Re: Dialogue Tags: Alternatives to "said"

#21
Having more dialogs tags ready is a good thing to have. Just keep in mind:

1) Words have a meaning. Not only an explicit meaning (like you can look up in a dictionary), but also a implicit meaning by context and rarity. The less you'd usually be inclined to use it, the more the reader's brain is unconsciously looking for a reason why you used it. As such they can be very good for emphasis, while making a text much worse when using them without reason.

2) If you do well, the reader will not realize they are any dialogue tags unless they look for them consciously. If they stand out, then the text as a problem. While the problem can in theory be caused by the dialog tags, that is limited to the most extreme cases. If the text feels like a big "he said, she said, he said, she said", then the problem will not be that all the dialog tags were "said", but rather that the speech is lacking so that the focus shifts to the tags. They getting attention is a symptom, not a cause, so trying to fix them will not help.

If you have problems in that regard, it might be worth to take a step back. Ask yourself: what's that dialogue trying to express. Why it is even dialogue?

Getting the writing realistic or character driven easily causes the author to immerse into the fictional action so much that they have the scene acting out in their head and then they try to make the reader see that scene. Problem is that writing is no cinema, you cannot show them the scene but have to transport them in text form. If you write a movie, you'll write the dialogue as script and add some instructions for the actors, but in the end the actors will have to fill it with live and then someone still have to decide where to put camera and how to cut. Writing dialogue in a story, you do not have that. You require the reader to do all that work for you: imagining the scene, how the characters act, ... . But getting the reader to fill all that in is not that easy. You can try to describe all the non-verbal and non-textual clues (and dialogue tags are in essence some form to do that), but reading also taxes the reader to some extend, so that ends up like someone narrating a movie. (If you ever tried to listen to the track for blind people, that is usually not a very good experience).

You might want to try to write a variant of that scene without any direct speech in it. Perhaps imagine one of the characters or someone watching the whole thing to narrate what happened in there. And try to even use as little indirect speech as possible. To simulate it, don't look at the dialogue-version while doing so, perhaps even wait some half hour after last looking at it to get what someone narrating would remember happened.

Or try to write a outline of that dialogue. Imagine a student got the task to write what this scene is about. What happens and what do we learn?

If half a page of text gets reduced to one or two sentences in the narrated version, then it is no wonder the reader will only hear "said".

Comparing those versions and looking what you one version fails to express that the other has, might show you what the essence or purpose of that scene is. Either getting that more prominent in there or reducing the dialogue (or sometimes extending it in other directions), might lead to a text where the "said" end up in the background again, unnoticed by the reader.

And perhaps, in some cases, it might be worth to get rid of the dialogue altogether and replace it with two sentences about what happened.

Re: Dialogue Tags: Alternatives to "said"

#23
After doing some research on dialogue tags, I have to say this. I give up. The last gem I read was making a case against using he/she/they asked. "Why?" I asked. "Because," came the answer from on high. "The question mark indicates that a question has been asked. This makes adding the tag redundant. 

Well, gee. By that reasoning, since the period at the end of the dialogue indicates that the dialogue has ended, then adding 'he said', is redundant too. 
I could go as far as not writing 'he exclaimed', after using an exclamation mark - maybe ... But one thing is clear. The rules for dialogue tags are pretty darned variable out there in the world of writing advice.  Sigh.
DrakanBook

Re: Dialogue Tags: Alternatives to "said"

#24


cmr Wrote: After doing some research on dialogue tags, I have to say this. I give up. The last gem I read was making a case against using he/she/they asked. "Why?" I asked. "Because," came the answer from on high. "The question mark indicates that a question has been asked. This makes adding the tag redundant.




yikes whoever told you that is awful lol. the "I asked" part is to slow down the tempo of the conversation (even if minutely), or to emphasize that the character is in a state of questioning. Its also basically as invisible as the word said.


"You are gross!" 

"Why?"

"Because you are covered in dirt!" 

vs. 

"You are gross!" 

'Why?" I asked. 

"Because you are covered in dirt!"


there's a difference in tone between the two, at least, I firmly believe there is. others may think differently. 

Re: Dialogue Tags: Alternatives to "said"

#25

slth Wrote:
cmr Wrote: After doing some research on dialogue tags, I have to say this. I give up. The last gem I read was making a case against using he/she/they asked. "Why?" I asked. "Because," came the answer from on high. "The question mark indicates that a question has been asked. This makes adding the tag redundant.




yikes whoever told you that is awful lol. the "I asked" part is to slow down the tempo of the conversation (even if minutely), or to emphasize that the character is in a state of questioning. Its also basically as invisible as the word said.


"You are gross!" 

"Why?"

"Because you are covered in dirt!" 

vs. 

"You are gross!" 

'Why?" I asked. 

"Because you are covered in dirt!"


there's a difference in tone between the two, at least, I firmly believe there is. others may think differently. 

Yes, I agree completely. The opinion on 'asked' came from Donald Hall. I can't see myself eliminating it, just on that :)