A specific note about dialogue tags

A note to other writers.

If you ever write a sentence in this format:

[“Blah blah blah,” He said, doing some other thing.]

It would usually be stronger without the tag. Since you have an action that is taking place at the time of the speaking, this is a great place to leave out “said.” It’s also easy to search through your manuscript for “said, ” to find and consider eliminating these clauses. That’s what I did to find the examples in this post.

So [“Blah blah blah,” He said, doing some other thing.] becomes [“Blah blah blah.” He did some thing.]

Examples from some old WIPs:

“Gregory Staton,” Groman said, taking his own seat. “You’re all wet.”

“Gregory Staton.” Groman took his own seat. “You’re all wet.”

“Not show it off.” I said, then stepped away from the table. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Not show it off.” I stepped away from the table. “Let’s get out of here.”

“It is honor to be known,” Vargin said, dipping his head in the most respectful gesture I’d ever seen from him.

“It is honor to be known.” Vargin dipped his head in the most respectful gesture I’d ever seen from him.

Each is a small change individually, but it can get rid of a lot of your “said” tags so that you don’t feel repetitive. It flows better most of the time as well. Just make sure that the following action is done by the speaker, or your reader will be confused.

As an example, this is a bad change:

“Three times, Hecho,” Vargin said, and then my vision shifted to black.

“Three times, Hecho.” My vision shifted to black.

Don’t do this change. It’s bad and confusing to the reader. Hopefully that’s clear.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know!

 

-Kyle Adams

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