1. Davi Mai

    Davi Mai Banned

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    What's the feeling re. dialogue tags that are actions?

    Discussion in 'Dialogue Development' started by Davi Mai, Aug 24, 2020.

    (apologies if some of my posts are not in the right threads - I'm still getting the hang of the layout. I figure this is a general writing question?)

    For example...

    “Leo. Shut up, we have company!” Jenny poked him again.

    Is that okay?

    or is it more proper to put it like this...

    “Leo. Shut up, we have company!” Jenny said, and poked him again.
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I don't feel tardy.... Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I like to mix them up. Long back and forths between characters benefit from dialogue beats like in your first example. It adds some action to balance an otherwise threadbare conversation.

    Narrative passages with sporadic dialogue will stand out more with simple tags that don't draw attention to the characters when you're trying to vibe scenery or imagery.

    I use "said" almost exclusively but will slip in a more purple-y tag every now and then. But not often... if I want the tag do to more work than a simple "said," I'll turn it into a beat.

    I tend to go no more than three lines of dialogue without a tag and no more than five without a beat. But they all balance and riff off each other in theory. Easier said than done.
     
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  3. A_Jones

    A_Jones Member

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    I like them either way. Going back and forth gives variety and keeps the work from growing stale. My attention goes more toward the period after Leo. If Jenny is telling Leo to shut up there should be a comma after his name.
    Sorry if I'm off topic.
     
  4. hyacinthe

    hyacinthe Banned

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    The first one. I write the second one a lot, and in edits I always go back and change them so they're like the first example.

    something that might be of interest: the advice "said is invisible" works in print, but i've been cutting down on my character said tags lately, because "character said" is not inaudible in the audiobook version, and it can get annoying *real* fast. (all four of my published and to be published books have audiobook releases so far, so I do an editing pass specifically for audio considerations.)
     
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  5. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Firstly, it's called a beat. Dialogue tags (he said/she said) and beats (he verbed/she verbed) are collectively known as attributions. Neither is more or less proper than the other. It's about tone and feel.

    My personal take is that I tend to use beats either in front of the dialogue or between two seperate pieces of dialogue, rarely solo after a bit of dialogue.
     
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  6. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I don't feel tardy.... Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that would be weird. I suppose very occasionally you would need to slip an important gesture/action between two characters' lines without a convenient a way to fit it between a single character's dialogue.... something like this maybe:

    "Shit!" Tommy hopped around in pain.

    "What happened?" Sally said.

    "A bee stung me in my ass!"


    As opposed to:

    "Shit!" Tommy hopped around in pain. "A bee stung me in my ass."

    Sally's little interlude in the first section delays the payoff just enough to make it 7% funnier maybe? Not sure... the hanging tag is still kind of weird. I would probably edit this to read more like:

    "Shit!"

    "What happened?" Sally said.

    Tommy hopped around in pain. "A bee stung me in my ass!"

    But then I would drop the "Sally said" tag altogether:

    "Shit!"

    "What happened?"

    Tommy hopped around in pain. "A bee stung me in my ass!"

    Hmm... perhaps I'll explore this passage further. I'm smelling a Pulitzer.
     
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  7. Davi Mai

    Davi Mai Banned

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    Yes! I've noticed this too, and I wish narrators would just drop the "said character". ESPECIALLY when they are putting on different voices for each character. It makes no sense to say something as a spooky ghost and then drop back into the narrator's tone and say "said the ghost." I reckon a really good narrator would be clever enough to drop the dialogue tags. Either that, or we have to write two versions of each story like you've done. You've reminded me to do this for the next one. Ta.
     
  8. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I think one of the best things to employ, when writing dialogue, is variety. Mix it up. Repetition does get noticed—and not in a good way. By all means, use said, or sensible equivalents. Use beats. Start with a beat, or finish with a beat, or put the beat in the middle of a statement, if you want a bit of a pause. Use neither, and just give us the spoken words. Try to vary the order in which you place the words of the dialogue in relation to beats and/or attributions.

    The main thing to do, when constructing dialogue, is to ensure the reader can follow who is saying what. If the reader loses track of that, your story will suffer. It's also nice to give some visuals to go with the dialogue, which is what beats provide. Also keep in mind the order in which things are happening. Is the action happening before the words are said. During the speech? After the speech? And pay attention to importance as well. Sometimes the words being spoken are more important than what is happening at the same time. Sometimes the reverse is true.

    Dialogue should be as varied as possible, in my opinion. Dialogue passages can often use a bit of tweaking during an edit, to get them to sparkle and flow.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2020
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  9. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Senior Member

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    I prefer the first to the second. Adding 'Said' just seems a little redundant. It makes me feel like I'm back in highschool trying to pad my papers with flowery language to meet the word count. I still have a problem with this when doing dialogue, so I have been practicing going the other way and focusing on conveying the scene accurately with as much brevity as I can.
     
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  10. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    "Said" can be extremely useful. It's a neutral tag when nothing else is suitable, but the key, as with any other tag or beat, is to use it sparingly.

    Like Wreybies, I mix it up.

    Out of interest, I went through my Christmas on the Western Front story, which is quite dialogue heavy. I used "said" four times in 1900 or so words.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2020
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  11. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    Dialogue beats tell the transition of time, action, or distance. For example, you have a character speaking while performing an action like loading a gun, or crossing a street, dialogue beats can tell the reader where the speech happens during the action.
    Dialogue tags simple tell the reader which character is speaking.
    Let say that you have a scene in which two pilots are having a conversation while landing an aircraft. Dialogue beats can tell the establish where the pilots are during the procedure, and then switch to tags until there's a change and another beat is needed.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2020
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