1. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    dialog tags vs no tags...open for opinion

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by captain kate, Dec 20, 2011.

    On a science fiction novelist group I'm a member of, we have several people who have been published. This includes Brennan Harvey who won an award in the "Writers' of the future" contest and is in the latest book. One of the published authors says you're not ready to be published until all the "he said," "he asked" and other tags are replaced. Here would be two examples.

    "How do you think I'm supposed to feel?" Kate said.

    "How do you think I'm supposed to feel?" Kate shook her head sadly.


    I tend to go for the short "he/she said," lines but I want to leave this open for friendly debate.
     
  2. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think to substitute all the she/he said with action tags would look really silly after just a few paragraphs, and from all the how-to books about writing I've read no one has ever mentioned something like that, so it must have been his personal opinion rather that a commonly accepted "rule". Who doesn't believe it can try for themselves and look what effect it has. Sometime the simplest is the best.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Said is basically invisible, so substituting something else for it *always* does seem a bit silly. There are, obviously, times when no tag at all is needed, or some other tag is more appropriate. I find that any rule or guideline or advice that says "always" or "never" is typically to be avoided.
     
  4. Justin7
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    Justin7 Member

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    I agree that constant use of 'he/she said' look unprofessional. It doesn't mean you have to eliminate it entirely. I've read plenty of good books by very good authors that use 'he/she said', though they don't use it often. Sometimes, it's just unavoidable.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Stick with "said" if you need a dialogue tag. If you don't need a tag, get rid of it. The second example the OP gives doesn't really have a tag.
     
  6. iabanon
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    iabanon Member

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    Read a good book. You will hardly see them. some people don't use them at all. i do, but i do keep it minimal and only where the reader might struggle to figure out who said what. also i often use other words to said. not always as that can look too much, but i do think you need to shake it up.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you mean that you won't notice them, or that they won't be there? I agree that a good writer will make them invisible, but not by eliminating all of them - he makes them unobtrusive through good writing.

    I agree that unnecessary dialogue tags should be eliminated. In a two-person conversation, many of the tags can be simply removed. When an action is needed anyway, the action can replace the tag. But there will still be lots of tags; replacing every tag with an action will add more clutter than the tags added in the first place.
     
  8. iabanon
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    iabanon Member

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    no i'm not saying only good books don't use them. but you can't make he said/she said unobtrusive. if you want to make it less annoying (or unobtrusive) then don't use them so much. like i said. but i have read some good books that don't use he said/she said at all. it won't be missed. you can get away with not using them at all, you can't get away with using them all the time.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'all' is nonsense!... that supposedly 'published' author should be ashamed of him/herself for giving out such silly advice... what's s/he had published?... and by what publisher?

    the best-written works have a reader-friendly blend of both...
     
  10. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    What mamma said.

    The abundance of action tags has been the fodder for many great laughs. They mostly serve as giant red flags to take the reader out of the story. They are screaming, "YOU ARE READING! THIS IS NOT REAL! WAKE UP!" In other words, you are pulling the reader out of what is known as the willing suspension of disbelief. They should be used sparingly.

    As almost everyone else has here already noted, the 'he said'/'she said' attributions are virtually invisible. However, even with that degree of invisibility factor, you do still want to watch your usage of attributions altogether. With a large part of your dialog passages, you will find that you can drop the attributions and the speaker is still clear.

    "Just do it," Meg said.
    "I can't!" Todd screamed.
    "Don't tell me you can't," Meg retorted.
    "You're not listening."
    "I'm listening. I'm just not believing what I'm hearing. You're just giving up?"
    "I'm not giving up anything. But I know my limits."
    Meg shook her head. "I'm not sure you do."

    For the most part, in the above passage, the speaker should be fairly clear without a plethora of tags. And without an abundance of verb form attributions, either. Now, let's look at what that might look like if you inserted all those action tags.

    "Just do it," Meg snapped.
    "I can't!" Todd screamed.
    "Don't tell me you can't," Meg retorted.
    "You're not listening," he sighed.
    "I'm listening. I'm just not believing what I'm hearing. You're just giving up?" she yelled.
    "I'm not giving up anything. But I know my limits," he argued.
    Meg shook her head. "I'm not sure you do," she grumbled.

    As you can see, taking this kind of writing to its extreme, this becomes tedious and downright comical. Use those action tags sparingly.
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just somebody touting his personal preference as a universal rule. Nothing to see here; move along.
     
  12. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Where's the "like" button?
     

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