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I've looked at other posts here, but none really get to the bottom of it, and none are specifically like my question.

I'm writing the same story from two different perspectives. The first one is in 3rd person, and one of the characters often laughs. It might be described something like this:

Charlie laughed. "That's ridiculous."

or

Charlie laughed and then turned away.

Now I am writing the part from Charlie's perspective, and I can't find a way to integrate the laughter, which is an important part of the way Charlie talks (he is often laughing while he speaks). There are no dialogue tags, just a stream of consciousness.

Is it amateurish to say (it doesn't read that great to me):

"Ha! That's ridiculous."

or

"Haha! That's ridiculous."

It stand out especially because Charlie laughs very often. There can be no dialogue tags (e.g.: "I laughed and then said, "ridiculous."). It has to be within the talking. If I leave out the laughing, then the tone is totally wrong because the character seems too serious. If I leave it in, there are so many "Ha ha"s. But maybe it's OK, or maybe there's another way?

Thanks!

Any ideas?

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Perhaps you are approaching story-telling from a narrow, direct approach. The third-person account of events already tells the reader Charlie is always laughing. It may not be necessary to repeat that information in the first person account.

You're also limiting your scope by insisting the tag does the work when there are characters who are there to help tell your story. Allow another character to make the observation.

"That's ridiculous," said Charlie.
"What's so funny?" asked Greta.
"Nothing."
"Then why are you laughing? Is everything a joke to you? You're always laughing at me."
Charlie turned away. "I'm sorry."
Greta placed a hand on Charlie's shoulder and turned him to face her. "Ha! Caught you. You're still laughing."

There's no need to follow any particular convention. Mix it up to avoid repetition. Note that Greta's laugh is in dialogue.

Also consider that if the first-person is aware of their laughing they may reference it. This was important. I should take a moment. Get my mind right. Try to get through this with a straight face.

"Ha!" in dialogue is not amateurish but is often literal. (Not all people have the same laugh).

In this example Greta literally says, "Ha! Caught you!"

It is often said sarcastically. - "Ha-ha. You're killing me."

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  • very helpful, esp. the "Then why are you laughing? Is everything a joke to you. You're always laughing at me." as a way to show the laughter through the other character. That said, for my particular first person part, the example you gave would def. cover the occasional laugh, but wouldn't work throughout. Does writing ha! or haha! seem amateurish? I read somewhere that it comes off that way. wondering if there are other laugh expressions that also work. – romebot Dec 18 '19 at 11:28
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You say "it doesn't read that great to me". And that's because it's not the place to put laughter. You're literally making Charlie say "Ha-ha". And also, it reads like he's being dismissive, or thinking everyone else is trying to be funny.

Laughing should be treated as crying, moaning, whining etc. They are sounds and/or bodily reactions. The dialogue is for what's said.

Establish his behaviour early on and remind the reader from time to time that he's laughing through reactions from other people as was suggested to you. Sprinkle it with Charlie's body language, how he laughs, his facial expressions and tone of voice.

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