What is it?

A dialogue split is when a character says something, then does an action, then continues speaking.

“Look! It’s a plane! Mary exclaimed. “No, wait, it’s a space ship!”

This is perfectly fine as a sentence.

However, I’ve been seeing a lot of this:

“Cassandra,” Joe said firmly, wondering if Cassandra would even listen to what he had to say about Gerald’s time in the jungle and the fact that he claimed to have seen a leopard turn into a human. “Do you think maybe Gerald was seeing things?”

Mechanically, there is nothing wrong with the sentence. All the ‘t’s’ are crossed, all the ‘i’s’ are dotted, commas and periods in the right place. Capitalization is proper and grammar is…well..we won’t go there. 🙂

However, the dialogue is disrupted by Joe’s thinking about a 3rd character.

There are three people in this scene, even though Joe is only speaking to Cassandra.

The third character, Gerald, is actually the center of attention.

In romance, as much as possible, the hero and heroine should be the center of attention.

Cassandra paced the room, frowning with concern. “Joe, you were there in the jungle, did you ever see anything like Gerald claims? Will you start spouting weird stuff about the jungle after we’re married? Is this something I need to worry about?”

Gerald will be my new brother-in-law, better keep the peace.

“Cassandra,” Joe said, firmly. “I enjoyed my time in the jungle and didn’t experience anything out of this world. Do you think maybe Gerald was seeing things?”

The focus of the sentences have now returned to hero and heroine. Sure, they’re discussing another person, but now, the reader has their feelings in the forefront of the scene. Cassandra is worried about Joe, based on her brother’s response, but Joe is reassuring her he’ll be fine, despite the brother’s mind slip.

Try hard to temper dialogue splits without the distraction of another person, or speculation on their actions or thoughts. Keep the focus on hero and heroine, even when they are discussing someone else. Put the hero and heroine’s feelings and actions in the split, not someone else’s.

Be careful, too, that your dilaogue split is needed. Don’t break the tension unless it is truly necessary.

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