This can get... confusing, which is why I tend to avoid it, but sometimes, I really want it there.

“What?!” [said Character B.] I laughed, giving her a minute to process my words. “You’re getting married? I never thought I’d see the day!”

I want the pause between the dialogue. I suppose I can put an ellipsis, but I wanted action to break the dialogue. However, the action is from Character A which can make it confusing.

The scene is a back-to-back dialogue since they’re conversing. This has also happened in another story of mine, and sometimes the action break is too long, so I feel like I should put the action in a different paragraph, but the same person who was previously speaking would be speaking again. I’m just unsure about the correct formatting. I wasn’t able to find much explanation on Google.

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2 Answers 2


You format it with tags, it won't interrupt the flow.

"What?!" Marcia said.

I laughed, giving her a minute to process my words.

"You're getting married?" she said. "I never thought I'd see the day!"


It's fine to use action to insert a beat in the dialogue, or just as a change of pace from tags. But you must separate out each person's actions (whether it's speech, thought, or something else) in to a new paragraph. What you wrote isn't clear.

Amadeus' version is perfectly good. How you format it is up to you and it will depend on the sentence or two that comes before this excerpt too (if the character is identified already). Here's a version that doesn't use any tags (I'll use Amadeus' Marcia):

Marcia turned. "What?!"

I laughed, giving her a minute to process my words.

"You're getting married? I never thought I'd see the day!"

In other words, you don't need anything in the "What" line. Putting the "I laughed" line after it is going to give you the pause you want. Since it's separate now, the reader won't be confused about who is speaking. The last line also doesn't need a tag or action marker to show who's speaking, because it's obvious in context. I would, however, include an "I" or a "Marcia" in whatever comes after that. So the reader doesn't lose track.

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