1. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Grammar Non-tags

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ChickenFreak, Aug 12, 2017.

    So, let's fake up a scrap of dialogue:

    Emily asked, "Why are we here?"

    Henry said, "Bacon. This place has the best bacon in three states."

    "Which three states?"

    Henry shook his head. Irritated, "That's not the point. Stop taking me literally."

    Emily shrugged. "You're the one making the claims."


    My question is about the fourth line, where I'm using a non-tag as if it's a tag. This is not correct, right? Is it flat out totally wrong, or is it a style thing?

    I keep doing it, and then I keep correcting it, and then I keep wondering if I need to correct it. I suspect that I got it from Rumer Godden's very free hand with scraps of dialogue, but I'm not sure, and I'm not Rumer Godden, so what she got away with doesn't determine what I can get away with.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2017
  2. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    It reads weird to me, and if I saw it in a book I'd think there was a word inadvertently left out. I'd probably do something more like:

    Henry shook his head, irritated. "That's not the point. Stop taking me literally."
     
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  3. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I didn’t even notice it, but reading it back knowing it was there it did seem unusual. I think my brain rewrote it how @Laurin Kelly wrote it. If I did pick up on this while reading, I don’t think it would bother me. It’s unusual, but I’d put it down to personal style.
     
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  4. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

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    Hmmm, I would say it's not correct. And it doesn't really flow well for me. I'm all for bending or breaking some rules for the sake of style, pacing, etc. But in this case, in my opinion at least, it doesn't work. The line in your example just comes across wonky to me. Now they may well be some instances that this might work but this isn't it and I can't really think of an example that does off the top of my head.
     
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  5. surrealscenes

    surrealscenes Member

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    Same.
    Henry shook his head and replied in an irritated tone, "That's not the point. Stop taking me literally."
     
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  6. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

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    That's exactly how I would write it as well.
     
  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'd drop the irritated as its obvious from the text Henry shook his head " That's not the point , stop taking me literally" - and thats a classic Beat rather than tag situation
     
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  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    My corrections tend to look like any of:

    Henry shook his head, irritated, "That's not the point. Stop taking me literally."

    Henry shook his head. Irritated, he said, "That's not the point. Stop taking me literally."

    Henry shook his head. Irritated. "That's not the point. Stop taking me literally."

    Irritated, Henry shook his head. "That's not the point. Stop taking me literally."

    Irritated, Henry shook his head. He said, "That's not the point. Stop taking me literally."


    The third one isn't technically correct either, but I'm more comfortable with it as a style decision.

    I Keep On Doing It, and keep on correcting it, so I wanted to make sure it needs correcting.

    @big soft moose , I agree that in the example, the 'irritated' is an unneeded explanation anyway, but I do it with non-redundant non-tags. To rewrite (but keep the invalid non-tag in place):

    Emily asked, "Why are we here?"

    Henry said, "Bacon. This place has the best bacon in three states."

    "Can I get some ham, too?"

    Henry shrugged. Irritated, "Whatever you want."
     
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  9. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    On second read, I agree with moose on this one. It's not just a grammar punctuation thing - the word itself is superfluous in context.

    ETA: Ooops, saw you just responded on that above. Carry on then! :D
     
  10. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    its one of those show don't tell words ... don't tell us hes irritated show the irritation (which you've in fact already done in the original), in the rewrite if he just shrugged and said "Whatever" that would again convey the irritation
     
  11. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I offer a different example, because I'd like to separate the redundant nature of the non-tag from the non-tag nature of the non-tag:

    Henry stared at Emily. She was covered in...was that blood or ketchup? "Where have you been?'

    She dropped into a chair. Happily, "I just killed him."
     
  12. izzybot

    izzybot Oportet Vivere Contributor

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    I might use a colon instead of the comma, but I'm not sure that's any better. I definitely wouldn't use the comma, though - it reads as definitively reads as wrong to me. But to be fair, I guess you can pass off a lot as style.
     
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  13. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'd still show it rather than tell it she dropped into the chair, grinning "I just killed him" IMO if you are going to use the adverb you need a verb like said , otherwise you are saying she dropped into the chair happily, rather than it appending to the speech
     
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  14. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

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    I'd go with the first, third and fourth ones, as regards the corrections.
    The rewrite still has the same problem in my opinion.

    the non-tag is no longer redundant here but it still makes for an awkward sentence. Here's how I'd write this one: 'She dropped into a chair happily. "I just killed him" '.
     
  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    To clarify, I don't always use an adverb. For example, I'm entirely capable of:

    ----

    Henry asked, "What happened?"

    Emily dropped into a chair. Breathing heavily, "I killed him."


    ----

    Jane asked, "Would you like some more potatoes?"

    Fred shook his head. Carefully pouring gravy, "I've got plenty now."

    ----

    Equally problematic, yes? I wish I could figure out where I got this. If I could, it might make it easier for me to extract it from my personal grammar. As it is, I'm probably going to have to search my writing, always, for instances of comma-space-quote, to make sure that they're always formed as a proper tag.
     
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  16. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Digging through the Highly Flavored Novel, I see that I do this a lot. Examples--individual examples, not tied together. I wiped out some of the dialogue with a placeholder "Blah."

    Hmmmmmmm.

    After consideration, “Blah."

    “No.” Then, “I don’t know."

    Turning back, “Do you need anything else?”

    Then, “There’s no need to come back.”

    She picked up the key and studied it. “New lock.” Looking up, “And how do I get in to the house?”

    He ticked off on his fingers, “If you (blah blah blah at length)."

    Back to Irwen, “I assumed blah."

    With a voice of discovery, “Blah."

    He looked up as Janusz entered, and told him, "Blah.” Back to Irwen, “Blah."

    Barely audible through the wood, “No.”

    She stared at him for a long moment, then turned away, with a gesture of exasperation. "Blah.” Then, “Blah."

    Arms still folded, “Nothing to speak of.”
     
  17. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

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    I'll say this, these two examples read slightly less awkward than the previous ones. But only slightly.
     
  18. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'm not sure about carefully pouring gravy as a beat - I'd reverse the sequence on both of those

    Carefully pouring gravy, Fred shook his head. " I killed him. Tasty isn't he ?"
     
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  19. izzybot

    izzybot Oportet Vivere Contributor

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    I've for sure used this. I'm trying to figure out why it reads fine. Because it's not an action, so it doesn't read as a wrongly punctuated beat? But "back to" isn't an action either. But I think it implies a glance, whereas "then" only implies time passing. So would I say:

    "Blah blah." After a moment, "Blah."

    I think I would, but only with a colon. Is that still just as wrong? Probably, eh.
     
  20. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Maybe the "then" example seems to be taking permission for its existence from the correctly punctuated dialogue ahead of it? So it's not as if dialogue appeared from nowhere without authorization?
     
  21. izzybot

    izzybot Oportet Vivere Contributor

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    I don't know, I can see myself writing:

    He said nothing for a while. Then, "Dialogue."
     
  22. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Yes! So...puzzlement!
     
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  23. izzybot

    izzybot Oportet Vivere Contributor

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    I'm checking my wip for hinky shit out of curiosity and came across this

    [...] his voice soft, almost reverent: Dialogue.

    It's not the dialogue itself, but the memory of it, hence the lack of quotes. And the weirdness. Technically wrong? I wouldn't do it with a comma, but it reads all right to me with a colon. I gotta do some reading about colons and see if I'm nuts, I think.
     
  24. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Member

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    You can also just replace the comma with a colon.

    Henry shook his head. Irritated: "That's not the point. Stop taking me literally."
     
  25. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I went searching for examples in the books that I have on Kindle, and so far have only found the following, from A Pint of Murder by Charlotte Macleod:

    “I couldn’t sleep,” the purple smudges under Janet’s dark gray eyes suggested she hadn’t been sleeping for some time now, “and I heard the doctor’s car drive in. Is she bad?”

    Out of context, this couldn't look much more wrong, but in context, I certainly never noticed it.
     
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