1. JTB21
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    JTB21 Member

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    Speaker Tags - quick question

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by JTB21, Feb 26, 2014.

    Hello all,
    in novel writing, am wondering if it's okay for speaker tags to sometimes come before the dialogue quote?

    For example, I know that a common way is:
    "I'm not gonna kill them" Diego says

    And am wondering if I can change the order to something like:
    Diego stares at me with a hard stare then says "I'm not gonna kill them"

    Sometimes I like the emotion/context first so that we're waiting to hear what the person has to say but I'm not sure if this style of writing is completely verboten in a novel?

    Any and all thoughts much appreciated. Thanks!
     
  2. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Diego stares at me with a hard stare then says: "I'm not gonna kill them"

    Don't forget the colon!

    But yes, that's perfectly fine. Dialogue doesn't need to come first in a new line/paragraph.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Yes, it's fine, though using a colon is a bit old-fashioned. A comma should suffice.
     
  4. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    I would eliminate the double use of "stare" -- and maybe indicate his tone of voice.

    Diego gives me a hard stare and quietly says, "I'm not gonna kill them"
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    All of the above is good info and I would add only that they are more usually referred to as dialogue tags or attributions.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!

    and the standard punctuation for dialog-preceding ones is a comma...
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Hi, welcome to the forum.

    "I'm not gonna kill them," Diego says.

    Diego stares at me with a hard stare then says, "I'm not gonna kill them."
    Notice where those commas go in relation to the quotation marks.

    You can also leave the "then says" out altogether in the second sentence. The reader knows that's who's talking because you described the speaker in the paragraph. If it wasn't Diego speaking then the dialog would go in a new paragraph.

    Diego stares at me with a hard stare. "I'm not gonna kill them."​
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
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  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thank you @GingerCoffee !!! I was itching to correct the punctuation there!
     
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  9. A.M.P.
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    Really? Commas?

    Dang, my info is out-dated, lol :p
     
  10. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Not much to add, but I think @GingerCoffee has the best sentence. The dialog tag isn't needed there at all. But then again, without it, nobody would answer your question. :p

    But generally speaking, comma when the dialog tag comes before the dialog, and comma when it comes after, but only if the comma is replacing a period.
     
  11. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Once you have bought the speakers and taken them home, there is really no reason to leave the tags on.


    Ok on a serious note, once you hit an area of your novel with a lot of dialogue, when it becomes evident who is talking to whom, and it is pretty much back and forth discussion, you can forget the tags altogether until something interrupts the conversation. Well that's what I've been told and often do.
     
  12. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Tags can be first, last, or in the middle of a line as a form of punctuation: "I love you," Bunny said. "I've always loved you."

    The thing to watch out for with leading tags is that if you use them too often they serve as an announcement. that, "Dialog is coming!" and may intrude.
     
  13. JTB21
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    JTB21 Member

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    Thanks everyone for the replies and advice, really appreciate it.

    And if I'm understanding correctly, it's okay for me to have dialog with no tags (which I prefer) as long as I keep it in/on the same line or paragraph as the person whose actions I have just described?
    So for example I could write: Frank strides over and stops two inches from my face. "Not gonna happen, pal"
    And everyone would understand that it's Frank speaking?

    And then if I want to write the other character's reply without tags all I have to do is start another line/paragraph and readers would understand that it's no longer Frank speaking?

    So it could be: Frank strides over and stops two inches from my face. "Not gonna happen, pal".

    "The hell it won't".
     
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  14. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    There are some variations, but them's the basics. Just watch that those periods (quesiton marks, exclamation points, whatever) go inside the quotation marks.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    periods and commas must always go inside " " in the US, but can go outside, in the UK...
     
  16. JTB21
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    Thanks for the confirmation, I much prefer to describe the speaker and his/her mood before they speak. And then afterwards I'll be sure to open a new line or paragraph for the reply so that readers will always know who is speaking.
     

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