Dialogue and punctuation

This might get a bit geeky and OCD, but bear with me! An advance reviewer of ‘The Multiverse of Max Tovey’ emailed me, concerned that I wasn’t putting enough commas in my dialogue. Yes really. So for instance, where I had written “Get out of here Max!”, he suggested that it should be “Get out of here, Max!”. Well, yes, maybe that is correct in a strict literary sense, but I don’t write like that.

I learned to write dialogue as a scriptwriter, specifically for children’s animation. Writing dialogue for animation is all about writing it so the voice-over artist knows exactly how to pace the lines. With “Get out of here, Max!”, the V/O artist would say “Get out of here (pause) Max!”, which isn’t the intention of the line. It’s part of a fast-paced action scene, and is intended to be spoken quickly. Say it out loud, or in your head – there’s no pause in that kind of line. So that’s how I would write it for a script, and that’s how I write it for prose dialogue – with no comma. For a novel, the V/O actor is in the reader’s head – at least I hope they are! I can’t write dialogue unless I can hear it in my head, and see the scene playing itself out over the view beyond the top of my computer screen – sometimes it’s a job to type fast enough to keep up with it!

OK, yes, this way may not to be strictly ‘correct’, but then who’s to say what’s right and what’s wrong? All I know is that this is how I write down the voices in my head, in the hope that the reader hears those voices in the same way.

So for those that have read the book already, and for those that hopefully are about to, if you think you’ve spotted punctuation errors, they’re not errors, that’s just how I write. Of course, I have a feeling there may be the odd errant punctuation mark here and there, for which I and my publisher apologise, but look at it this way – they’ll be fixed for the second edition, which means this first edition you’re holding may be worth thousands in years to come. He hopes.

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