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


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Planner Meet

Last month, I attended a local meet up for Planner Girls. I’ve never been to one before so had no idea what to expect. I simply hoped to get some tips and inspiration on how to use my planner.

We met at Oaks Tearoom in Felixstowe for afternoon tea. We were spoilt with a generous selection of mini sandwiches, scones, clotted cream and mini mason jars of jam. We were so full after eating the spread that we thought the owner was joking about there being more! But sure enough, he topped up our tea pots and brought out a selection of deserts including creme brulee, chocolate cake and macarons.

The cafe was adorable with its pretty cottage decor and real plants. We couldn’t help but take lots of pics. The cafe owner was such a gentleman and always there with what we needed before we even asked.

I was nervous meeting new people but they were all so lovely and it boosted my confidence. Not only that but all the women there were so lovely. They were hardcore planners and chatted about their busy lives and love of stationery and crafts. It felt like a day out with my best friends but I had never met these girls before.

The hostess of the event had made every attendee a personal gift bag based on our favourite colours. She also personally handmade items for each of us. It was such a thoughtful gesture.

In addition, Ellen of Etsy Store Ellen Bee Makes had also created us each a personalised goodie bag to showcase what is on offer in her store. I especially loved the Felixstowe theme stickers. This video showcases what I got.

Meeting Ellen was inspirational. I’ve been jotting down ideas for my own planner aimed at writers and it made me more hungry to do it. If only I had the time.

If you are in Suffolk and want to know about the next event join the Facebook group Suffolk UKPA.

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How much development do you give you Secondary characters?

Day 18 of March’s Instagram photo challenge by  #womenwritingfiction #wwfchallenge2019 was “Tell us about your secondary characters.”
Personally, I spend quite a bit of time developing my secondary characters.  I like to know what makes them tick so I can ensure they remain true to who they are.  Often, I fall in love with a character so much that I want to write them their own story, like Kya – currently writing Diamond in the Sky about her.  
I decided to spotlight Denny.  One of the stories about this character is below.  I hope you enjoy this snipped into her background and I would love to hear about whether you enjoy developing your secondary characters as much as your primary characters.  
Image from Unsplash artist Kinga Cichewicz of how I picture grown up Denny


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Unpack (Denny)

Gwyn had been a mother and best friend all rolled into one neat package. I picked the sticky tape off another cardboard box. Packing up had been a difficult chore but unpacking was a never ending task.

Revealing the contents, I realised this would be no quick task. At the top was a powder blue photo album with white writing ‘My Baby’. I can’t resist the urge to look at pictures of my son. I clutched it to my chest in the same manner I had when he had been small enough to do so.

The first page was a photo of him only hours old. Gwyneth had been my only visitor at hospital and took the photo for me.

Gosh, I look so young. Too young to be a mum!

I pulled the rigid board of the front cover free from the slip to retrieve a picture I had hidden there. It had been taken in a photo booth, a sketch of us together in black and white. Dean believed pictures looked better like that. Now, it was disappointing as the picture didn’t show the kaleidoscope of golds his hair had shone that hot May.

The Easter fair had been in town, we were down for the holidays. Mum had given my brother Greg and I some money to go ‘treat ourselves’.

“What ride do you want to go on first?” Greg asked as we walked along the closed off road.

It was dark and the rides were lit up by brightly coloured bulbs and painted with images of seductive looking women with large breasts and glossy lips.

“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “They all look lame to me.”

Image from Unsplash artist Gabriel Matula of how I picture a teenage Denny:


There was the familiar crashing of bumper cars and the rotation of horses on the carousel. There were the more dangerous rides for older kids like Rock City where a row of chains rotated up and down getting faster and faster, Metropolis where everyone put their faith in centrifugal force as they stood in the cage of a spinning wheel tipping on its side as they stuck to the wall. There was Niagara Falls which consisted of two carpeted tubes that spun in different direction causing you to fall to the ground. Last time we were here it gave me carpet burn. All of them looked like they would either make me sick or cover me in bruises.

“I’m gonna get some candy floss.” My brother said irritated by my lack of adventure. He had been bored at the caravan and the fair was all that had kept him going.

I begrudgingly followed him whilst he flirted with two young girls in the queue. He allowed them to steal bites of the blue fluffy cloud of sugary sweetness. My brother was terrible with his cheesy lines ‘are all the girls around here as gorgeous as you?’

One of the girls, who had slicked her hair back into a ponytail eyed me with her dark lined eyes, “Your girlfriend?”

“Sister.” My brother quickly corrected her but his grin clearly read ‘I’m in there!’

The girl rubbed her arms to brush off the cold. “Wanna game of pool?”

Obviously my brother said yes. He had lost all interest in the rides now his sole attention was on this girl, who to me looked like a slapper. Sadly, that was probably what he liked about her.

Her friend was chewing gum and seemed to be eyeing everyone up for a fight. Even when she smiled at my brother her eyes were half closed and she almost looked as if she was snarling, so I was surprised when she said, “You want to play?”

I shook my head. “I’ll just watch.”

I felt a little like a gooseberry standing on the side lines watching my brother tickle this girl every time she tried to take a shot. She giggled and blushed, “Stop cheating!”

I saw a pinball machine and decided to give it a go. The popular theme tune to the Adams Family started up. I pulled back the lever and let it go. The spring raced forward, smacking into the round silver ball and spinning it onto the table. The ball bounced off some bells and was heading down towards the bottom. My hands leaned over the edge of the table ready to hit the buttons to cause the flickers to stop the ball from being lost.

“You’ll never beat my score.”

I jumped and hit the button too late. Angrily, I searched for the person responsible for my loss, only to be taken back by the most beautiful eyes and gorgeous smile I had ever had the pleasure of meeting. As if moving in slow motion, I blushed as I watched the ball bounce and roll down the middle bringing the game to a halt.

“Dean.” He said confidently.

All I could see was his cocky grin and cool blue eyes. He had long blond hair that swept across his face in rebellious waves. He looked like he had stepped off the set of some Californian beach surfer movie and I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

“You’ve still got another ball.” He said with a thick Suffolk accent that killed my Mr Muscle Beach fantasy.

My hands shook rapidly to the beat of my heart and it was more difficult to pull the bar back the second time. I let it go and tried again to keep the ball on the table but I was all flustered. I managed to hit it back into the game twice more before it disappeared for good.

“It’s your last ball. Do you want my help?”

My throat was tied up in knots, pretty much like my stomach and I couldn’t speak. I gave a nod. The next thing I knew, he was standing behind me. His hand clasped over mine and we drew back the lever together. “Never go all the way.” His hot breath tickled my neck like a forewarning my body wanted to rebel against. “Otherwise the ball will be too fast to keep up with. You need it to be just enough to put it on the board and get stuck behind those bells. Then you will get the maximum points.” He let go of my hand and I released it. I let it go and as my hands fumbled for the buttons, I felt his fingers guiding me into place, finally resting gently over the top of mine.

That was how my romance for ‘Hugo Boss’ had begun.  The scent surrounded me in the same way his arms were. It was intoxicating the way it gripped my senses and spun my world like the little silver ball. From that day forward, it became the smell that I associated with summer, replacing the uplifting fresh salty sea breeze and lashings of sun lotion. I no longer hungered for the tantalising sweetness of a ninety-nine vanilla ice-cream and chocolate flake; I just wanted to taste Dean. That was the start of the holiday romance that broke my heart and changed my life eternally.

Looking at the photo, I was surprised to discover how similar Dean looked to Jace. I shouldn’t have been surprised, after all Dean was his dad. The last time he had come to mind had been when I met Dave, my fiancé. The first thing that caught my attention was the heart capturing scent of Hugo.

Now Jace was wearing it thanks to Dave trying to bond with him “Wear this, the women love it.” I never told Dave why this woman loved it.

“Wings” by Birdy

This song has beautiful imagary that I feel captures the intoxicating feeling of first love and the magic of the whirlwind, followed by the crushing destruction when all is not as it was and all you have left is sweet memories that are painful to carry.  I think it captures the emotions of the scene above well.

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Camp NaNoWriMo Diary (midpoint April 2019)

Here is my midpoint diary on my Camp NaNo project, how I prepared and how I am progressing told through my Instagram photos.

Project – Red Dresses


Update 1

Update 2

Update 3

Update 4

Update 5

I hope when I post in early May on how I got on that I will have good news and be able to share my success with you. Wish me luck!

Update: Click here to read my diary for middle to the end.

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Book Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

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.

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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?

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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?

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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?

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A little post on how I am doing…

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