Correcting Your Paragraph Structure Surrounding Dialogue

The best way to illustrate today’s writing tip is to show you an example.

 

“So you’re telling me that you ate all the leftovers?” He shrugged.

“Why do you even care? You hate ham,” he said. She stuck her tongue out at him.

“Yeah, but I like carrots and potatoes! What were you thinking?” He shrugged again, infuriating her even more.

“I was thinking that I was hungry.”

 

Besides the cheesy writing, what’s wrong with this example?

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The action tags are connected to the wrong line of dialogue! It’s confusing because it’s hard to tell who’s speaking or which person is doing what. I come across this structural issue quite often and find myself adding paragraph breaks where there weren’t any and deleting paragraph breaks where they were because actions and dialogue are being attributed to the wrong person.

I realize that readers would probably be able to figure this out if they spent some time looking at it, but making things difficult is not the writer’s job (when it comes to incorrect spacing and formatting). Paragraph breaks need to be in their proper place so the flow is not interrupted.

So how should the spaces be? Let’s take the previous example again:

“So you’re telling me that you ate all the leftovers?”

He shrugged. “Why do you even care? You hate ham.”

“Yeah, but I like carrots and potatoes! What were you thinking?” She stuck her tongue out at him.

He shrugged again, infuriating her even more. “I was thinking that I was hungry.”

 

Hopefully you see the difference! Spacing and breaks have a lot to do with telling the story, so make sure everything is in the correct place!

Leave me a comment if you have any questions, need clarification, or have anything at all to add!

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