Ist person phone-call format

by Steve Hawe
(Lonreach, Queensland, Australia)


Like Marrisa from Ohio, I also have a question about phone-call format. My story is also first person narration. Not all phone calls are one way. The ones that are (three) I'm happy with, and am confident that the reader, after becoming familiar with the characters and the way they interact with the 'heard' voice on the line, will hear in their mind the silent replies.

So, how to do it? As of now, I have a dotted gap which looks messy. What are my options?

Thanks so much for being available, Steve from Longreach, Australia.


It's really no different than narrating any three-person conversation.

1.You will likely need speech tags to identify the speakers (e.g. "Dave said,..."). In a three-person conversation, you don't want your reader to get confuses about who is speaking. Also, it's a little trickier to use action beats to indicate who is speaking.

2. Narrate whatever the main character perceives, and only what the main character perceives. For example, in a cellphone conversation, you can describe what the main character is doing or seeing while he hears the voices on the phone, but not what the other characters are doing or seeing.

3. You can end a spoken line with an elipsis ("...") if the person speaking trails off mid-sentence, or is cut off, or interrupted by someone else. Otherwise, end with a period.

4. Change paragraphs each time a new character starts speakings.

5. I'm not quite sure what you mean by "silent replies," but if the main character is imagining or guessing how the person on the other end of the phone call is responding, you can include that in the narration, just like you would any other thought in the main character's mind. Again, you can only describe what the main character thinks or perceives. (How accurate this perception will be is questionable.)

Best of luck.

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