Writer Q&As: Writing Speech

I have two characters that play central roles throughout the story.

Granny mutters and mumbles to herself, talks aloud to the dog and the TV.
Question, should her talking aloud be in:
➢ Quotes?
➢ Italics?
➢ Normal part of prose but on a new line as dialogue?

Carol’s current life events trigger past memories that she “sees” /experiences.
➢ Should they be in italics? [Chris Beryl]

There are a number of acceptable ways to deal with this.

If you are writing genre fiction, or literary fiction, have a look at contemporary novels you like and see what method you feel most drawn to. Or, if you can’t decide, try out at least thee different options for at least 10 pages and then see which reading experience you like the most.

If you have a good first reader or two of your manuscript, have them read these three different styles and see what their feedback is.

Also, consider what the novels’ specific sensibility, atmosphere, environment is, then choose a stylistic approach that is in harmony with it. For example, if it is a contemporary, domestic environment, select a close proximity style (see my essay “Proximity” and M. Toews’ All My Puny Sorrows). Personally, I find italics hard to read and too precious so use them very sparingly. And, I prefer using spacing to signal to the reader. This simulates lived and oral experience of turning our eyes and often even our heads to view and listen to one another. I do think that quotations and the indicators of “he said” and “she said” are over-used because the majority of the time the setting makes it’s implicit.

Posted by: VMI/Betsy Warland

Posted by: Lindsay Glauser