Whether you’ve written any fiction yet or not, you’re probably extremely familiar with how dialogue appears on the page: it’s surrounded by quotation marks.
Even if you’re not quite confident with all the finer details of formatting spoken words on the page, it’s probably perfectly natural to you to wrap these words in quotation marks. You likely don’t think twice about it, although this isn’t actually the only option you have.
“Standard” dialogue is, generally, represented in one of three ways:
Type #1: The Most Common Style for Novels and Short Stories
“Excuse me,” John said, “is this the train for London?”
“Yes, though it’s the all stopper,” Daniel said.
Type #2: Standard Format for Scripts, Occasionally Adopted by Novelists / Short Story Writers
John: Excuse me. Is this the train for London?
Daniel: Yes, though it’s the all-stopper.
Type #3: Used in Some Literary Fiction, Particularly Short Stories
– Excuse me, John said, is this the train for London?
– Yes, though it’s the all stopper, Daniel said.
(Type #3 takes some getting used to, and personally, I’m not entirely sure what benefit it has over standard quotation marks … other than, perhaps, lending a clear “literary” stamp to the novel or story. You can see it in use part-way through D.W. Wilson’s essay On the Notoriously Overrated Powers of Voice in Fiction or How to Fail at Talking to Pretty Girls.)
Chances are, you’re using type #1, and that’s all well and good.
But what do you do when you want to represent an exchange of words that isn’t quite so conventional as a face-to-face chat?