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Just a curious question: how often do you vary your tag-lines?  I try not to do it that often, mabye twice in a conversation, but feel I have to sometimes to give the reader an idea of the character's emotions.  I get really confused.  Some people say that's not needed.
#61 - September 29, 2009, 02:02 PM

jeanne k

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I mainly use "said" for my tag lines.  In fact, I get distracted when I read something where the writer uses many different kinds of tag lines.
#62 - October 04, 2009, 09:44 AM

I used to vary them rather a lot but discovered that was a mistake on revision.  I do feel they are needed on occasion however, but after reading my work I began to feel the way you, jeanne.  That was one of the problems I had when I was critiquing one manuscript.  The writer either didn't use them at all or sometimes too much.  It was haphazard and hard to read.
Just read one of my very, very old stories (1992) and oh my goodness, it is atrocious.  I used so many tags, you could hardly read the story. Think I have moved on since then.  Hopefully. :eh2
#63 - October 04, 2009, 10:17 AM

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Just bumping this for a current question (which I posted over in the Picture Book section):

Is the standard use of "said" different for picture books?  That is, because of strict word counts, would using alternative dialogue tags be more appropriate (assuming the words and action are clear to convey tone)?  A few members of my PB crit group always suggest I change my "saids" to other tags.  Sometimes I agree, but mostly feel like I ought to stick with said.  Just wanted to get some more opinions on this...

Thanks!
#64 - December 03, 2009, 06:41 AM

That is exactly the reason why I started this thread.  I was constantly changing my tag lines until I read myself that it isn't actually necessary.  After revision, I realised I did it too much myself.  When I read through my work, I found that as a reader, I can generally pick up on the tone of character by what they say, not how they actually say it.  I do change my tag lines these days, only where appropriate.  
I just looked at my w.i.p and after reading, I found that you can generally pick up on the feelings of the character without actually changing the tag line to express it.  It is only when I want the character to express a certain feeling through their voice that I change it.  Which is completely different to what I used to do.  Sometimes I mention that the character frowns or smiles.  That might give an indication also as to how they are feeling without them having to laugh or cry etc.
#65 - December 03, 2009, 09:36 AM

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In picture books, the illustrations should show those facial expressions and body language that also help convey emotion, so I don't even need to write that.

I'll just have to go with my gut, I guess!  In my current WIP, instead of changing "said" to something else, I find myself rewriting so the dialogue appears amid action, where it's clear who is speaking and no tag is necessary:

David crawled up to his toy and peered in.  “Bug!  Truck!”  His pudgy finger jabbed.  Dottie curled up her legs and played dead.

That seems better to me than having tags everywhere! (Jenna exclaimed.)


#66 - December 03, 2009, 10:11 AM

I agree.  But you will always have those that say tag lines must be there.  Then again, reading through a book at the moment where tag lines are virtually non-existent and you can still follow the conversation.  I think, possibly, in pb's sticking to easy tag lines is best.  But with other genre, it can be varied.  I learnt that myself when reading to them in drama.  They constantly asked me why the character reacted and when I changed the tag lines in certain circumstances, there was no question asked.
#67 - December 05, 2009, 10:25 AM

I have just been revising something I wrote yesterday and after reading it, I noticed that although I didn't vary the tag lines as much I used to, sometimes having the tag lines were not necessary since it is aparent who was speaking.  It seems to elongate the text.  I've asked this before, but are they really always necessary?
#68 - March 14, 2010, 08:25 AM

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I hate tags.  I try not to use them.  I'd rather give my character something to do or show a response right before they speak.  Especially when "she said or he said, she asked or he asked" just takes the visual I'm shooting for back to book status; words on a page. 
#69 - March 14, 2010, 09:43 AM
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I have just been revising something I wrote yesterday and after reading it, I noticed that although I didn't vary the tag lines as much I used to, sometimes having the tag lines were not necessary since it is aparent who was speaking.  It seems to elongate the text.  I've asked this before, but are they really always necessary?

I don't think they're necessary in every single line, but I do think they should be used often enough to help keep the reader from geting confused about who's saying what. I hate reading along and thinking one person is saying what I'm reading only to find out a few lines later that it was someone else.
#70 - March 14, 2010, 11:46 AM

ecb

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You know for some people, I think less is more. For someone like me who likes the sounds of words and a rhythmic flow to the prose, I don't always agree. That doesn't mean I'm for the extremely-wordy, purple prose style; but it does mean that I don't think a story is always best served by the bare-bones philosophy of writing.

I love this comment. For me, the use of tags and beats is less about attribution (hopefully the reader can identify the speaker by each character's unique voice), and more about pacing. Tags and beats can let you manipulate the rhythm and speed of the conversation, slowing things down to allow comments to sink in gradually, or speeding them up to rush the action, etc.

Also, on the whole "hiss" thing... According to Webster's 11 (the dictionary used by my publisher's copyediting department, and the version I have on my computer), "hiss" ALSO means "to whisper angrily." So depending on the style guide you ascribe to, it may or may not require sibilant sounds to be hissed. :werd
#71 - March 14, 2010, 03:16 PM
« Last Edit: March 18, 2010, 01:57 PM by ecb »

I only ask this here because I started this thread:  I have been having trouble lately in deciphering when there should be a comma or full stop in dialogue. I was under the impression that commas were used when the first person paused during speech or interrupted.  My longhand work has edit marks all over it!
#72 - March 18, 2010, 07:25 AM

Kurtis

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I guess it depends on the sentence. I use ellipses for sentence fragments (which would still include a comma if you'd have one without the elipse) and em-dashes for sentences that are completed. To me the ellipse implies a long pause, the em-dash shows fragmentation.

"I'm not sure what...," ha trailed off.

"I'm not sure what--"
"Look, a spider!" she interrupted.
"--that bug is," he finished.

I believe the copyeditor leaves these the same, either because it's right or because it's cloudy and they go with the author's preferred method, probably just making sure it is consistent.
#73 - March 23, 2010, 06:47 AM

Kurtis

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In reference to the original topic, I strongly disagree that it is ever appropriate to write something like:

"That's OK," she shrugged.

Carl points out that the reader is unlikely to be confused, but that's not the point. The reader will be distracted. Readers will sort out most errors, if they notice them, but we don't want them to be distracted.

I'm no stickler for rules, but one basic rule is that our prose should make sense. You can't shrug a sentence, so that flat-out doesn't make sense. It's not about abiding by or breaking an abstract rule; it's simply about writing coherent prose.

As for D. H. Lawrence; it's not uncommon for classic books to be scanned in for new printing, and these later editions are notoriously full of errors. In any case, whether it was an idiosynchracy of his or a typo or a different convention then, I don't think those sentences smack of literary power and ought to be emulated.

All that being said, unless your punctation is truly abominable and makes a ms. unreadable, it's not going to make or break you. Copyeditors are there for a reason.
#74 - March 23, 2010, 06:54 AM

RyanBruner

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In dialogue, commas and periods (full stops) are used just as they are in narrative.  But as Kurtis explains, you can use the ellipsis and em-dash for other forms of pauses and such.  Although, I disagree with using the comma WITH the ellipsis the way he has it.  You drop the comma if you are using the ellipsis.  However, if your ellipsis is also an end of thought/sentence, you add the period to the end of the ellipsis.  (That is, you have four dots, not just three.)

Anyhow, ellipsis indicates pauses in speech, OR trailing off of speech.  Em-dash indicates a sharp cut-off OR strong emphasis.  And typically, the dialogue tags become unnecessary when you use such punctuation, because they are implied. (I suspect Kurtis used them for illustrative purposes, not because they were necessary.)

#75 - March 23, 2010, 07:00 AM
« Last Edit: March 23, 2010, 07:02 AM by RyanBruner »

Kurtis

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In dialogue, commas and periods (full stops) are used just as they are in narrative.  But as Kurtis explains, you can use the ellipsis and em-dash for other forms of pauses and such.  Although, I disagree with using the comma WITH the ellipsis the way he has it.  You drop the comma if you are using the ellipsis.  However, if your ellipsis is also an end of thought/sentence, you add the period to the end of the ellipsis.  (That is, you have four dots, not just three.)

Anyhow, ellipsis indicates pauses in speech, OR trailing off of speech.  Em-dash indicates a sharp cut-off OR strong emphasis.  And typically, the dialogue tags become unnecessary when you use such punctuation, because they are implied. (I suspect Kurtis used them for illustrative purposes, not because they were necessary.)



I'm seeing different views on this comma after the ellipse thing, now, but my habit from academic writing is to use the period or comma or any other appropriate punctuation mark after the ellipse. In theory the three dots stand for the missing words.


#76 - March 23, 2010, 07:08 AM

RyanBruner

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I'm seeing different views on this comma after the ellipse thing, now, but my habit from academic writing is to use the period or comma or any other appropriate punctuation mark after the ellipse. In theory the three dots stand for the missing words.


When using the ellipsis for missing words, then the three dots are supposed to come AFTER the punctuation, not before. (In other words, "This was what he said, ... and there's nothing you can say or do.")  That's different than the trailing off effect generally used in fiction writing. 


I should point out that, technically speaking, an ellipsis does NOT mean a long pause.  However, it is used that way in fiction because the "long drawn-out" effect is, essentially, repeated cases of trailing off mid-sentence.  I just...wanted...you...to know that.  (In the style of Captain James T. Kirk.)
#77 - March 23, 2010, 07:11 AM

Sometmes I regret starting this thread.  It proves how ignorant I can be.  Then again, dialogue, at times, is a lot harder to write.  Particularly since I am mainly  a narrative writer.  I don't know if I am a good or a bad.  Dialogue continuously causes problems for me.  I will probably have more questions to pose in the future.
#78 - March 23, 2010, 03:00 PM

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