1. carsun1000
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    carsun1000 Active Member

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    ? about dialogues

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by carsun1000, Mar 18, 2016.

    While I like switching things around to avoid a boring read, I wonder if readers really care whether you wrote

    Allan said, "I'll be with you in a sec." or,

    "I'll be with you in a sec," Allan said.

    Do you have a preference? As a reader do you draw a different tone between the two?

    Thanks.
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My experience is that the latter is more common than the former. Maybe because the former inserts narrative that breaks the flow of dialogue but doesn't accomplish anything.

    Writers do often crave a way to avoid both endless dialogue tags and pages of alternating quotes in which it is possible to lose the thread of just who said what. So, inserting narrative without a dialogue tag can do this. It can also help pace the scene - especially if the dialogue is of a contemplative or cautious nature - as well as provide a little bit about the setting.
     
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  3. carsun1000
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    carsun1000 Active Member

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    Thanks. I usually prefer the latter as well. It's just sometimes you pick up a book (especially from accomplished authors) and you see the former used more often than the latter. It reads like a movie script to me.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I agree with with Ed. The second is more common in contemporary fiction. However, both are grammatically correct.
     
  5. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Never though about it, but I think I lean to the latter also. I also will sometimes insert a beat between the tagline and the continuation of the dialogue.

    "I'll be with you in a sec," said Allan, picking up some books on his desk. "Do you want to got to a movie later?"

    That can break a dialogue with a little action, or indicate a pause of some sort, even though the same person is still talking.

    Very different from

    "I'll be with you in a sec. Do you want to got to a movie later?" said Allan, picking up the books on his desk.
     
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  6. Indarican
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    Indarican Member

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    I tend to like the latter. I am just learning about dialogue tags though so I am only going off of experience as a reader. It just flows better for me this way.
     
  7. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I'm going to dissent from the other opinions. Sure both are right but I find that it is frequently easier on the reader to put the He said part first. I often find myself reading a long couple of sentences with the identifier at the end and then realizing that the person I thought was speaking was wrong. This can be really important when there's more than two people in the scene and you have multiple characters that could be speaking.
     
  8. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    That would be a good place for narrative. Frex: You have three high school girls (Amanda, Jane, and Lisa) sitting at a table in a cafe drinking coffee/tea/whatever and chatting about their day:

    Amanda took a sip of her latte and hissed as she burned her tongue. "Ow, hot!"

    Lisa giggled. "It does say that on the cup."

    "Oh please," Jane scoffed. "That's just for stupid people who don't know coffee's supposed to be hot."

    You could also distinguish between them by unique dialogue choices/accents - maybe Lisa talks like a Valley Girl, Amanda's monosyllabic, and Jane prefers run-on sentences; I've also seen the author insert direct address every so often ("Hey Lisa, come look at this!"). I have to agree, though, that it does get hard to keep track of who's talking if you have multiple lines between two people and no way to tell them apart.
     
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  9. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    I used to edit for a Swedish fellow who was firmly against putting non-dialogue before dialogue in the same paragraph. For instance:

    This would be completely unacceptable to him. If it was necessary to put Amanda drinking before her saying that the drink was hot, he would insist on a paragraph split immediately before the dialogue.

    Needless to say, I thought this was pretty silly. I find that giving a description before a line of dialogue can often help the reader imagine the tone, movements, facial expression, etc. that the character has while delivering the line. Even if not all of that is specified, just one or two relevant details can help build a picture. Without that, the line risks hanging in an empty white void, devoid of substance.
     
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  10. croak3r
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    croak3r Member

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    I like the first one, although i do use the second in my writing sometimes. It just doesnt make sense to me to tell the reader who is speaking after they have spoke. Like doggiedude said, i often find myself realising the person who spoke is not who i thought it is.
    It also raises the question that if the reader already knows who is speaking, then why bother including it at all and if they dont know, then surely you should tell them before they read it?
     
  11. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    That brings up my other thought ....
    I find in some cases I use dialogue between two people where I don't put any tags or if it's a long dialogue only after every 4th line or so. I try to make the line obvious who is speaking when I do this. To me it's a way of expressing a fast pace to the lines.
     
  12. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use both, depending on the effect I want to make, though I favor the "'What he said,' he said," for general use. Putting the speech tag first is effective when you want to draw attention to the speaker, and the fact that he's speaking. Speech tag after puts the emphasis on the dialogue content.
     
  13. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Putting the tag before the dialogue is a neat way to create dramatic effect. Other than that I wouldn't use it just because. It detracts from the dialogue itself and serves little purpose. That is not the same as including a beat of some sort that puts the attribution or tag ahead of the dialogue. That provides some extra detail.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel that there's at least one missing:

    "I'll be with you in a sec," said Allan.

    To me, this is more natural than your second example.

    I say "at least" one, because technically you could reverse the first one as well:

    Said Allan, "I'll be with you in a sec."

    but that feels deeply weird.
     
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  15. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    Exactly! I try to avoid using "dialogue - speech tag" repeatedly in a conversation because it gets monotonous. It calls to mind a couple people sitting at a table trading lines back and forth. Adding action, though, makes the scene more dynamic - the characters are moving around, looking out the window, picking their noses, whatever, and it better enables the reader to imagine what's going on.
     
  16. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use both depending on what I am trying to say, convey with the dialog. For long dialog I definitely try to put a 'He said' early on to avoid confusion.
     
  17. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    I like them both. I read very recently that a person shouldn't do the first example because it's technically narrative, though they can get away with it if the person about to talk is the POV character (because they know they're about to talk). I thought it made sense, but it can also be difficult for the reader. I don't like reading things out loud if I don't know whose voice I need to imitate, and sometimes a author will put a whole paragraph of dialogue before saying who it is.

    Now that I have three talking characters in my story, I'm finding it really hard to make sure readers know quickly who's talking. I've made an extra effort to give the characters their own voices and to add a beat before their dialogue (although this isn't always possible). If a beat can't be added, and a character's about to say a lot and I can't make it obvious who's talking right away, I break up the dialogue with "said etc." I'm hoping these tricks will help my readers to not be confused. If they don't . . . well, I may have to break a writing "rule."
     
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not clear on what writing rule you're breaking? Dialogue tags are perfectly legal.

    Oh! The tag before the dialogue being wrong? I've never heard that; I think that whoever told you it was wrong is, well, wrong. Do you have a source to point to? I'd like to see their logic, because I think it's wrong. :)
     
  19. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    Unfortunately, I don't remember where I read it. It was probably in an Amazon preview of a writing book or a short blurb on a website I found when I was trying to find some other information. A small tidbit like that that's easy to remember gets filed away in my head and not bookmarked.

    Of course, now that I tried to find any example of someone else stating the same thing, I can't find any. Does that mean it's perfectly acceptable to put the tag before the dialogue? That would be handy for my brother, who likes to do it that way . . .
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've never heard that the tag before the dialogue is a problem, and a quick Googling about dialogue tags doesn't indicate that it's a problem either. I do more often see the tag inserted after the first few words of the dialogue:

    "No," said Joe. "I can't afford it."
    "No," Joe said. "I can't afford it."
    "I thought," said Joe, "that you were going to pay."
    "I thought," Joe said, "that you were going to pay."


    But I see zero problem with the tag at the beginning:

    Joe said, "No. I can't afford it."
    Joe said, "I thought that you were going to pay."


    Technically you could flip the tag, but that has a slightly archaic flavor when used at the beginning of the line, though for some reason not when used in the middle or at the end.

    Said Joe, "No. I can't afford it."
     
  21. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    Good to know it's actually not a problem! Now I wonder where I read that it was. I do remember their reasoning was because the POV character doesn't yet know the person's about to talk, so it puts a bit of a narrative POV in there.

    I don't struggle with Joe said vs. said Joe. I just put them in whatever order sounds natural, which usually puts "said" next to the quote unless it's "he said."
     
  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    That makes no sense to me; it's timeslicing the events and knowledge to an extent that has no precedent elsewhere in fiction writing.

    Is it possible that the advice was missing some context? For example, if a book has the line:

    Uncle Joe walked up to me and said, "Hi. I'm your Uncle Joe."

    then there I could see an objection, because presumably the POV character doesn't know that the man speaking is Uncle Joe, until after he speaks. But if he already knows that the guy in the pinstriped suit over there is Uncle Joe, then the timeslicing of whether he's first aware that the person speaking is Uncle Joe, or the thing that Uncle Joe is doing is speaking, or the words in the air are coming from Uncle Joe, seems like a meaningless quibble.
     
  23. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Although I favor the latter, there are times when I will use the first option but it does depend on the action accompanying the dialogue.

    "Are you really alright?" Jenny said her voice full of fake sympathy.
    Jake twisted his face and slammed his fist on the table as he snarled, "What the hell do you think?"
     
  24. JennaPeterson88
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    JennaPeterson88 Member

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    I'm going to side with everyone who prefers to place the dialogue tag at the end. If it's going to be a long bit of dialogue, or there's a lengthy conversation going on, I'll put dialogue tags in the middle of a paragraph, wherever it fits most naturally. Lew's example is what I'm talking about.
     
  25. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    @ChickenFreak

    Nope, it was specifically "He said, 'etc.'" I remember that part clearly, because I put that in my story a few times and had to go back to fix it. It was a very clear, obvious "rule" and there was no way I mistook it. I really wish I could find where I'd read it, because now it's driving me crazy!
     

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