Saturday, February 2, 2013

Spiders, Tight Shoes and Dialogue Tags

I have an aversion to all three.

Spiders are never pretty. Everyone I see gives me the willies. Yes, I know in the natural order of things, spiders serve a viable purpose. But, truthfully, I’d just as soon never see one.

In my lifetime I’ve had many pairs of too-tight shoes. Several were love at first sight -- or shoe lust. Yes, they may have felt a little snug in the store, but shoes stretch. Right? Well, they would if manufacturers wouldn't put those little silicon packets in the shoe boxes. I swear, from the time the cashier rings up my “kinda” tight heels and I get them home, that silicon pouch has shrunken them to the point of bend-my-toes-under status. Darn things.

“Dialogue tags.” Just the thought of them makes me cringe. I much prefer action beats. Let me give you a few examples.

“Mom!” Johnny yelled as he ran in the back door.

By using action beats, we can add some visuals. “Mom!” Hurricane Johnny blew in the back door, his hair standing on end and his cheeks reddened. We still know who is speaking, only now we can almost feel him whoosh in the door. We can see him. The passage becomes more vibrant.

Some feel said tags are needed when more than two people are in the scene. To which I’d like to suggest a writing prompt. Write a scene with six people around the dinner table. Have them conversing about politics or a recent murder or rise in taxes. Use said tags. Then replace them with action beats. Throw in descriptives of the speakers. What you’ll end up with is a scene that pops off the pages. No more he said/she said, but skillfully crafted prose that draws the reader in.
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Ana Morgan said...

Great advice about the six characters around the table, Vonnie. I am great with just action tags with two characters in the scene. But six? That I will have to try!

Josie said...

Excellent, Vonnie. Except for the dialogue tag "said", your suggestion is so much better.