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When I write a chat dialogue in a novel, how should I format it? Since it is not direct speech, it obviously needs no quotation marks, but should I use italics, repeat the names, or how else is chat dialogue conventionally marked up in fiction?


Examples

Quotation marks look too much like face-to-face or telephone communication:

Then she flipped back over to the Facebook page and sent him a friend request from Facebook.

Judith: "Okay Terrance, I have you all dialed in now. You seem legit. What kind of photo shoots you want to do? Bikini or business suit?"

Terrance: "Nah, strictly professional. Kind of like stock photo shooting. I just want to get some head shots of you, and talk about some other things that we can do in the local market. I don't want to come off as a player."

No markup looks like a typesetting mistake:

Then she flipped back over to the Facebook page and sent him a friend request from Facebook.

Judith: Okay Terrance, I have you all dialed in now. You seem legit. What kind of photo shoots you want to do? Bikini or business suit?

Terrance: Nah, strictly professional. Kind of like stock photo shooting. I just want to get some head shots of you, and talk about some other things that we can do in the local market. I don't want to come off as a player.

Italics look awkward somehow:

Then she flipped back over to the Facebook page and sent him a friend request from Facebook.

Judith: Okay Terrance, I have you all dialed in now. You seem legit. What kind of photo shoots you want to do? Bikini or business suit?

Terrance: Nah, strictly professional. Kind of like stock photo shooting. I just want to get some head shots of you, and talk about some other things that we can do in the local market. I don't want to come off as a player.

So how is this done?

  • 2
    I think what he's asking is how to format chat scripts when writing in a novel. Like two characters talking online. But that's just what I think... – Amin Mohamed Ajani Nov 11 '14 at 1:00
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    @Monica I edited the question to make it on topic. Even if it is maybe not what the OP wanted (though, like Amin, I suspect it is), it is now a valuable and worthwhile question for us. – user5645 Nov 11 '14 at 9:20
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You have several different options here, depending on what effect you're trying to achieve.

Chat room dialogue is a little tough to work with, because it's pure dialogue, with no emotion or action or simple visibility. Oftentimes, it's enough to say something like,

"Roy chatted with Samantha. 'OMG my mom's addicted to FOX news like you wouldn't believe," Samantha wrote, and Roy grinned - that was Sam's mom to a T.

-- where you aren't recreating an entire conversation; you're just summing up the highlights, and you're focusing on one Point of View - here, Roy's - and showing the experience from his side.

If you do want to recreate chat at any length, what I've seen done a lot is custom formatting. If you choose a special font, and indent the text, it feels like a chat log that's "inserted" into the main text, like this:

Chat excerpts within text

(Full-size image here. Source: "Incarnate," Scott Ciencin )

It doesn't have to be this specific font, and style choice. This is rather dated, from when chat rooms were a lot less sophisticated - and monospace courier gave a "computer-y" feel that seemed appropriate to chat rooms; now you'll hardly see Courier New on the web anywhere. But the association is still there, so you could use this same style, or - just pick a different distinct font, that gives the feeling you're going for.

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Why not just use images? Take screen shots of an actual Facebook convo. I don't feel like this should be too terribly difficult. . .

  • If we are writing fiction – and making up the conversation in chat – how are we supposed to take a screenshot? – user5645 Nov 14 '14 at 7:16
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    Dealing with images also makes a text much harder to work with and lay out, then simple styled text. – Standback Nov 14 '14 at 9:00

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