#9-Indenting and Dialogue

Find more Let’s Write writing tips in Andi’s Attic >>

Somebody asked how to know when to indent. The easy answer is “When if feels right!” One important reason to indent is to keep lots of “white space” in your story. Readers do not like a whole page of print. Nothing drives me crazier than seeing all those words!

For example, I love Lord of the Rings, but I do a lot of skimming. I see all this print and it just does something crazy to me. Those old-time authors were notorious for writing long, ponderous sentences that sometimes took up an entire page!

Another reason to indent is when you are changing characters or subjects. Perhaps Andi has been riding her horse and she comes into town and sees Cory doing something interesting. When I go to describe exactly what that is, I would start a new paragraph to give readers a clean “break” from what Andi is doing to what she is seeing.

One of the big rules of indenting has to do with dialogue (characters talking). The rule is: When a new character talks, indent.

Easier said then done. Sometimes, you send me fan stories (or even content entries) and I format them to look “right” on the blog. I know the Contact Form scrambles your stories. Talk about one big page of print! Yes, that is what I sometimes see. However, if you have indented correctly, there is a way to fix it all at once.

Some young writers, however, run all the dialogue together, and I have to indent it by hand, so readers will know who is talking. Here is an example of how important it is to indent. Can you figure out who is saying what? If you have read the story before, you probably can. But think of a new reader. Will they have a clue?

“No, I’m a bad Faun. I don’t suppose there ever was a worse Faun since the beginning of the world.” “But what have you done?” Lucy asked. “My old father, now, that’s his picture over the mantelpiece. He would never have done a thing like this.” “A thing like what?” “Like what I’ve done. Taken service under the White Witch. That’s what I am. I’m in the pay of the White Witch.” “The White Witch? Who’s she?” “Why, it is she that has got all Narnia under her thumb. It’s she that makes it always winter. Always winter and never Christmas. Think of that!” “How awful!”

Now, I will write it so you can read it. I don’t have everything in it from the original book, as this is a quick lesson. But you can see the difference indenting makes. Note: Word Press does not allow me to indent. Instead, WP uses line breaks. Consider a line break the same as indenting in a normal story.

“No, I’m a bad Faun. I don’t suppose there ever was a worse Faun since the beginning of the world.”         

“But what have you done?” Lucy asked.       

“My old father, now, that’s his picture over the mantelpiece. He would never have done a thing like this.”        

“A thing like what?”        

“Like what I’ve done. Taken service under the White Witch. That’s what I am. I’m in the pay of the White Witch.” Mr. Tumnus said.        

“The White Witch? Who’s she?”         

“Why, it is she that has got all Narnia under her thumb. It’s she that makes it always winter. Always winter and never Christmas. Think of that!”          

“How awful!”

Send me any question in the comments.

Go to Tip #10 Nutshell Summaries >>

Published by Andi Carter

I'm the main character in the Circle C Adventures series. I live on a huge cattle ranch in 1880s California. These are my adventures.

One thought on “#9-Indenting and Dialogue

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: