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Example:

“An isotope is determined by an atom’s number of neutrons,” she read to herself. “How many neutrons does uranium-235?” She looked down at her periodic table, searching for uranium. She recognized its location with atomic number 92 before creating a simple formula to determine how many neutrons there were and writing down her answer of 143.

Is it appropriate to have the excerpt in bold stand with the dialogue or should it be in a new paragraph?

2 Answers 2

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Your example is ok.

I assume the bold is there to emphasize the part of the text you're asking about and not to be part of the final manuscript.

Adding text in the same paragraph as dialog lines are very often used.

The following types are common (bolded):

Dialogue attributions

"…," he said.

The most commonly used extra text in dialogue (if one even wants to think about it as not dialogue). However, you may not always need it. See what happens if it's not there.

Action

Mixing dialogue and action is a great way to avoid "talking heads" syndrome. The reader can see the place where the characters are talking by their interaction with it.

Dialogue cues

"…," he said. His voice was slow and raspy.

How is the character's voice sounding? How does the POV character react to it? This tells us not just what the character said, but also gives us clues on how to interpret it.

One character per paragraph

I don't think there are many fast and hard rules about dividing dialog in paragraphs, but there is one:

Never have lines/dialog from more than one character per paragraph.

The rest is all about your writer's ear (try reading it out loud), your beta readers, and editors.

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Yes. It is entirely appropriate, and considered excellent form, to include action and narrative and character reactions in paragraphs starting with that character's dialogue.

This is practice is entirely consistent with the principle of "one speaker, one paragraph."

This is because your action beat and narrative all focus on that character. If, on the other hand, your narrative focused on the actions of another character in the scene, then that shift in focus might warrant a new paragraph.

I am not talking about a change in POV, but a change in where the narrator has their focus. Paragraphs are a way to signal that the POV character's or the narrator's attention is shifting to something else that the author thinks is important to emphasize.

For example, if your example read

“An isotope is determined by the number of neutrons in an atom," said Jane, reading aloud, from the back of the cereal box. John shrugged and twitched as the cesium-127 lacing his morning bowl of fruit loops destroyed his nervous system from within.

That shift to John might deserve its own paragraph since the dialogue and the action are about two different characters -- assuming the Jane is the POV of the scene. It's like the narrator turned their head from Jane to look at John dying. A way to think about it is like a film or video. If the camera of your POV character needs to pan to take the moment in, then a new paragraph might be appropriate.

The argument for when that is not necessarily accurate is when text relates the POV character's reactions to events or actions taken by characters. For example, the paragraph described Jane's smile as John died of poisoned fruit loops, then it would be more appropriate to be part of the same paragraph as the dialogue -- or direct thought as in your example.

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