationalist.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 14, 2011 - 7:08am

Interesting idea about traffic control! 

I think of it in terms of how I breathe whenI read it - I know that sounds odd.

A ellipses is a trail away.  "All right...I'm glad it's a girl."  The air goes out like a slow leak.

A comma is a short break to get a breath.  "It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end."  

A dash just depends.  "So I walked away and left him standing there in the moonlight — watching over nothing."  Sometimes a dash can express words that aren't even there.  Sometimes it is a sharp intake of breath, sometimes it makes you hold your breath.  But in general, there is much more lingering over a em-dash than other punctuations.

And then there is all three at once. "It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

And then it's all really really magic. 
 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. November 14, 2011 - 8:49am

I'm more of an 'insert action' for pauses.  Reflect the type of pause with the type of action.

"All right."  He runs his hands softly across his face.  "I'm glad it's a girl."

"It was the only compliment I ever gave him," he confesses.  "Because I disapproved of him from beginning to end."

"It eluded us then, but that’s no matter," he paces the floor.  "Tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. And one fine morning."  His train of thought derailed, he stomps a foot.  "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 14, 2011 - 10:17am

@bryanhowie - Really?  Did you really just re-write F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I'm divorcing you. 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. November 14, 2011 - 11:36am

I wasn't saying it was better, I was just saying that's how I would do it.  Wait... we're married?  Forget the Fitz, let's talk about the honeymoon.  

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 14, 2011 - 12:18pm

Well, not anymore. 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. November 14, 2011 - 12:24pm

Come back to Ike, baby.  I'll never hurt you again.  

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 14, 2011 - 4:47pm

Ha!  Heard that one before!

jl85's picture
jl85 from originally East Tennessee now Southern California is reading everything I can November 14, 2011 - 7:34pm

HAHA online love -- we all have them!!

Anyways, I guess I never really thought about a way to describe how I write, but a "traffic signal" is a great analogy. I guess that's kind of how I've always looked at it. A lot of times I think I get so caught up in how words sound when I read them outloud that I will literally focus on two sentences for like 15 mins at a time. I am sincerely such a slow writer!!

But anyways, great points!!

@averydoll, sorry on the delay in reviewing your story, I swear I haven't forgotten about it, between work and the fmaily, I have been trying to get caught up on my NaNo writing so that I can get a win in my first year participating - I will get you some feedback soon though (probably this weekend as I have a couple days off work that I normally wouldn't).