26 November 2014

#Editing Tip 4: Reading A Writer's Mind

This is the last in the mid-week series running concurrent with #NaNoWriMo, though there are more editing tips in Reading A Writer's Mind. Many writers work hard polishing speech in their fiction, but...

Are you making the most of dialogue tags?

Dialogue tags are important. Keep them simple and do not augment them with adverbs. Said becomes opaque in the run of a conversation, especially when it becomes necessary to delineate who is speaking in an exchange of more than two people.

A dialogue tag also acts as a pause in a string of speech, so take care where it is sited. Replace with action for weight, keeping it short so as not to detract from the spoken words. Readers will take the inference not just from the one line of speech, but in partnership with the narrative that surrounds it. Subtlety in pacing is the key.

‘No, I don’t think so.’
‘No,’ said Jerry, ‘I don’t think so.’
‘No,’ said Jerry, lifting his gaze to stare at me. ‘I don’t think so.’
‘No,’ said Jerry. He lifted his gaze to stare at me. ‘I don’t think so.’
‘No.’ Jerry lifted his gaze to stare at me. ‘I don’t think so.’

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