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Proper formatting for dialog in literature/stories?

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Proper formatting for dialog in literature/stories?

Postby domokun1134 » Wed 02.17.2010 10:54 am

I'm at a beginner/intermediate level, possibly leaning more towards intermediate at this point. I need more 'exercise' and I recently realized I enjoy blogging in Japanese on lang-8.com. Freewriting is fun and lets you use the vocabulary that you otherwise might forget. Well anyway, I decided to write a short story just for the hell of it. It's possibly a bit beyond the scope of what I've learned but I enjoy challenging myself.

Anyway enough BS'ing. What I'm stuck on is how to format a verbal exchange between two characters. I know the basic form of direct quotations:


But when you have two characters going back and forth during a heavy verbal exchange it just seems clumsy. It certainly would seem ridiculous in English.

In English it's not necessary to put anything after the quotation every time after you've already established the order of who's speaking.

"My head is kinda big no?" Shinji said.

"Yeah it is. Rediculously so." Sochiro replied.

"Know any good head shrinkers in the area?"

"Actually, my Mom's a pretty good one"

"Oh I see."

I'm assuming it has to work a similar way in Japanese. Here's an excerpt from the story I'm writing. Pardon the grammar if there's any mistakes, this is my unedited draft of sorts. Just to set the scene, Matt, who is in Tokyo for the first time bumps into a somewhat scary looking guy (who's name isn't known to the reader yet) and spills coffee all over him.


口ふきで男を拭いた。(this is supposed to say: "said while bowing deeply". He started wiping him with a napkin).

「ばか!おまえは助けてないよ!はなせ!」 (idiot! you're not helping! Let go of me!)

かれはマットを押しやった。(he pushed him away)


「うるせ!お金を上げろなさい!] (shut up! Give me your money, now!)

Is this sorta the correct way of doing this? Are you all laughing at me? XD
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Re: Proper formatting for dialog in literature/stories?

Postby Harisenbon » Wed 02.17.2010 8:23 pm

I don't have any of my books with me right now (at work), so I can't give you any concrete examples, but one thing I can tell you that is very common is to use a verb to describe how something was said, without saying 言いました.

for example:
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Re: Proper formatting for dialog in literature/stories?

Postby Hyperworm » Wed 02.17.2010 10:01 pm

I find that と itself isn't used much for normal dialogue (that is, dialogue that is presented straight, and not a character themselves quoting). You have the right idea about just using 「」 on its own - the quoting style of your last four lines fits completely.

When 「quotation」 on its own isn't enough (which it often is, even to open a conversation, and even in group conversations between people with no particular accent, because of the variety of speech modes of Japanese that make identifying the speaker from their speech pattern much easier than in English) it can be followed by a description of how it was said, e.g. (彼は)怒鳴るような声で言った, or what action was taken while speaking, which may not even need to include a speech verb at all - for instance in place of "'quotation,' she said, shaking her head" you may see

When the speaker needs to be made clear but no description is needed, you might see the structure

Here are the opening two lines of speech plus the first interesting line of speech from a page picked at random, from some of the books I have. All these are by different modern authors. Unnecessary detail filtered out so you can concentrate on the structure (and so I don't have to type as much :lol:). Speech descriptions and speaker designations bolded. (中略) means "middle omitted" or "[...]".
First two lines
Random line
First two lines
Random line
彼女はうつむいたまま、そんなことを言う。 (Her identity is not spelled out at this point hence 彼女)
First two lines
Random line
First two lines
Random line
私が彼女に名を問うと、彼女は「名前はありません」と答えた。「名前がないから、幽霊なのです。あなたも同じでしょう」そう言って少女は笑った。 (Note that in the first instance, where this is not dialogue delivered straight but the main character talking to us [私が・・・] and telling us what someone else said, the quoting particle と is used.)

Hopefully you can get the general idea from those. :)
(At beginner/intermediate, there's probably a fair bit of grammar in there you don't understand yet, but I'm hoping the quoting structure at least will be fairly clear.)

Of course this is only a small sample and there are likely writing styles I've overlooked. Particularly in fairy tales I think the quoting と is fairly common.
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Re: Proper formatting for dialog in literature/stories?

Postby AJBryant » Fri 02.19.2010 4:33 am

The amusing thing about Japanese dialogue is that they actually have this:


as a "dialogue" marker indicating that the person had nothing to say (for whatever reason).
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Re: Proper formatting for dialog in literature/stories?

Postby domokun1134 » Fri 02.19.2010 10:39 am

You guys are awesome. This helps a lot.
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