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Writing Books/Dialogue format

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Question
Hi,

I am currently writing a children picture book and I was wondering if I had written the dialogue in the proper format, concerning indentation and such.

Here is a sample passage:

Paragraph ends.
    One day, as he was eating some grass, a cheetah appeared before his eyes.
    “Hi,” said the cheetah.
    “Hello,” Tortoise answered, surprised at this rare encounter.
    “I’m hungry,” said the cheetah, “do you have any meat?”
Tortoise looked around but didn’t see any meat.
    “I’m afraid not,” Tortoise replied, “but you can have some of this grass.”
    The cheetah sat down, and the two of them shared some grass in silence. Then, as Tortoise was finishing a mouthful of delicious grass, he asked the cheetah,
    “Who are you exactly?”
    “Cheetah,” said the cheetah.
    “And where are you from?”, asked Tortoise thinking, ‘How did this cheetah arrived here?’.
    “I don’t know…exactly,” answered the cheetah.

Thank you.

Answer
Ben:

Here's how it should be written.  After changes, I'll put the explanation for the changes in brackets.


Paragraph ends.
   One day, as he was eating some grass, a cheetah appeared before his eyes. “Hi,” said the cheetah. [Though not technically wrong, there's no need to begin a new paragraph when the cheetah first speaks.]
   “Hello,” Tortoise answered, surprised at this rare encounter.
   “I’m hungry,” said the cheetah. “Do you have any meat?” ["I'm hungry" and "Do you have any meat?" are two distinct sentences, and should not be connected with a comma.]
   Tortoise looked around but didn’t see any meat. [Tortoise begins a new paragraph.] “I’m afraid not,” Tortoise replied, “but you can have some of this grass.”
   The cheetah sat down, and the two of them shared some grass in silence. Then, as Tortoise was finishing a mouthful of delicious grass, he asked the cheetah, “Who are you, [Need a comma before "exactly."] exactly?” [Same paragraph as before, not a new line.]
   “Cheetah,” said the cheetah.
   “And where are you from?” [Since you have the question mark, you do not need the comma.] asked Tortoise, [Need a comma here.] thinking, ‘How did this cheetah arrive [Deleted the "d" typo.] here?’ [No period here, for the same reason: already had a question mark.]
   “I don’t know…exactly,” answered the cheetah. [The use of the ellipsis to indicate hesitation on Cheetah's part is probably not the best way to do it.  It's fine, and I use the ellipsis a lot (too much), but a better way might be this: "I don't know," the cheetah said, frowning, "exactly."  There are even better ways to do it, but that's just one option.]


Hope that's helpful.

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Vincent M. Wales

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I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.

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For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

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BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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