1. JJ_Maxx
    Offline

    JJ_Maxx Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2012
    Messages:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    501

    [Dialogue Tags and Titles]

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by JJ_Maxx, Dec 9, 2012.

    Right now I am writing a scene with a lot of dialogue between a General and a Doctor. It's becoming cumbersome to continually write, 'Doctor Johnson said.' or 'General McArthur said.' [Names changed to protect the innocent.]

    Would it be weird if I dropped the titles in the dialogue tags. The doctor refers to the general as 'Sir' or General McArthur' and the general refers to the doctor as 'Johnson'.

    Thoughts?

    ~ J. J.
     
  2. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    you can go a whole page with tags if it's one character's and the order of talk has been established. I do it all the time. Then you can throw your tag in as a place for a reader to catch their breath.

    But a tag constantly isn't needed. Now, if there's reactions and/or actions done before the speech, then they go into their usual locations.

    Joe shook his head. "I don't think so." If the action is before the comment
    or
    "I don't think so." Joe shook his head. If the action is after.

    Both can break up the monotony of tags.
     
  3. Cynglen
    Offline

    Cynglen Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2010
    Messages:
    173
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    Definitely. Over-repetition of any word (name or otherwise) will quickly grow monotonous to the reader. Especially when there are only two people involved, you should find a variety of alternative tags (or even skipping the tags for a few exchanges) to keep a healthy mix of words in your work. It also allows you a chance for small bits of description, if appropriate.
     
  4. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    I think it would not only be okay but preferable to do it. But don't go for some out-there tags. I think "said" will suffice in most cases, and I don't see why you'd need the "Doctor" titles at all in the narrative once it's clear who they are. And as others have said, tags can be left out altogether if it's clear who is speaking, or you can use action to imply who's speaking. There are a lot of options. All come with their own "be carefuls" but hey, that's the craft of writing.
     
  5. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Only use tags if it is ubclear who is speaking. But don't expect the reader to keep track through a couple dozen changes of speaker. Many veteran writers get lazy about the second point, forcing readers to backtrack and count paragraphs.

    You can also use beats to not only indicate who is speaking, but to reconnect the conversation to the scene. Beats are explained in He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue.

    If your conversation switches too many times, or continues on for too long. you will lose the reader. Dialogue is harder to read than narrative. Poor dialogue is harder because it is tedious. Good dialogue is hard because it carries meaning on multiple levels. So find reason to interrupt dialogue, to serve it in palatable portions.
     
  6. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY
    This is an interesting idea. Is there any software out there that you can assign a number in brackets that the program knows when you go to print the project that it actually prints the names that were assigned to said numbers? I would save so much time, rather than typing everything out every time. It might make it difficult to have someone proofread your work on a computer. I'm sure something could be worked out though. If anyone figures out how to do this, you owe me royalties!
     
  7. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    This site does not permit software advertisements or endorsements.

    Furthermore, you don't need it. If you can't keep track without help, do you really expect your readers to do so?
     
  8. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY
    I'm sorry I wasn't trying to advertise any software or anything like that, I just thought it was a neat idea instead of having to type out names every time you have to quote them. Imagine if was something that isn't a person but an object with a really long name, it would get very old after awhile.
     
  9. swhibs123
    Offline

    swhibs123 Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2011
    Messages:
    132
    Likes Received:
    23
    Location:
    BC, CANADA
    When dialogue tags are used right, they're almost invisible. "He/she said" is often enough. Using actions can be good too, just be aware that they're distracting if not used sparingly and can make your characters look like they're twitchy if they're constantly shifting around.
     
  10. GazingAbyss
    Offline

    GazingAbyss Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    Not using tags for a stretch of dialogue can make it read faster, making the conversation seem like a really quick, almost breathless exchange (think His Girl Friday or the opening dialogue of Pulp Fiction). This is great if you want the conversation to be snappy, but if you want the dialogue to seem thoughtful or drawn out for any reason, don't do too many lines without tags in a row.
     
  11. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    Actions done before speaking don't make character's seem 'twitchy.' Each word, action, or motion is part of their personality. For example.

    "I don't think so." Todd said. -while fine for dialogue it's also plain. To a reader they're left wondering how Todd's feeling and acting, which means showing them-

    Todd shook his head before shrugging. "I don't think so." -now the reader can see what's going on because they're being shown what reaction Todd is having-

    Even in dialogue there becomes time to show. It's not like reading a movie script where actors/actresses interpret the lines from what they know about the character. The actions on the page are happening in a reader's mind as if it's happening on the big screen. Thus, your characters are "acting" and you don't want them to just sit there and talk..
     
  12. Thumpalumpacus
    Offline

    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    566
    Likes Received:
    106
    Location:
    Texas
    The other thing is this: names and assignations can be sprinkled into the dialogue itself:

    "Can I go out to play, Mom?"

    "I'm afraid we can't do that, Mr Horser."

    "Damn it, John! Do you have to be a jerk?"

    Granted, this is of limited utility, but when you consider that attributions should be rare anyway, these sorts of cues can help you unclutter your dialogue. Just don't overdo it.
     
  13. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Here's an example of a short story told entirely in dialogue, using tags and beats to manage a conversation involving more than two characters:
    Table Talk - A Dialogue Exercise
     

Share This Page