11

I am not certain of convention. Is one of the two of these correct? Or are they equivalent?

Jane said, "Let's chase the ball."

Jack looked at her in disbelief. "We always chase the ball, Jane. We've been chasing the ball for fifty years. Let's deflate it instead."

Or,

Jane said, "Let's chase the ball." Jack looked at her in disbelief.

"We always chase the ball, Jane. We've been chasing the ball for fifty years. Let's deflate it instead."

Edit: Another iteration of this. What if Jack has a mental response, but doesn't speak it aloud?

Jane said, "Let's chase the ball." Jack looked at her in disbelief, thinking, Another day chasing the ball? Jane suggested, "Or, we can deflate it instead?"

Are Jack's thoughts worthy of their own paragraph?

14

The convention is to always start a new paragraph when you change the speaker, change the place, or change the time. In this case, you're changing the speaker, so your first example is correct. In the second example it's unclear who's saying the second line - it could be Jack, or it could be Jill or Julia.

EDIT: To clarify, if Jack's response is only physical, and he doesn't say anything, you don't need to change paragraphs at all:

Jane said, "Let's chase the ball." Jack looked at her in disbelief, and she quickly added, "Or we could deflate it."

  • What if Jack doesn't actually say anything? If Jack looked at her in disbelief, and then Jane picked up the conversation again by saying "Or we could deflate it," would that be 1 paragraph or 3? It sounds like you are saying three? – DPT Oct 16 '17 at 15:43
  • I'll edit that into my answer. – F1Krazy Oct 16 '17 at 15:54
  • I think this is why I am confused, because sometimes the character responses flow from the other speaker, and it looks right to have the response immediately after that speaker. But if their physical response precedes their own character's dialog, then I guess it goes down into a new paragraph. – DPT Oct 16 '17 at 16:07

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