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Monday, October 31, 2011

Writing Strong

Dialogue Tags.
Assume your reader has an imagination and knows how to use it. Be careful not to pinch that imagination off by explaining every detail.

Examples in Speaker Attributions:

“Why would you say that?” Phil said in amazement.
No need to explain. Phil’s words prove he is amazed.

“That is hilarious,” Alice said laughingly.
Limit ‘ly’ adverbs especially for speaker attributions.

Mom knows I hate ketchup on hamburger. “Mom, you know I don’t like ketchup on my hamburger,” I said.
This is echoing. I call it ‘talking to myself’, an example of what I want the reader to know that oozes from my typing fingers.


In each example, the wrong speaker attribution can jar the reader out of the story. Keep the tag as inconspicuous as possible. Involve the reader. Never explain the obvious.

Feeling like a fool, I said, “You are too close to that car.”
This is an example of an attribution that interrupts the flow of the sentence. Note how the reader must consider the speaker’s inner feelings when the dialogue should be the focus. In addition, a tag that comes before dialogue has no action. It smothers the dialogue and drags the story to a halt.

Doris stumbled back, grabbing her throat. “But I didn’t kill him.”
This is dialogue that shows emotion and action. A mental image forms.
Lastly, good dialogue has beats. It mixes up the tags and action.

“How was your visit?” Collin asked as we walked from the classroom.

I yawned. “It was okay. Boring though.”

“But useful?”

“Sure. Well, not much.”

Collin stopped and frowned. “Really,” he said. “And why?”

“Not much info, dude. That’s what I’m saying.”

You hold the reins. Tug on them to set the bit then turn ‘em loose. Give them a chance to run free with your words as the spur.

November 1st begins our first contest month. Read the submission guidelines and rules, submit, crit, rinse and repeat.

This week send me a dialogue excerpt, 250 – 300 words with a lead in if necessary. And note, the lead in does NOT count toward the total.

3 comments:

Brooke R. Busse said...

I think I'm bad about the tags when I'm just writing to get it written. I tend to edit them later.

I'll have to submit my piece when I get home from school.

Eve.E said...

Hey there,
Great piece. :)
Thank you so much for stopping by my blog, great to "meet" you. Yes I can send some rain your way if you like lol. As you say autumn is on it's way and I love it!!
Hope you had a great Halloween.

Tara Tyler said...

love your words of wisdom!
i'll send you a submission today =)