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I’m editing a first person story and I’m a bit stumped on one thing in particular. I’m not sure how to explain this in a non-confusing way.

Is it okay or correct to mix the dialogue and actions of one character, with the actions of another?

For example:

“You okay, buddy?” he asked. I scoffed and looked away.

“Yes. Fine.” I snapped. He laughed and looked down, his hair falling into his eyes.

Or, should it be this way:

“You okay, buddy?” he asked.

I scoffed and looked away. “Yes. Fine.” I snapped.

He laughed and looked down, his hair falling into his eyes.

Alternatively:

“You okay, buddy?” he asked.

I scoffed and looked away.

“Yes. Fine.” I snapped.

He laughed and looked down, his hair falling in his eyes.

Which is the correct way?

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    I vote for second formatting. Easier to read and compact.
    – Bassem
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 5:13
  • I definitely agree with Bassem Akl, the second one sounds best.
    – Murphy L.
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 1:43

1 Answer 1

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Your second format is probably best, however, you should never put dialog in the middle of a paragraph. Either begin or end on a quoted dialog, never sandwhich it in narrative action.

To wit you can change the following:

I scoffed and looked away. “Yes. Fine.” I snapped.

to

I scoffed, looking away. “Yes, Fine!”

for just a bit more clean up, since someone who just "scoffed" will inform the way the reader hears their dialog. Additionally, the change of punctuation from a period to exclamation point helps sell a terse response. If you still want to put a dialog tag, you need to end quoted dialog with a comma, as the quoted dialog is the predicate action of what "I said" and is not a separate sentence unto itself.

I would also recommend turning looked into the verb-form looking, as physical action should be sentence by sentence, or us "as I" instead of "and" to show that the two actions are happening at the same time. Statements made in this part should not refer to the author or his/her opinions, but rather the objective interpretation of the results, and should fall into a trinary of answers (Affirmative, Negative, In Conclusive/Out of Scope. Or for the layman yes, no, or I Don't Know.).

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