Are you allowed to interrupt an action beat with dialogue? For example:

I push off from the pole on which I was leaning, “I’m sorry, but I have to go.” then start jogging away before anyone can protest.

1 Answer 1


This is commonly done in both light and full action blocks.

Simple actions with dialogue may paint a scene, keeping the reader’s head in one place (new paragraphs in literature often carry the expectation of a new character)

Agatha Christie, The Secret Adversary:

“My dear child,” interrupted Tuppence, “there is nothing I do not know about the cost of living. Here we are at Lyons’, and we will each of us pay for our own. That’s it!” And Tuppence led the way upstairs.

You have dialogue, and Tuppence leading the way. Light action and dialogue.

There are occasions when you need to interrupt the flow, so the dialogue stands out more. In the same book, Christie breaks the girl character at the quote:

Tommy came forward eagerly.

“You must know something about her?”

But the girl turned away abruptly.

“I know nothing—only the name.” She walked towards the door. Suddenly she uttered a cry. Tommy stared. She had caught sight of the picture he had laid against the wall the night before. For a moment he caught a look of terror in her eyes. As inexplicably it changed to relief. Then abruptly she went out of the room. Tommy could make nothing of it. Did she fancy that he had meant to attack her with it? Surely not. He rehung the picture on the wall thoughtfully.

The last two paragraphs could have been one, but Christie wanted to emphasize the “I know nothing—only the name” by aligning it right. There would be nothing incorrect about this flow.

But the girl turned away abruptly. “I know nothing—only the name.” She walked towards the door. Suddenly she uttered a cry. Tommy stared…

The difficulty you can run into with breaking up any block from a single POV is confusing the reader’s expectations. Look at this action sequence, and you can see how new paragraphs are necessary with rapid changes. This is the expected use of new paragraphs:

For a moment Tommy hesitated. There was the sound of some one stirring on the floor below. Then the German’s voice came up the stairs.

“Gott im Himmel! Conrad, what is it?”

Tommy felt a small hand thrust into his. Beside him stood Annette. She pointed up a rickety ladder that apparently led to some attics.

“Quick—up here!” She dragged him after her up the ladder. In another moment they were standing in a dusty garret littered with lumber. Tommy looked round.

“This won’t do. It’s a regular trap. There’s no way out.”

“Hush! Wait.” The girl put her finger to her lips. She crept to the top of the ladder and listened.

I would lean toward keeping single scenes together when possible. If a profound statement comes out, then the new line can emphasize it. With that, try not to break a single scene more than once. Good storytelling will have you shifting their focus, just like movies run scenes no longer than 3-4 seconds.

The emphasis will determine a break:


I pushed off from the pole, saying, “I’m sorry, I have to go.” I was off and running before anyone could respond.

It’s also fine to say,


I pushed off from the pole.

“Sorry—Really, guys, I have to go.”

I’ll never know or care what their reply was. I was already off and running.

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