Monday 29 April 2019

Comma ‘gain!

I love writing dialogue but still feel muddled about how to present it to the reader.  I wrote this article over a year ago on my old blog but I still refer to it when I am editing to check I got it right.  I thought others may find it useful too so decided to share it again.  I hope you enjoy. 


My mistake

I don’t want to even think about how many times I have edited my writing.  I am always looking to improve it and post my writing online to get feedback.  Nobody can be as brutal as I am about my own work, I never feel it is quite good enough.

"I am going to hate it."  I said miserably.  "This sucks!"  X

Recently, someone on Wattpad pointed out that I should have used a comma in the above dialogue.  I didn’t agree.  I felt it was a complete sentence so required a full stop. Plus, in all the years it has been posted online, nobody else had picked up on this.

If someone has taken the time to help me, I feel it important to firstly thank them and then consider the merit of their wisdom.  So, I got a second opinion from an ex-colleague English teacher and…

She agreed with the online feedback and provided a link to help further my understanding:  Oxford Dictionaries – Commas in direct speech

I am now dreading the edit of over 70k+ words looking for how many times I have made this mistake – this will be a painful task.

How to write dialogue

Firstly, normal sentence structure applies so place commas where required for clauses, statements, and lists.

New paragraphs


"Who is there?"

"It's me,"  he said.

Every time the dialogue changes to a different speaker, you start a new line.  If you do this, it is incredibly easy for the reader to follow the conversation between the characters.

Also, if only two characters are present you can cut most the ‘he said’, ‘she said’ stuff which can get tedious and it will improve the pace of your story.

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen new writers putting dialogue between two different characters within the same paragraph and it is confusing.  Please don’t do that.

“Speech marks”

The most obvious rule is to use speech marks to show the text that the characters say.

"Hello readers!" she said.

You will notice that the first speech mark (opening dialogue) does not have a space after it and the second speech mark (closing dialogue) does not have a space before it.


"Hello," she said.


"Hello!" she yelled.

The dialogue should always end with punctuation (i.e. full stop, comma, question mark, exclamation mark) and this should be before the closing speech mark.

How a comma should be used for dialogue:

"Hello readers," she said.   

She said, "Hello readers."

In the first example, the dialogue ends with a comma and the full stop is after you identify who is saying it and how it is spoken.

The second example means exactly the same but in reverse.  The comma appears after you’ve identified who is saying it and how and the full stop is at the end of the dialogue.

In both examples, the comma appears in the middle of the dialogue and the full stop only appears at the end.

Dialogue using a question mark or exclamation mark:

"Who is there?" she asked.

"Who is there!" she yelled.

The first example, is a question.  This is illustrated by the dialogue ending with a question mark.  The question mark is contained within the speech marks.  Normally, you’d treat a question mark like a full stop and start the next sentence with a capital letter.  In dialogue, you only do this if the next word is a pronoun (i.e. a name).

The second example, is of something exclaimed.  Exclaim means to cry out i.e. in pain, in surprise, or with sudden strong emotion.  You will notice it follows the same rule as the question mark.

She asked, “Who is there?”

She yelled, “Who is there!”

You will see in the reverse dialogue examples (where the speaker and how it spoken is given first), there is a comma before giving the dialogue.

Formatting broken dialogue:

"Hello," she called into the darkness, "is anyone there?"

"Hello," she called into the darkness.  "Is anyone there?"

"Hello!" she called into the darkness. "Is anyone there?"

In the above example the dialogue is broken into two parts.  You will notice the same rules apply.

The first section of dialogue ends with a comma, question mark or exclamation mark.  Then after the closing speech mark you give details of who spoke and how it was said.

Who spoke and how it was said should end with a comma or full stop.

The second section of dialogue will only start with a capital letter if the information about who and how finished with a capital letter (or if the word is a pronoun).  The second section of dialogue must end with a full stop, question mark or exclamation mark.

Making it right

I am constantly learning and growing as a writer.  I’m not looking forward to the lengthy edit ahead of me but hopefully the experience will drum this lesson into my head once and for all.

"I am going to hate it,"  I said miserably.  "This sucks!" 


Please share with me any issues you’ve had with writing dialogue and whether this article was useful.  Many thanks, Ally


If you found this article useful, you may also enjoy:

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Ally plus text


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Saturday 27 April 2019

Saturday 13 April 2019

Rebel of the sands

Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands

This is the first book in a trilogy.

It is set in the Middle East, in the desert. There is a western feel to it with the guns but a fantasy element with the magic and mythical creatures.

This is my review.

What is the book about?

The story is set in the desert in a time when women are oppressed. Amani lives in a small town with her aunt and uncle as her parents are dead. It isn’t a happy home, they are poor and she is coming to an age where she must be married but doesn’t get to chose who. Her uncle thinks she should marry him and she can’t think of anything worse. So, she plans to escape.

Fortunately she is a good gun slinger and decides to dress up as a man and enter a shooting contest. She plans to runaway with her winnings.

Skip to ”What did I think” to avoid spoilers.

How it starts

At the contest she earns the nickname Blue Eyed Bandit (her eye colour is unusual) and although she makes it to the final and is clearly the best shooter it turns out the contest is fixed and she is lucky to make it out alive.

The soldiers are looking for a criminal which turns out to be Jin, the guy she met at the contest and helped her escape. Amani helps him hide although Jin doesn’t recognise her without her disguise.

Later, when she captures a magical horse, worth a lot of money, she thinks her luck has changed. But, her uncle decides they must marry so he can take the money. The mine explodes and in the chaos, Jin helps her escape with the horse.

The middle

At first Amani and Jin are not travelling companions but as their paths keep crossing they end up helping each other. There are also a few almost kisses.

To avoid getting captured Jin suggests they join some travellers as hired help. Amani has to pretend to be a boy and is hired as a shooter as the route is dangerous.

During their travels they see some of what the army are doing and discover they have created some type of bomb and will use it on civilians and blame the rebels.

Whilst travelling, Jin is attacked by a creature that creates nightmare. The party want to leave him behind as he will slow them down and die but Amani stays with him. She is determined to get him across the desert in his fragile state. A creature is tracking them so Amani has to find somewhere safe, she finds a wall and says the secret phrase from the fairy tale Jin has been telling her and the hidden entrance opens.

This trip was a little tiresome for me and Amani didn’t have much purpose. Her family were long gone and she was running to a city where she thought her life would be better.

How it ends

Amani finds the rebels secret hideout. Whilst at the camp she meets Dijinnis and learns about how they all have a unique characteristic. She discovers her blue eyes are because she is a Dijinni. She also discovers Jin is the rebel prince. At first she is angry he hid this from her but later forgives him.

She joins the rebel’s and helps them to stop the bomb by figuring out her power in the nick of time. She also gets with Jin and they kiss.

What did I think

I like the magic and world building I’m just not a massive fan of travelling within stories. I also wanted the magic sooner but I guess that was the tease to hook me until the end. Amani is a strong fierce character which I enjoyed. The chemistry between Jin and Amani was subtle although it was obvious that he would be the love interest. I get the feeling the passion is being saved for a book later in the series.

I’ve got the next book to read but decided to read Red Queen instead. Rebel of the Sands is a good book and worth a read. There is a movie coming and I think the magic will look very exciting on the screen.

Have you read it? What did you think?

If you liked this, you may enjoy:

How to write a Trilogy – lunch with Alwyn Hamilton

Book review: Blind Tiger by Rachel Vincent

Literary dates calendar

Book Review: Who runs the world by Virginia Bergolt



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Wednesday 3 April 2019

About Me – Spring Clean

When was the last time you checked the content on your About Me page?

For me, it was when I created my blog two years ago. When I looked I discovered out of date information, a misspelled word and redundant links.

This page is my first impression on visitors and I’ve just left it to slowly rot. I’ve now fixed it but it has made me realise I need to regular check this on my social media accounts.

When was the last time you updated yours?

If you like this, you may enjoy:

About Me

Instagram Writers Photo Challenge Round Up

I did #FebWritersChallenge


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Monday 1 April 2019

My plans for the second quarter

You may have caught my previous post where I reflected on my progress so far this year towards my annual goal. As we enter into Spring, I am evaluating where I am at and setting myself some new goals for the next quarter.

Social Media

Blog (Word Press):  To continue to post at least twice a week keeping to my content schedule as much as possible.  

Instagram:  To maintain the new connections I have made and continue to engage with them and share content about my writing.

Twitter:  Continue to share links to my content on Twitter and connect with writers on the platform.

Facebook page:  To brainstorm how I can use this to connect with more writers.

YouTube: To be brave and get in front of the camera and start sharing video content.  

Tumblr: Share Instagram and Word Press content to this platform.


Red Dresses (formerly Scarlet House):  To start writing a new novel.  I shall use Camp NaNo to make progress towards this goal in April.

Jewel of the sea: To edit Act 2 and hopefully begun editing Act 3.


Working Together Course:  Complete this course and decide what my plans are as my maternity leave comes to an end.

Scrapbook/Journal: Start using a planner to get more organised.

Read at least three books by the end of June:  I have already read one this year so I just have two more to go to get back on track of my goal of six books by the end of the year.


Writer courses:  Continue to take advantage of any free courses that come my way if I have the time to do these.  

Save the Cat Writes a Novel:  Finish reading this fabulous resource on novel writing.

What are your goals?

I shall review these again at the end of June.  I often feel like I haven’t achieved much until I acknowledge what I have managed to do.  Will you be setting any goals?

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy:

Reflecting on Goals set in January

Do you keep notebooks of story ideas?

Spotlight on Spring Literary Dates calendar

A little post on how I am doing…

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Ally plus text


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