Assigning Dialogue

One of the great things about screenplays is the ability to sort dialogue by the speaker quickly. Being able to read a single character’s dialogue all the way through allows for a better way to keep dialogue nuances (speech patterns, word choice, etc) consistent. What I would like to be able to do in the novel, is to “attribute” each piece of dialogue to a character and then be able to sort the dialogue by character for the entire novel, to ease editing and rewriting. This would make fine tuning dialogue much more fun.

If there is such a thing I’d be thrilled, but I’ve never encountered it.

Not sure it’s the easiest or most direct way, but here’s a system I’ve used.

A bit complicated to set up, but easy to use after that.

Select the first dialogue by the desired character.

Right-click on selection.

Click on Append Selection to Document.

Click on New…

Enter a file name, probably that character’s name.

From there on just continue to each instance of dialogue by that character. Select, Right click, click on the character’s name.

You’ll have a file in Research with that character’s name and all his/her/its dialogue in sequence.

You can simultaneously add in New Documents for other characters.

[ADDED: Have to admit I’ve used it only on short stories, and a couple novel chapters at a time. Might be wearisome using it for a whole novel.]


Thanks for the idea! Better than anything I’d come up with yet, LOL. That would get old after a while, but it’s better than nothing. I’ll check it out and see how helpful vs tedious it is, not like I want or need to check every character’s dialogue.

Actually, that’s about as slick as could be… tedious sure, but I don’t think there’s a way around that without some sort of key-stroke-shortcut when writing dialogue to identify the speaker… which would be cool, but hey, this works! Thanks again.

Wouldn’t “Document->Split at Selection” (or CMD-k for the keyboard shortcut) be easier? Just put your cursor at the beginning of the first paragraph for a new character, hit CMD-k, enter the title (character name, or right-arrow to add char name to chapter name). Then CMD-e to get to the end of that paragraph. Right-arrow to jump down to the next paragraph, where presumably another character is dialoguing (or where there is no dialogue, but you still want to split it off to keep character dialogue separate).

It’s a lot faster than all that writing above makes it seem. Try it and see!

If you do this a lot, you might invest in the program “Keyboard Maestro”, which could make a macro out of the above keyboard shortcuts, reducing the above to a single keyboard shortcut plus the typing in of a document title.

That sounds like a great idea, I also, when rewriting, have to look for the dialogue for one character, so I can refine his voice, scrolling trough all the script looking for one character in specific, could be tiresome. A feature like that would come in handy.

Not sure if this would help (as it doesn’t create a new document with all the text together) but it’s another option.

I’m presuming you’re only going to do this with major characters…

  1. Highlight the dialogue of the characters you want to analyse, each in a different colour. (As you go along, per scene, or for the whole book… Set up shortcuts for each colour to make this quicker.

  2. Click on the top level container for the novel (Manuscript or Draft) then choose Scrivenings view so you see the entire text.

  3. Edit > Find > Find by Formatting (ctl-opt-cmd-F) and select Highlighted Text (in the Find dropdown box) and Limit Search to color: <the character’s colour>.

When you click on the swatch, click on the 3rd icon along the top and from the drop down box, choose ‘Scrivener’ and you’ll see the highlight colours. (If you want to be really sophisticated, you can change the name of the highlight to your character by double clicking on the highlight name…)

So now you can see every bit of dialogue you’ve tagged by repeatedly pressing shift-opt-cmd-G (or Next in the dialogue box).

You’re still going through the document line by line, but any method will involve that. The advantage of this one is that you’ll see the dialogue in context.

BTW I’ve tested out the steps, but not done this in anger on a manuscript – I’m just trying something out in response to your query. Feel free to ignore…