Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Writing Help - Dialogue Tags, Part 2

So, now you know what a dialogue tag is and how problems can occur in the text. But what can you do to limit the number of tags when you have a dialogue-heavy story/novel?

First, look at the scene where the dialogue tag occurs. How have you structured your paragraphs? Do you have your characters talk back and forth every time they speak, or are there more scenes where one character or the other is doing most of the talking?

One of the things you can do to eliminate dialogue tags is to group larger passages together where one character is speaking at length. For example, let's say Character 1 is explaining how a machine works. Character 2 is the listener. Character 2 doesn't necessarily have to interrupt to add dialogue---and therefore require a new tag. Instead, Character 2 can shrug or nod (which can still be shown in the same paragraph group with Character 1's dialogue).

Next, movement is much better than adjectives to reveal emotions. Think about movies. If a character says, "I'm angry!" but doesn't move, it's hard to believe. But a character who slams doors and kicks shoes across the room or throws a plate is obviously angry without him saying it. The same works in text!

Instead of "I've had it!" Bob said angrily.

How about: "I've had it!" Bob slammed the cabinet door so hard the window rattled.

Which has more impact as a reader?

Tomorrow, we'll include the use of the 5 senses to replace dialogue tags and discuss how to deal with multiple characters in a conversation!

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