1

I am working on a novel in which the characters talk to the protagonist and explain lot of backstory. It can run into tens of pages - essentially the entire story is told by the character to the protagonist and the reader is a third person learning about it in parallel.

My question is: what are the rules for quotes in these kind of conversations.

For instance (H: hero, C: a local character)

Page 1: H: So, how did you end up here?

Page 1 - 15: C: tells a 15-page long story ......

Page 16: H: "But, didn't you realize that what you were going after had these issues early on?"

Page 6-30: C: gives a long explanation with a couple more backstories involved.

In this case, I'd quote all the "H"'s statements. But what about the "C"s dialogue? How should it be written.

Thanks!

2
  • 1
    Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind is almost exactly this. He separates third-person narration from first-person flashback with chapter breaks. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Jun 28 '16 at 10:05
  • 1
    Read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Finest example of story within story within story. – user16226 Jun 28 '16 at 10:52
9

Consider writing the local character's story as a separate scene (and perhaps a separate chapter), with clear transitions between the two timeframes:

"So, how did you end up here?" Hero said.

"Make yourself comfortable, youngster," Local Character said. "This is going to take a while."

# <scene break>

It was 1953, and my mother had just shot the sherrif...

... tells the story in first person ...

# <scene break>

Local Character looked at his hands for a long moment. Then he said, "I know you don't believe a word of that. Nobody ever does. But swear every word is true."

... continue with "present-day" story ...

2
  • 1
    Definitely this. Such a story grants a * * * scene break. – SF. Jun 28 '16 at 8:42
  • Wow, thanks! Didn't think of this, but looks like this would fit my set up perfectly. Love your example btw. – user1669710 Jun 28 '16 at 15:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.