“…and–” The Irritation of Dialogue Interruptions
…and–” The Irritation of Dialogue Interruptions

…and–” The Irritation of Dialogue Interruptions

It’s about time for a Krista Hates post.

I frickin’ hate it when writers don’t know how to cre­ate real­ist­ic Inter­rup­ted Dia­logue. Here’s a stand­ard example:

      Janie slapped her hand on the table. "I sure hate it when other
characters interrupt me when I'm speaking," she said. "It's very rude,
since the things I have to say are just important as other people's and—"
      "Oh shut up," said Carlos. "You are stupid."


(I just made that up, can you believe it?) Now here’s the thing. The “and—” becomes a device and it gives abso­lutely no indic­a­tion that the author had any idea what the char­ac­ter was about to say. It merely says to the read­er, hey, dude, guess what? This char­ac­ter was going to keep speak­ing but the oth­er char­ac­ter got in her way, and YOU don’t get a hint of what she was going to say!

My train­ing is in act­ing. Whenev­er an act­or comes across an inter­rup­tion in the lines of dia­logue in a play she must know what she’s going to carry on to say. As an act­or you can­not count on your fel­low act­or to inter­rupt you at exactly the pre­cise moment where the inter­rup­tion is writ­ten into the script. So, you plan what you’re going to carry on to say. You have to think about the line, and ask your­self, “Where is my char­ac­ter going with this?” and in your mind, you com­plete the sen­tence, just in case your coun­ter­part on stage does­n’t inter­rupt at exactly the right time.

As a writer, I carry this habit over from my act­ing back­ground. I always know where my char­ac­ter was going with his/her train of thought. So why not give the read­er a hint? Why use a device when I can show what the char­ac­ter was about to say? It’s not a waste of words; in fact, it’s much more inter­est­ing to read. Here’s an example from Dark Elf’s War­ri­or:

      "Well, it's about time, Val. What took you so long? Derry sent
me to find you. If I'd known you were going to be so late I'd've stayed
back and had another bowl of soup. Where've you—"
      "Slow down there, chum," Valrayker said. "I was enjoying a glass of
wine; these things can't be rushed."


See? You get the idea that Phen­nil was in the middle of actu­ally speak­ing, when Val inter­rup­ted him. You also have a clue as to what he was about to say. And guess what? It hardly took any more of time than it would have to say, “…anoth­er bowl of soup, and—”

And I know it’s a hell of a lot more inter­est­ing to read.

Why why why take the easy way out?? It drives me crazy. Please, writers: give us the impres­sion that your char­ac­ter was actu­ally in the middle of speak­ing. It’s way more inter­est­ing, and–