A Writer's Journey

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Maya Angelou

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.

Victor Hugo

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Dialogue Tags - Another He Said/She Said Post!

When I started writing, like really writing, a few years ago, I didn't know what the hell I was doing. I'm sure most of you can relate. All I had was a story that I wanted to get out using the limited knowledge I had at the time. Since deciding to pool the unlimited internet resources available to me, I've realized how very unprepared I was and how the smallest of things can really make a difference in someone's writing.

Someone once told me after reading my first chapter that one of the tells of a new writer was the overuse of varying dialogue tags. So what did I do? Of course I listened right away, right? Um. Nope. I, again, pored through all of my favorite books to validate what this very knowledgeable person had told me from page one. Suffice to say, she was right. *already kind of knew it, but felt the need to read through my favorite books anyway...innocent whistle*

Not only did she point out the overuse of dialogue tags, but gave me reasons why they distracted from the story and why they should be used sparingly. It's sort of like when you have a perfectly good recipe for soup or *insert food item here* and oversalt or over*insert condiment here* it. The story is the soup. The unnecessary loadage of crap is the salt. Savvy? (That just made me think of Jack Sparrow...tee hee)

Let me give you an example:

"Lyra!" I exclaimed in surprise and grabbed my sister by the arm. "You're so going to get in trouble with Dad!"

"Not if you don't tell him!" Lyra hissed back.

"What did you do anyway?" I inquired, trying to keep myself contained.

"It was nothing. Just some stupid prank that got out of hand," Lyra replied, looking away with that guilty look in her eyes.

Now, without the unnecessary baggage:

"Lyra!" I grabbed my sister by the arm. "You're so going to get in trouble with Dad!"

"Not if you don't tell him!" Lyra hissed.

"What did you do anyway?"

"It was nothing. Just some stupid prank that got out of hand." She looked away, her expression guilt-ridden.

Okay, you have to forgive the examples. Coming up with them on the fly is harder than it seems. LOL But do you see what I mean? I know that looking through my first chapter again after I changed something as small as the characters' dialogue tags helped with story flow. I didn't realize just how much of a distraction they were. I'm not saying not to use a variety. But like so many before me have said, use those variations sparingly.

Here are some great links to more on dialogue tags:

Susan Dennard's Blog
Kiersten White's Blog
And a personal favorite of mine - My ever so frawesomesaucefull CP Lori Lee's Blog

How do you guys feel about dialogue tags?

And now for our daily eye candy *le swoon*:


  1. oh god HELLO MR. PRETTY FACE *__*

    There are moments when your dialogue seriously SHINES. And thanks for the linkage :D

  2. I used to abuse dialogue tags a lot too, but now I know great dialogue speaks for itself. It doesn't need a tag. That and the word "said" is one of those tags our eyes naturally skip over, so it's better to use that than fancy tags.

    Thanks for the useful linkage!

  3. @Lori Awwr thanks! :D *squishy hugs* AND YES MR. PRETTY FACE...AND OTHER THINGS. *DIES*

    @Alice Yeah, I still have to watch myself when I write dialogue. Every now and then though, I insert a really pretty dialogue tag. Just to spice it up a bit. LOL

  4. Dammit Krispy!!!!!!!!!
    Unfair! I was on an internet fast.


    Girl!!!! I literally JUST watched the first half of the Teen Wolf pilot last night for novel research. We'll definitely talk about Posey tomorrow :)

  5. I could just eat him up. Literally. I'm a big fan of the show...never miss an episode. LOL I feel so oooooooold after I realized that he was the dude from Maid in Manhattan. *dies*

  6. I ended up going through my WIP after a friend posted a book review on Facebook and said something along the lines of, "If I had to read he said or she said one more time, I was going to rip the book up." I hadn't thought of that as an issue before, but that sure brought it to my attention! Now I can't read a book without analyzing how many dialog tags they use. Sigh.