Getting the Hang of Dialogue Punctuation – Part 2

Last week, we discussed how to use dialogue punctuation correctly. This week, we’re sharing an extract from the Editors’ Bible dealing with internal dialogue (thoughts). I hope many of you find this information useful and use it to improve the quality of your books, thereby saving you money on a professional edit (if the editor you hire charges according to whether a light, medium or heavy edit is needed, that is – it’s advisable to check before paying anyone to edit your work).

Internal dialogue/thoughts are always italicised and written in first person, present tense (using the pronouns: me; my; mine; I). For example:

I hate it here, James thought.
The spots of blood look suspicious, he thought.

If it’s part of the narrative, however, no italics are used. For example:

James hated it there.
The spots of blood looked suspicious, he thought.

Note that the end comma is also italicised in cases where the dialogue tags come after the thought.

If a question is asked in thought, there’s no question mark if the dialogue tag (he said; she said; etcetera) comes after the thought. A comma is the only punctuation that can be used at the end of direct thought that’s followed by dialogue tags. However, if the dialogue tag comes before the direct thought, other punctuation can be used to end the thought. For example:

Why am I here, she asked herself.
She asked herself, why am I here?
Wow, she thought.
She thought, wow!
I wish I could sleep, he thought.
He thought, I wish I could sleep.

Often, direct thoughts don’t have any dialogue tags attached to them. For example:

James thought the spots of blood looked suspicious. There’s got to be foul play here.

For more language rules, you can now purchase the Editors’ Bible for only $1 at Smashwords, until Christmas Day only. It’s a steal! Use the following code at checkout to claim your discount: CK47M.

As always, please don’t forget to leave a review if you find the book helpful (or a comment if this post helped you to gain a better understanding of dialogue punctuation).

Happy holidays!

xmas tree

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Getting the Hang of Dialogue Punctuation – Part 1

Myriad authors can’t seem to get the hang of correct dialogue punctuation – including me when I first started writing. The goods news is that, once you ‘click’, it’ll become as easy as spelling the word ‘the’.

Here’s an extract from my Editors’ Bible that I hope will help some of you to understand the rules better:

If the narrative doesn’t pertain to the speech (said, shouted, whispered, muttered and murmured, etc.), a full stop is used. For example:

John said, “Good morning.”

John smiled. “Good morning.”

“I’ll get through as soon as I can,” she promised Eric.

“I’ll get through as soon as I can.” She stared at Eric.

Remove the quotation marks (“ ”) and insert a comma in place of the end punctuation. If this is grammatically correct, your dialogue should end in a comma. If it’s grammatically incorrect and would only be correct after inserting a full stop, the dialogue should end in a full stop (or other relevant punctuation, such as a question mark if a question is being asked). For example:

The detective sounded pleased. “By the way,” he said, “she had a fit when she heard her car had been stolen.”

The detective sounded pleased. “By the way…” He smiled. “She had a fit when she heard her car had been stolen.”

It should also be noted that only one dialogue tag is needed for each time a character speaks, unless an action is performed during or between that character’s speech, or unless the character’s tone changes or something else important occurs.

An example of an unnecessary double dialogue tag is as follows:

“Maybe John’s asleep,” she said. “I’ll try later,” she concluded.

In the above example, the reader already knows who is speaking, so it’s not necessary to state it again. It’s also obvious (by the fact that this character says nothing further) that she’s concluded her dialogue.

Next week, we’ll take a look at punctuating internal dialogue (thoughts).

I hope this helps some fellow authors!

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A Map of Kex’s Face by Robin Wyatt Dunn

The first five readers to email the author (info at the end of this post) will receive a free advance ebook copy.


Today I introduce you to fellow author Robin Wyatt Dunn, who shares a little about his latest book, A Map of Kex’s Face, and interviews himself. I hope you find this post as entertaining as I did. Without further ado, here’s Robin:

photoA Map of Kex’s Face by Robin Wyatt Dunn

Hello from the capital of paranoia, Los Angeles! For New York it’s anxiety, for Paris melancholia, but for L.A. it’s the feeling close to Woody Allen’s heart: “just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”

In my new novel, A Map of Kex’s Face, SoCal paranoia has caused a split from the national body: secession. And lust has driven our hero, Professor Roberto, from his marital bed into the arms of his undergraduate mistress.

The bigger split is in reality itself: a dimensional doorway has appeared on campus and SoCal’s breakaway republic and…

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Doorway to Destiny – the perfect Christmas gift for the readers in your life

An excellent holiday deal!



With Christmas just around the corner and the economy in a sorry state, everyone is on the hunt for bargains. If you’re looking for an affordable Christmas gift for the readers in your life – a gift that won’t cost you an arm or a leg, but also won’t appear cheap – take a look at Doorway to Destiny, a 13-book fantasy and science fiction adventure ebook bundle, only 99c for a limited time.

boxcover_thumbWith eight novels by TC Southwell and three novels and two anthologies by Vanessa Finaughty, this box set offers fantasy and sci-fi lovers escapism that will keep you up long past your bedtime. Dive into fantastic worlds and meet fascinating characters whose trials and tribulations will enchant and inspire. Discover how a vengeful assassin reshapes the fate of three kingdoms and share in a quest to discover the origins of mankind, then follow the tale…

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Abusing Dialogue Tags

Don’t abuse dialogue tags.


By this, I mean don’t overuse them. It’s not necessary to have a dialogue tag with every piece of dialogue. How many dialogue tags you need depends largely on how many characters are talking in any given scene. The more characters speaking in that scene, the more dialogue tags you’ll need to avoid confusion. If you have two characters, for example, you can leave up to three sets of dialogue without tags, and, if the conversation is between a male and female, you can often get away with leaving up to five or more sections of dialogue without tags, particularly if you insert action narrative in between. In the below example, some dialogue has speech tags, others action narrative, and still others have none, since it’s obvious from the context who is speaking in those places (if you had read this scene from the start).


“They’ve found it,” Vareck said.

“What? Where are you?”

“Standing over the body next to the weapon.”

Jacques was silent for a moment. “Just one?”

Unease creeping up his spine, Vareck glanced around the shadowy cavern, his eyes lingering on the dark corners where the wall torches’ light failed to reach. “Perhaps.” He hesitated. “Probably not.”

“You know what this means,” Jacques said.

“Yes. Gather the others and fill them in on the way here.”

“Give us half an hour.”

“I’m not sure we have that long.” Vareck hung up and scanned the cavern again.


Rule of thumb: if it’s obvious to the reader who’s speaking, leave the dialogue tag out. If it could be confusing, include it.


Extract from The Better Writing Guide.


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Easily Confused Words

Many words in the English language sound identical or similar to another word that means something entirely different. Don’t get caught out using the wrong word!

Here’s a short list of easily confused words:

Aid (help or assist) and aide (helper or assistant)
Bale (bundle) and bail (surety or security payment; to leave)
Chord (musical note) and cord (string or rope)
Disinterested (unbiased) and uninterested (not interested)
Explicit (unambiguous, exact or candid) and implicit (implied, complete or absolute)
Further (additional or promote/advance) and farther (beyond or to a more distant point)
Grisly (gruesome or macabre) and grizzly (wild animal – bear)
Horse (wild or domestic animal) and hoarse (croaky, gruff, husky, guttural or rasping)
Imminent (impending or looming) and eminent (renowned, important or distinguished)
Loath (unwilling or reluctant) and loathe (detest, hate or despise)
Morale (confidence or drive) and moral (ethical, honest, honourable or message)
Perpetuate (spread, maintain, or bring about) and perpetrate (do or be responsible for)
Rap (knock) and wrap (enclose; enfold)
Taut (tight) and taught (past tense of ‘teach’)
Voracious (insatiable, gluttonous or ravenous) and veracious (truthful)
Wrack (seaweed) and rack (shelf; torture instrument; experience guilt, remorse or pain)

In the below paragraph, there are 15 easily confused words used incorrectly. Until end November 2014, the first ten people who can point out all 15 words and what the correct word is will win a free copy of any one of Vanessa Finaughty’s ebooks from Smashwords (your choice which one, but note that the box set is excluded from this offer). To enter, please send an email to shadowfire13 @ (remove spaces) titled ‘Easily Confused Words’ and format it as follows:

1. Aide – should be aid
2. Alter – should be altar

Michelle was walking down the isle when she realised for the first time that she didn’t really want to get married – not to James. Only three steps from the alter, she turned and fled. Later that day, her mother tried to diffuse the situation, but Michelle’s husband-to-be was disinterested. Michelle managed to allude James since then, and was not phased by all the drama. Quite frankly, she wished he could be hung. She had tried in the past to illicit the truth from him, but he had steadfastly refused to talk about his past. He had emigrated into the country ten years ago, and had leant plenty of money from her since then – in between ravaging her in the bedroom. That part, she hadn’t minded so much. Now that she thought about it, he had lead her on a bit, but she had learnt her lessen. She was loathe to see him again, but she needed the money back. There was a prophesy about her situation that her grandmother used to tell her, but she hadn’t believed it until now.

Note that the above paragraph is written using UK spelling, so words like ‘realised’ are not included as errors.

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Basic Rules for Novel Formatting

Nothing can make a mess of your book’s visual appeal more than bad formatting, not to mention that it will annoy anyone who works on the manuscript, from beta readers and editors to the person doing your print formatting.

Seasoned writers tend to get this right without thinking about it – to them, there is no other way. Beginner writers tend to make these basic formatting mistakes without realising how much extra work they are giving not only their editor or formatter, but also themselves.

Here’s why getting your basic formatting correct is important: print and e-book publishers/distributors have formatting instructions that need to be followed exactly. If they are not, your final product will look horrible and may even receive a few bad reviews just because of that, if it’s enough of a mess visually. Some publishers may even reject a badly formatted manuscript simply because it will take up too much time to fix the formatting, and time is money.

Here are some very basic formatting rules to follow when writing your manuscript:

–> Do not hit ‘tab’ or ‘space’ to make indents. If you want to use indents (which you should, in a fiction novel), you need to set the document tabs via MS Word’s formatting menu.

–> Do not hit ‘enter’ to start a new page when starting a new chapter. Insert a page break via MS Word’s insert menu.

–> Do not hit ‘space’ a few times to centre your headings. Hit the ‘centre’ button on MS Word’s formatting tool bar.

–> Do not insert ‘a million’ spaces to leave a blank line. Hit ‘enter’ twice.

–> Do not hit ‘half a million’ spaces to start a new line. Hit ‘enter’ once.

Happy writing!

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Writers’ Forums

Most writers have little free time on their hands between work, writing, family responsibilities and the general frenzy of day-to-day living. This means that writers have to allocate time wisely in order to gain the most benefit from anything they participate in.

With miniscule amounts of free time to spare in between writing, marketing and daily life, is it really worth your while as a writer to join and participate in a writers’ forum?

At Fireblade, we believe that yes, it most certainly is.


Writers’ forums give authors increased exposure.

Writers’ forums focus almost exclusively on books, writing and anything related, and can be a valuable resource if you find the right one.

Writers’ forums are a good way to make industry contacts – from other writers to editors, beta readers and reviewers, cover designers, new fans and more.

Writers’ forums help you to get your work out there to the right audience (readers join writers’ forums too).

Writers’ forums give writers a greater chance of peer reviews.

Nobody knows everything, and a writers’ forum is a place where you can ask language- or plot-related queries and get answers from other writers, editors and others in the industry – not the average Joe Soap who possibly can’t spell properly or perhaps doesn’t even read.


Being a member of a writers’ forum will take up more of your valuable time.

Of course, joining a writers’ forum doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to post every day, or even every week. As long as you treat it much the same way you’d treat Twitter or Facebook, for example, and give yourself a set amount of time according to your schedule, it won’t cut into your writing time or daily responsibilities all that much.

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Should Children Be Exposed to Fantasy and Magic?

As part of the Wizard of Ends virtual book tour, here’s another fantasy post – should children be exposed to fantasy and magic? Enjoy!


Today’s tour host is fellow fantasy author TC Southwell, with a guest post from me about healing magic in today’s world.

Don’t forget that today is the last day you can get Michelle Louring’s The Angel’s Voice, Books 1 & 2 for FREE! See here for coupon details.

Now, on to children, fantasy and magic…

magic_blog2Here’s a topic that’s close to my heart. It’s not something I’ve been terribly vocal about – because how can you have an opinion about what children should or shouldn’t be exposed to when you have none? Now that I have a baby daughter, however, I feel the need to contemplate this topic and, unlike before, society ‘allows’ me to share my thoughts. Like most parents, I want only the best for my daughter and do not want to hold her back in any way. Rather, I want to enable her to achieve what…

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Extract from Wizard of Ends, Book 1 by Vanessa Finaughty

Today we bring you an extract from Fireblade’s Vanessa Finaughty, from her latest release, Wizard of Ends, Book 1.

WoE 1_thumb

Lashlor awoke to terrified shouts outside the cabin. He shot up in bed and looked across the room as Queen Narraki sprang from her bed. Lashlor joined her at the window and scanned the darkening forest.

“Shouldn’t one of the guards be here?” he asked, frowning.

The queen glanced around the room as if to double check they were alone, her brow furrowed. “Yes.”

Lashlor grabbed his bow and quiver. “Stay here, My Queen, and latch the door.”

He stepped outside, closed the door and waited to hear the latch slide across.

More shouts came from the trees, and Lashlor made his way towards the sound, hastening his steps when the yells became more urgent, then halted when the two Guards of Ends came into view.

Nashel and Kanar stood back to back, sweeping their swords in front of them in an attempt to keep at bay the pack of hound monkeys that surrounded them.

Lashlor counted seven of the creatures. Hound monkeys usually travelled in packs of ten, for some odd reason. It was possible, but unlikely that three hound monkeys from the same pack had been killed so close together that replacements had not yet been found for any of them. Unlikely, for the ferocious beasts stood man height on all fours, and, with the torso of a hound and the neck and head of a monkey, complete with sharp curved teeth and deadly claws, if fear alone didn’t kill you, they most certainly would. The fact that Nashel and Kanar had lasted this long was either testament to their renowned skill, or the hound monkeys were playing with them, as they were sometimes known to do.

Lashlor loosed an arrow, striking one hound monkey in the side of the head. It fell, writhing. Its pack eyed him hatefully, and two slunk away from the Guards of Ends, fixated on Lashlor.

Where were the other three pack members? Lashlor looked around nervously as he backed away from the hound monkeys, raising his bow again. He killed the closest one mid-spring, then threw himself aside as a second launched itself at him. He dropped his bow and reached into his boot for his knife. He used it for cutting herbs, but it would do nicely as a weapon too.

“Wizard! What are you doing? Save yourself – and us!” Kanar shouted, jabbing his sword at a hound monkey that got too close.

Lashlor kicked the hound monkey in the head as it attacked again, then screamed when it bit through his boot and shook its head viciously, tearing off the boot’s heel. He shoved it away as it took a swipe at his face, but it grabbed him in a bear hug. They grappled, and he stabbed it in the side of the head three times before it stopped moving.

A glance at the Guards of Ends showed they were still surrounded by five hound monkeys. Lashlor wasn’t surprised they hadn’t killed even one – the creatures were expert hunters – then again, so were the two men.

“Behind you!” he yelled as a hound monkey, clearly deciding that play time was over, leapt at Kanar’s back.

Kanar had only half turned when the creature was upon him, and he went down, sword flailing. Nashel made to help him, but two hound monkeys sprang at him and he was forced away from his comrade.


Download Wizard of Ends, Book 1 for free from Smashwords or iBooks
Pre-order Wizard of Ends, Book 2: Dark Creature for only 99c from iBooks or Barnes & Noble

Release date: 23 October 2014
Note: From 24 October, Book 2’s price will go up to $2.99

Join the Wizard of Ends virtual book tour
Follow Vanessa’s blog
Join Vanessa on Twitter or Facebook

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