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  1. #1
    Chris Redd

    Dialog and description

    Ok, I realize that every writer has his or her particular, distinct style, so what I am about to ask has nothing to do with specifics. How do you write dialog tags, and when do they become overused? For example, if I was writing a conversation, is it simply a matter of using synonyms for words like said, spoken, and the like, or should something else be used. Instead of:

    John said.

    can it be
    john replied

    THe more important question I am going to ask is when do dialog tags get in the way, and is there a time when you can overuse them? I have seen writers even change speakers in novels without using a tag, when is this appropriate? Is there a time when I can do that?

    Also, how does a person describe a fight scene? and also how can you tell when you need to fix your grammar? I have submitted a number of stories only to have people complain off grammatical errors, what is the best way to fix this?

  2. #2
    Paul Harris

    Re: Dialog and description

    You're asking someone to teach you how to write. I would suggest that you instead begin by reading as many books on writing as you can. My personal favorite is Stein on Writing by Sol Stein but there are many more excellent books on the subject.

  3. #3
    Mark Phillips

    Re: Dialog and description


    he said, she said, he asked, she asked.

    That's really all you need to know. The dialgue tags that get in the way are the overly-elaborate ones that people try to come up with. Why? Because they stand out. all the he saids, blend in, you don't notice them when you read.

    Sure you can use he replied once in a while but for the most part stick with a simple: John said.

  4. #4
    Ce Ce

    Re: Dialog and description

    What Mark said.

  5. #5

    Re: Dialog and description


    Plus, dialog can be attributed via the narrative context. Example:

    "Who's there?" John sat up in bed, turning on the light. "Show yourself."

  6. #6
    Busy Lizzy

    Re: Dialog and description

    If it is obvious who's speaking in a dialogue, you can leave away the tags. Especially, if all you would write would be: "He said,she said".


    "Who's there?" John demanded.

    "It's me, your loving wife."

    "Oh. You really frightened me, you know."

    "Sorry. Didn't mean to."

  7. #7

    Re: Dialog and description

    (I think we have a story going here.)

  8. #8
    Anthony Ravenscroft


    I've got my problems with Orson Card... but his writing classes ain't part of it:

    Quite apart from the hilarity that arises from inadvertent Tom Swifties -- "I'm afraid we'll have to amputate," said the surgeon disarmingly -- it is this variety that becomes repetitive and annoying. That's because the reader is constantly being distracted from the dialogue and forced to examine meaningless, uninteresting tags.

    Go read good stuff: <http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/lessons/1998-08-14-1.shtml>

  9. #9
    Patrick Edwards

    Re: said-book-isms

    Other recos:

    Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies
    Mortal Syntax
    (both by June Casagrande)

    More general reco: Stephen King's On Writing

    P.S. It's funny you mentioned this (dialogue tags and such), because I was talking to my nephew (on phone), who told me he had a story to write for class. I began to tell him about the proper way to "dialogue" (e.g., ...," he said) and I mentioned that he should just look into the many books he'd read, or even one that he has waiting for him to read. And then I laughed because I remembered that when I first began writing (serious-like), I never got it right. What was funny is that I've been a voracious reader since I had eyes (Yes, I didn't really have eyes until I began reading ), but it never sunk in what I was looking at and reading. Years, I tell you!

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