Story within a story and dialogue within dialogue.

Phyrebrat

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#1
Hi,

I wonder if you could advise me if this is acceptable to tell an old folktale within the existing scene. It's also giving me a right ***** of a headache on the use of single speech marks and doubles, and paragraphs. I know that sometimes there's a para break and you have to put a new opening speech mark even though there wasnt a closed one on the previous paragraph.

Opening is included only to give a sense of how the narrative changes to dialogue within dialogue.

I'm pasting from Scrivener so I hope the formating is fine.

thanks

pH

She made her way down to him, taking a seat on the large boulder.

‘I owe you an apology, I could’ve got you arrested,’ she said.

‘It doesn’t matter anymore.’ He craned his head to look at her.

‘Craig’s dead, isn’t he?’

‘How did you know?’

She asked herself that the moment she’d said it. ‘I don’t know.’

‘How are your fingers?’

‘Hurty. But it looks worse than it is.’

‘You know what’s scary is I don’t even feel like grilling you over what the **** you were up to,’ he said, turning back to the water.

‘I know.’

She could tell him; could tell him how her mind had become consumed with the need to remove the mortar, to scrape that binding away and replace it. But not like she’d mentioned before - not just repointing, no - but remove it completely. To empty the place of it all, every crack and crevice, every slug of cement that had fallen in between the wall cavities, too. To excise it, replace it. No reason, just compulsion.

But she didn’t. They occupied the same mind space, now. It was like being psychically linked with him, more profound than their uncommon friendship had ever been. She understood now. And so did he, she was sure of it.

‘We’re being steered,’ she said.

‘Hmm.’

‘Were you going to tell me about Sylvia? About your house?’

‘Probably.’

‘Where’s Jose?’

‘Jose? Oh God,’ he said, coming to life at last, ‘I haven’t a clue…Maybe he’s dead too.’

‘Not on your life, brozzer,’ Jose said from behind them.

‘Where’ve you been hiding?’

‘I like the big tree, the one with the apples.’

Again, no need to comment on how ludicrous that sounded, but she wanted to check all the same.

‘The yew tree?’

‘It’s a yew tree?’ Jose asked, smiling.

‘Yes, horrible thing,’ she said.

‘Not horrible, sacred. Well, in my country they are.’

‘Yews? Do they even grow in Brazil?’

Jose laughed at her. ‘They’re an important part of our history. We have many stories about these trees.’

It was Redd’s turn to laugh. ‘I can’t think of anything less likely. Yew trees here are typically planted in graveyards and cemeteries.’

‘Isit?’ he said, ‘Maybe our tradition comes from yours, then.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Stories travel, and evolve, as people move,’ he said.

‘I don’t get you.’

‘Slavery, Redd. That’s what I’m talking about.’

‘In that case wouldn’t we talking about about West African traditions?’

Willie joined the conversation, reiterating what Jose had said about stories traveling and evolving as people move.

‘So you have yews in church graveyards?’ Redd asked, less incredulous now.

‘Let me tell you about the Dama Pálido, and the farmer’s revenge,’ Jose said, coming round the stone and sitting on the bank next to Willie. She spun to face them as Jose began;

‘Farmer Sevilo was a rich man with a happy life and twenty pickers. One day after work he was tired so he rested under a cocoa tree and kindly sent home the pickers – the day had been long and hot and they needed their dinner. He sat there resting himself after his hard day’s work and just as he was about to leave, out jumped the Dama Pálido. Receiving such a visit was not common in a man’s life and he was scared for himself. He knew the Dama Pálido was a sly thing and he wondered what it would do to him.’

Redd smiled to herself, pleased for the distraction. Yes she should be doing something about Craig or Bo, about the house, but still…Jose’s soft and low voice curled into her ears hypnotically.

‘The Dama Pálido who barely came up to Farmer Sevilo’s knee was anxious to calm him down; “Don’t be frightened,” it said “I just want some tobacco for my pipe.” So a shaking Farmer Sevilo reached into his picking bag and brought out some vanilla tobacco. The Dama Pálido snatched it and demanded Farmer Sevilo light the pipe for it, which he did immediately.’

‘The Dama Pálido took a deep drag on the pipe and blew a foul blast of vanilla smoke into Farmer Sevilo’s face. It then went about the real purpose of its visit.

‘ “To tell you the truth, farmer,” it said, ‘What I want most of all is to have two legs like you and your men. It is horrible to have to crawl around like this.”’

‘Farmer Sevilo thought for a moment, taking pity on the Dama Pálido and suggested it could use crutches.
 ‘“No way!’ cried the Dama Pálido, “I want artificial legs made for me, or I’m not responsible for what happens to your farm!” ’

‘The farmer knew the trouble he could get into with the Dama Pálido if it had even only one grudge against him, so he agreed. It gave him two days to find a solution and then crawled off, leaving the stink of its vanilla tobacco behind him. Sevilo sat and wondered what he could do. He knew that Dama Pálido would enlist the help of all its wicked friends if he did not comply with its demands but he had not been running a farm for forty years in the Bahia without learning how to deal with a band of tricky things.

‘He trudged slowly back to his farmhouse, mind busy with the task of finding a solution. When he arrived, he gathered his twenty workmen and told them his plan. When they learned the enemy was the Dama Pálido fifteen of them decided to quit there and then! They ran off, looking for work on a safer farm. But his wife, foremen and five others agreed to join him and try his plan even though they knew the tragedy that would befall them if they failed.

‘The next two days they all helped the farmer carve a pair of legs out of the local yew. Farmer Sevilo made sure he did all the carving outside in the corral. He wanted the Dama Pálido to see what he was up to.

‘Then, on the second day, at two o’clock in the morning, when the night is at its darkest hour, the horrible apparition of the Dama Pálido appeared before the waiting group;

‘ “Well?” it said, and dragged itself over to Farmer Sevilo, holding out its empty pipe. The farmer filled the pipe and handed it back to Dama Pálido.

‘The five workers and Sevilo’s wife stood behind him shaking and trembling with fear whilst the farmer said; “Here are your legs,” pointing to a large chest also made of yew, on which he was sitting. He took out one of the yew legs and passed it to the Dama Pálido who whistled and said; “What an excellent leg you have made me!”

‘ “Will you now leave us in peace?” enquired Farmer Sevilo. “Not until I have BOTH legs!” snapped the Dama Pálido, so Farmer Sevilo stood aside.

‘Dama Pálido hopped over to the trunk on its one artificial leg, and reached in for the other one. When it was leaking far inside the farmer ran up behind and pushed the beast in, slamming the lid down. His wife and the five farmhands sat on the chest as the Dama Pálido thumped and screamed horrendous curses from inside. But Farmer Sevilo ignored the dreadful noise and sealed the trunk with a big iron padlock!’

‘Hurray!’ Redd said, but Jose hadn’t finished and waved his hand at her.

‘The next day they wrapped lots of strong rope around the trunk and dragged it to the village chapel, sealing it up in one of the walls, and Farmer Sevilo was never again bothered by the Dama Pálido on his farm!’

‘Good!’ Redd said, pleased that at least in Jose’s fairytale the darker things in life could be dealt with so easily.

The evening was approaching now and the sun no longer glittered on the lake. Jose twisted round to look at her, lowered his voice to nearly a whisper and carried on; ‘But what if, one day, the wooden trunk were to rot? Because, the Dama Pálido, they say, never dies. That’s a possibility Sevilo’s sons, who inherited his farm a hundred years later when he died, face right now. If the Dama Pálido ever manages to get out that trunk, you can be sure it is going to be hopping mad!’

‘What a horrid ending, Jose. You should make it so that the end is the thing being locked in the trunk. And that’s it, no more story!’

‘I’m not responsible for our folklore. That is the tale as it was told to me as a child.’

‘You were told that as a child?’ she asked, shocked.

He nodded and smiled.

‘Jose,’ Willie said, ‘What is the Dama Pálido? Is there a translation?’

“Yes, my friend, there is,’ he said then paused for dramatic effect.

‘Jose…’ Redd said.

‘Grey Lady,’ he replied and she could see dirt under his fingernails.
 
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The Judge

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#2
I've just skim read it for now, as I'm finding the wall of text effect very off-putting. I think a clear line's space between each para would help immensely. Do you want to do it or shall I?

Anyhow, my suggestion to avoid the tale within dialogue, when you've also got the further dialogue within the tale, is to separate it out. Either put the tale into italics without opening and closing quotation marks, or -- which I've done in two WiPs for lengthy tales -- separate it even further by using scene changes ie * before and after, in which case no need to italicise, but again no quotation marks at the beginning and end.


EDIT: just realised how long ago you posted this, so will add the line spaces to help make it a tad more readable.

EDIT2: Having done it, I'm not sure I've kept the paragraphs as you had them, but I've done it (for the story inside the story, at least) as I think it needs to be done. If you want me to amend the para spacing anywhere, just say.
 
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The Judge

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#3
Sorry for the double post, but it seemed easier than third-editing the first one!

First of all, in case it's not clear from above, what I mean is something like this:

She spun to face them, and Jose began.​
*​

Farmer Sevilo was a rich man with a happy life and twenty pickers...​
[then the entire story, with ordinary quotation marks for dialogue which is separated out in the usual way]
... and Farmer Sevilo was never again bothered by the Dama Pálido on his farm!​
*​

‘Good!’ Redd said, when Jose had finished, pleased that at least in his fairytale the darker things in life could be dealt with so easily.​

I think it works in my WiPs, though from memory HB wasn't quite so taken with it since it appeared to be a change in POV, but that didn't worry me. If you do it like this, though, you can't have any interruptions in the story, so my characters had to keep all their thoughts to themselves until the very end, which again I preferred -- to my mind having the interruptions with comments would mean the story being constantly pulled from the old tale to the present day as it was being told, which would impede immersion in the tale itself and cause confusion. On the other hand, my stories were longer than this one is, and more involved, and one required a lot more thought and reflection afterwards.

If you're happy at writing it all in the same scene, and especially if you want Redd's thoughts interrupting it, then the way you've done it is fine. Having both the Dama and the farmer talking in the same paragraphs isn't a problem because in both cases it's Jose speaking the lines, and he's just reporting what they've said.

Overall, as it's here, for my taste it's a bit long-winded and I'd like to take some shears to the whole thing making it read faster and tauter, but that's just me. I'd also remove your semi-colons and make them colons or full stops where it's introducing someone's line of dialogue. There was something else I thought of as I was reading, but I've forgotten it now, and though I won't nit-pick, it does need a bit of tidying up in places eg it's "leaning" not "leaking" and for heaven's sake find an alternative to "Redd said"! :p
 

TheDustyZebra

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#4
If you do it this way, you do have some of the quotation marks mixed up. But you know how they go. You want the single quotes at the start of each paragraph of the story as it's being told, but not at the end of the internal paragraphs -- only when you get to either an interruption by someone else or the end of the story. Then, of course, the double ones for dialogue inside those.
 

ctg

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#6
The story works and the dialogue works to a point, where the grammar fails. The only thing I would add to above remarks is that please use italics in the inside of the dialogue. With single quotations and italics it's really clear, where are now you have trouble.
 

Phyrebrat

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#7
Thanks for the tips, all. I'm quite pleased with myself about the whole close/open speech marks over a paragraph thing! And @The Judge thank you for re-formatting the thing. What a bloody mess! I was posting in a rush from my phone on 170 through Chelsea to the RAD and I should've probably waited till I got home and done it from my laptop.

I've a guest until this evening so I'll redraft and repost in line with the above tips if that's okay. Also, I do think TJ is right about needing a slice and dice here and there - esp the opening of Jose's story where he introduces Sevilo.

Regarding italics - I wasn't going to go that way simply because I use italics a lot for internal thoughts in the story, but we'll see. I'll try it out.

Thanks as always

pH
 

Toby Frost

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#8
I didn’t mind the way that you originally presented the story or the way that The Judge re-presented it. Both seemed fairly clear to me. When I first read the chunk of dialogue that segues into the story – the bit about “In my culture the Yew is important” – I felt that backstory was being crowbarred into the text a bit obviously. I would have rather have simply had Jose say “There’s an old story about a Yew tree in Brazil”. But it has to crop up somehow, so I suppose the conversation has to get there in some way. I was slightly surprised at how much Willie seems to be repelled by the tree.

The only other thing that really stuck me was that the joke on “hopping mad” was too light for the revelation that follows (could the pun on “hopping” exist in Portuguese? I suppose the story doesn't have to be a literal translation, anyway). If Jose is deliberately ending the story with a pun, I’d play it up a bit, and say that nobody laughed, or something like that.
 

Toby Frost

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#11
He writes the Chinchilla Chronicles - sorry, the Kingkiller Chronicles. I can never see one without thinking of the other.
 

Phyrebrat

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#13
Hello all,

Here is MkII. I've decided to keep the interruptions and not have it in italics as I have so many italicised thoughts elsewhere. However when the entire novel is finished I'll be able to see if the pacing might be better as a block of italicised text a la TJ's preference.

I've cut a lot of the fat from the story, taking the fairytale-ness of Jose's narration out. I'm happy to do this as it was not crucial, but let me know if I've made it too humdrum. When I first wrote this scene years ago, I was probably hugely influenced by Susannah Clarke's excellent asides in Jonathan Norrell and Mr Strange...

There are parallels in the story to what is going on in present day, and through this edit, I relised I'd not made them expressly clear for the reader (these won't be clear to you, here, either, but will now be in context of the whole book - I hope).

Oh, and @Toby Frost - the repulsion to the yew is an ongoing thing through the story so I'm guessing it won't come as a surprise in the actual flow of things.

Better? Thanks

pH

‘Where’s Jose?’

‘Jose? Oh God,’ he said, coming to life at last, ‘I haven’t a clue…Maybe he’s dead too.’

‘Not on your life, brozzer,’ Jose said, stepping from behind the huge stone.

‘Where’ve you been hiding?’

‘I like the big tree, the one with the apples.’

Again, no need to comment on how ludicrous that sounded, but she wanted to check all the same. ‘The yew tree?’

‘It’s a yew tree?’ Jose asked, smiling.

‘Yes, horrible thing,’ she said.

‘Not horrible, sacred. Well, in my country they are.’

‘Yews? Do they even grow in Brazil?’

Jose laughed at her. ‘They’re important. We have many stories about these trees.’

It was Redd’s turn to laugh. ‘I can’t think of anything less likely. Yew trees grow in graveyards and cemeteries.’

‘Isit?’ he said, ‘Maybe our tradition comes from yours, then.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Stories travel, and evolve, as people move,’ he said.

‘I don’t get you.’

‘Slavery, Redd.’

‘In that case wouldn’t we talking about about West African traditions?’

‘Exactly, stories travel,’ Jose said, as if this should explain everything, ‘Let me tell you about the Dama Pálido, and the farmer’s revenge.’

He came round the stone and sat on the bank next to Willie. She spun to face them as Jose began:

‘A tobacco farmer called Sevilo was resting under a cocoa tree. He was a kind man and as the day had been long and hot, he’d sent his twenty pickers home early.

Just as the last picker disappeared behind the hill, out jumped the Dama Pálido. Receiving such a visit was not common in a man’s life and he was scared for himself. He knew the Dama Pálido was a sly and murderous thing, trying to steal land from innocent farmers, and he wondered what it would do to him.’

Redd smiled to herself, pleased for the distraction, Jose’s soft voice curled into her ears hypnotically. Fleetingly she remembered Craig and Bo, and the house, but still…

‘The Dama Pálido, who barely came up to Farmer Sevilo’s knee said, “Don’t be frightened, I just want some of your sweet tobacco for my pipe.”

‘Farmer Sevilo reached into his picking bag and offered some vanilla tobacco. The Dama Pálido snatched it. “Light my pipe, for my hands are clubs!” it said.

‘It took a deep drag on the pipe and blew a foul blast of smoke into Farmer Sevilo’s face.
‘ “To tell you the truth, farmer,’ it said, ‘What I want most of all is to have two legs. It’s horrible to have to crawl around like this.”


‘Farmer Sevilo thought for a moment, taking pity on the Dama Pálido and suggested it could use crutches.
 “No way!’ cried the Dama Pálido, “I want real legs made for me, or I’m not responsible for what happens to your farm!”

‘It gave him two days to find a solution then crawled off, leaving the stink of vanilla tobacco behind it. Sevilo sat and wondered what he should do. He knew that Dama Pálido would enlist the help of all its wicked friends if he didn’t make its legs but he’d not been running a farm for forty years in the Bahia without learning how to deal with tricky things.

‘He trudged back to his farmhouse, mind busy with the task of finding a solution. When he arrived, he gathered his workmen and told them his plan. Fifteen of them decided to quit there and then! They ran off, looking for work on a safer farm, but his wife, foreman and four others agreed to join him.

‘The next two days they all helped carve a pair of legs from the local yew. Farmer Sevilo made sure they did all the work outside in the corral in case the Dama Pálido was watching. Then, on the second day, when the night was at its darkest hour, the horrible apparition of the Dama Pálido woke them with its noisy scraping.

‘ “Sevilo! Where are my legs?” it said.

‘Sevilo’s wife and the other five stood behind him shaking and trembling with fear whilst he tapped a large chest also made of yew, on which he was sitting. “In here,” he said.

‘ “Put them on me, for my hands are clubs,” the Dama Palido demanded, and when Sevilo had done so, the Dama Pálido whistled and said, “What an excellent leg you have made me!”

‘ “Will you now leave us seven in peace?” enquired Farmer Sevilo.

“Not until I have BOTH legs!” snapped the Dama Pálido.

‘Sevilo stood aside. Dama Pálido hopped over to the trunk on its one new leg, and reached in for the other. When it was leaning into the chest as far as it could, Sevilo ran up and pushed the beast in, slamming the lid down. Everyone sat on the chest as the Dama Pálido thumped and screamed horrendous curses from inside. But Sevilo ignored the dreadful noise and sealed the trunk with a big iron padlock!’

‘Hurray!’ Redd said, but Jose hadn’t finished and waved his hand at her.

‘They wrapped strong rope around the trunk and dragged it to the village chapel the next day, sealing it up in one of the walls… And farmer Sevilo was never again bothered by the Dama Pálido.’

‘Good!’ Redd said, pleased that at least in Jose’s fairytales the darker things in life could be dealt with so easily.

The evening approached now, and the sun no longer glittered on the lake. Jose twisted round to look at her, lowered his voice to nearly a whisper and carried on.

‘But what if, one day, the wooden trunk were to rot? The Dama Pálido, they say, never dies. That’s a possibility Sevilo’s sons, who inherited his farm a hundred years later when he died, face right now. If the Dama Pálido ever manages to get out that trunk, you can be sure it’s going to be seeking revenge. We must always listen out for the scraping hop of one leg.’

‘What a horrid ending, Jose. You should make it so that the end is the thing being locked in the trunk. And that’s it, no more story!’

‘But that is the tale as it was told to me as a child.’

‘You were told that as a child?’ she asked, shocked.

He nodded and smiled.

‘Jose,’ Willie said, ‘What is the Dama Pálido? Is there a translation?’

'Yes, my friend, there is,’ he said but didn’t continue.

‘Jose…’ Redd said.

‘Grey Lady,’ he replied and she could see dirt under his fingernails.
 
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TheEndIsNigh

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#14
I like J's suggestion.

As it is I've got a hole in my wall where I banged my head trying to seperate out who's saying what to who and when.
 

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