In my book, I have someone calling 911 to report something, then I want a police officer informing the chief they got another report about XYZ. I don't want to go into the whole conversation with the 911 operator, nor the operator reporting it to the officer who takes it to the chief. Just the first few sentences of the call, then cut directly to the officer reporting it. Is there some sort of break, or gap, or something you put in there?

I'm writing in 3rd person omniscient.

  • Why is the common break (usually signaled by a blank line with a small symbol) not enough? – FFN Jan 11 '18 at 20:57

Is it really necessary to give the first few sentences of the call? If the readers already know what the report is about (having just seen it actually happen), then it's redundant to hash it out again. Just have the character pick up the phone "to call the police," and skip to the next scene.

On the other hand, if it's a deliberate false report to the police, you might want to show that. Even then, though, it might be better shown in the same way—skipping over the call entirely, and leaving the reader to discover as the officer reports to the chief that the incident was falsely reported on the phone.

If the incident is something only learned about through the call, then you would want to show the whole conversation, so that doesn't apply here. (One book I read begins, "I'd like to report a bomb," and proceeds through the entire 9-1-1 call, with accurate scripting checked by a police despatcher.)

I can't think of any case where it would really add something to the story to show the first few sentences of a 9-1-1 call but not the whole thing. So you should ask yourself if it really adds anything to the story.

A break between paragraphs should be sufficient in any case to indicate the gap.

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  • This particular call to 911 is an example. The reader learns shortly after that there have been many calls to the police about "XYZ". It doesn't really add to the story. But there would be a several minute gap from the time the operator handles the call to when the officer is letting the chief know another report came in. – GTS Jan 10 '18 at 16:17
  • @GTS, if it doesn't add to the story, I'd say it's a mistake to include. Take a look at this article on story beginnings. – Wildcard Nov 7 '18 at 0:11

Use an ellipsis to imply that the call to 911 is really continued, then just pick up the new conversation with a short statement to indicate the change of scene.

Joe calls 911, "A dinosaur just crushed my car. I barely got out alive..."

At the station, "Chief, we just got another report of a dinosaur, this time in Midland!"

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