Friday, June 10, 2011

Tags When Writing Dialogue

As a writer I’m always trying to improve my craft. One thing I’ve learned is to develop a balanced approach for using tags in dialogue. The simple and most direct is to write she said as in:
“It’s time to go to the movie,” she said.
Common practice is to use this rather than an exaggeration such as he expostulated. Dialogue can also be identified by movement or idiosyncrasies of a particular character:
“Make my day.” Sam raised his shotgun
Tags can be underused. I’m in two online critique groups, and once in a while I read a manuscript where dialogue goes on for a number of paragraphs with no tags, and I lose tract of who’s speaking. On the other hand, not every element of dialogue needs a tag. Robert B. Parker is a wonderful writer, and I enjoy his stories but listen to one of his novels as an audio book. Nearly every line of dialogue ends with he said. After fifteen minutes of listening, this grates on the nerves. As a result, I always read my manuscripts out loud on my last editing pass. There is nothing like hearing what you’ve written.

No comments: