1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    The rule of the dialogue tag

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by OurJud, Sep 13, 2016.

    If I feel my dialogue needs a tag I very rarely use anything other than 'said', but on occasion I do slip something else in.

    However, I'm a little sketchy on their usage.

    I've just used 'persisted' - "Come on, just flip it," I persisted (because my character has already requested the coin be flipped on two occasions by this point)

    But does that even make sense? Can someone 'persist' a line of dialogue? It's a bit like 'laughed'. Can you actually laugh a line?

    If, for instance, my character was angry, I couldn't say "Get out of here!" he exploded, so by the same token how can one 'persist' a line of dialogue?
     
  2. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    I'd be comfortable reading that Jud. I'd interpret mannerism and gesture by it. In life we're not poker-faced nor inanimate when we speak, so that verb seems fine to me.

    I'm being subjective and it might or might not be in vogue, but said said said... has me think an author's under-thunk their story.
     
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  3. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    You're right that one can not literally persist a line of dialogue. This comes down to a stylistic choice. I tend to stay away from tags like those, but I'll use them occasionally. Although, now that I'm thinking about it, I usually go back and edit them out.

    I've read plenty of books where this is used. It doesn't trip me up or take me out of a story when I see it. Like I said, it's a style choice. If you want to use those every so often, I say do it.
     
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  4. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks.

    It's a weird one, innit?
     
  5. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    OurJud are you writing in first person? I am terrible at the first, second, third person aspect and my first thought with the use of said is that it sounds like third person writing. Hey, if this question makes you angry then you can do some of your anger writing!
     
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  6. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    I'm happy with that - I tend to use a lot of more evocative tags such as snarled, growled, barked , snapped, whispered, hissed, mumured etc, as it avoids the blandness of he said she said, although I still resort to said at times.

    TBh I don't see anything wrong with exploded , persisted, insisted, laughed , sobbed, purred etc
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you decided that you were uncomfortable with it as a tag, you could make it a beat:

    I persisted. "C'mon, just flip it."
     
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  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    A beat works. I find that the tag works as well. You're engaging in an artistic exercise, not always a literal one. Just like you can use simile and metaphor, you can use tags in a way that aren't intended to be literal but are intended to evoke an image in the mind of the reader. So long as your meaning is clear, it's fine by me.
     
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  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that "persisted" works as a tag in a way that, for example, "smiled" (which I've seen used as a tag) doesn't.
     
  10. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    The act of persisting is implied by the dialogue and using it as a tag is redundant.

    The character has already made the request twice before. Then they say "Come on, just flip it". You don't need to say 'I persisted' because we get that from the context. You're stating the obvious.

    Always look for a reason not to use tags. Not for a way to justify their use.
     
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  11. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    All good then. Thanks.

    Not sure how much first-person stuff you've read, @tonguetied, but 'said' is the standard dialogue tag for all three POV; I said, he said, you said.

    In actual fact my dialogues very rarely involve more than two people, so other than announcing the initial speaker they're are hardly tagged at all.

    Thanks. This hadn't occurred.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2016
  12. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I agree. "Smiled" and "laughed" aren't tags, but "persisted" seems okay. Not sure what the logic is there...
     
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  13. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly. That's why it was pecking with my head so much.
     
  14. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    Smiled and laughed are beats arent they ? ' Bob laughed. "Just flip the damn thing will you" ' thus showing Bob to be ammused by the resistance to the idea of flipping it again

    I think the logic of persisted as a tag is that itssomething you can do through speech - as with insisting , lying, apologising and so forth, whereas you don't smile or laugh by speaking
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2016
  15. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does it have anything to do with whether the word used for a tag in noun, verb, adjective etc?
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That used to be my view, but I've started to come around. The important thing is that the author conveys her meaning. Within that broad limitation, there are all kinds of approaches in terms of style, and ultimately we are using symbols (i.e. the written word) to do our best to approximate what is in our minds so it can be conveyed to the reader. I'm sure we have all heard someone laugh while they're speaking. I don't know about the rest of you, but I find if someone smiles while speaking it changes their inflection. I can speak over the phone to someone I know well and I can tell if they are smiling. I can hear it in their voice. So I think using those words as tags is a simple shorthand for conveying to the reader precisely those images, and that my previous aversion to it stemmed from a literal approach to the words (which, given how much in fiction writing is not literal seems to me to be often unnecessary and unjustified).
     
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  17. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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  18. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, they're beats.
     
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  19. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    Just curious, would say that it's a style choice to either use those as beats or tags?

    Example: "Fuck you, Karen. These are dialogue tags," he hissed."

    vs

    "Fuck you, Karen. These are character beats." He hissed.

    Or is the first example flat wrong? I mean this with no sarcasm; I'm just curious what you think.

    ETA: Sorry if anyone who reads this thread is actually named Karen. I just used the name because it's the first one that popped into my head.
     
  20. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    IMO hissed can be a tag , because again it describes the speech (likewise growled, snarled etc)

    but laughed, smiled, grinned, gurned, frowned etc can only be beats

    although actually i'd probably just say "fuck you karen these are tags, you silly bitch" - if there's only two people in the scene and one is named in the dialogue you don't need a tag or a beat to show who's talking
     
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  21. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    My tuppence worth; I would read these in the same tone and probably assume the second was a typo. If the beat came before the dialogue, however...
     
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  22. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    To me using 'he hissed' as a beat says that he spoke and then hissed like a cat or something. As a tag it means he hissed the dialog. For me that's the distinction - tags describe dialog, beats are actions taken afterwards (unless says it's "he hissed the last word". Not actually sure if that'd count as a beat).
     
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  23. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    They're beats or tags depending on how they are used. People argue over whether it is proper to use them as tags.
     
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  24. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    To be clear: I'm just trying to add to the conversation.

    Does it not boil down to a stylistic choice?
     
  25. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It does, but there are stylistic choices that everyone recognizes as such, and choices that some will instead declare to be an error. In the second case, a writer should think about whether he values the style freedom more than he fears the risk of the perception of error.

    Random examples:

    "Yes," he said.

    is standard correct use of a tag.

    "Yes." He sneezed.

    is standard correct use of a beat.

    "Yes," he sneezed.

    is a stylistic choice that some might eye doubtfully. Did he speak through a sneeze, or did the author just not understand how to punctuate dialogue?

    "Yes," he chewed.

    is similarly uncertain. Did he speak with his mouth full or, again, is it an error?

    "Yes," he tightened the bolts on the tire.

    is something that I would regard as a flat-out error.
     
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