Christian Writing I Don't Normally Write Leading Dialogue Tags But...

Johne

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Sep 27, 2005
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...in this rare case, I'll make an exception. ;)

The Great Wand hesitated and then pulsed one and a half times.

I thought that was fair. I was confused, too.

“Well, whatever your role, I wouldn’t be back here without your help. Thanks.” I opened my hand.

The wand levitated to my eye level, rotated completely around on its axis once as if orienting itself, whipped around in an intricate pattern in complete apparent delight, and disappeared with a pop and a sharp burst of brilliant blue sparks.

“And it’s off again,” I said. I felt the particular brand of pleasant melancholy one feels when a friend leaves.

I looked to address my three healers. “Well, I am restored,” I said, “but to be fully healed, there’s something I must first do.” I swung my legs to the side in preparation to dismount from the table. “I must find Pyrynne.”

And then I said, almost as an afterthought, “Say, does anyone have my pants?”
 
May 28, 2019
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Yes, I agree they work well in your piece.

Interestingly I am just.going through my editor' comments on JUDAS and they have a real thing about putting action tag before speech.
Placing of tags before or after.dialogue was not something I had thought about till now
 

Johne

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Interestingly I am just.going through my editor' comments on JUDAS and they have a real thing about putting action tag before speech.
Placing of tags before or after.dialogue was not something I had thought about till now

I used to put them before but went to school on John Scalzi's fiction. He does a really good job of showing how to put tags in the midst of, or after, dialogue. I refer to this story when I need a refresher.

“How well can you take a punch?” asked Deputy Ambassador Schmidt.

Lieutenant Harry Wilson blinked and set down his drink. “You know, there are a number of places a conversation can go after a question like that,” he said. “None of them end well.”

“I don’t mean it like that,” Schmidt said. He drummed the glass of his own drink with his fingers. Harry noted the drumming, which was a favorite nervous tell of Hart Schmidt’s. It made poker games with him fun. “I have a very specific reason to ask you.”

“I would hope so,” Harry said. “Because as conversational ice breakers go, it’s not in the top ten.”
 
May 28, 2019
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Personally I think it is a pet peeve of the editor so won't be taking the advice all the time.
 

Claire Tucker

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What fascinates me with the placement of dialogue tags is how their position can hint at the flow of the conversation. Putting them before the dialogue suggests a slight pause before the individual speaks; putting them in the middle can lend a dramatic pause midsentence; putting them at the end is the most neutral and doesn't really suggest anything.

This is what I've picked up through editing and paying close attention to the flow of sentences/dialogue/scenes/etc.
 

Johne

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What fascinates me with the placement of dialogue tags is how their position can hint at the flow of the conversation. Putting them before the dialogue suggests a slight pause before the individual speaks; putting them in the middle can lend a dramatic pause midsentence; putting them at the end is the most neutral and doesn't really suggest anything.

This is what I've picked up through editing and paying close attention to the flow of sentences/dialogue/scenes/etc.
By seldom using them before, when I do use them there, it makes the reader sit up just a little bit. It's a neat little writer's trick.
 
Apr 5, 2019
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What fascinates me with the placement of dialogue tags is how their position can hint at the flow of the conversation. Putting them before the dialogue suggests a slight pause before the individual speaks; putting them in the middle can lend a dramatic pause midsentence; putting them at the end is the most neutral and doesn't really suggest anything.

This is what I've picked up through editing and paying close attention to the flow of sentences/dialogue/scenes/etc.
Yep.

The thing is, the tags are like an actor performing the line in a movie. How the dialogue is conveyed is as important as information the dialogue carries.

If you always put the same tags in the same place, what you get is a predictable and robotic sequence of lines that, in my opinion, convey only information and lack nuance.

Of course, I'm not in the Cool Kids Writer Club, so take my insights with a grain of salt. :p
 
Aug 10, 2013
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Several times I've read to just use "said" for the dialogue tag. I was listening to an audiobook, and the writer only used "said." It really stuck out after a few minutes. I think some variety is better.
 
Aug 10, 2013
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And probably reading in a book, "said" is OK, but listening to it all the way through an audio book is ... well, I noticed it every time. On the other hand, "generated sonically from his speech organs" is a little much.
 
May 24, 2017
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Talking about audiobooks, as a narrator I need to know who's voice I need to adopt for the coming speech. Put the tag at the beginning or near the beginning to avoid confusion in narrator and reader/listener.
I had an editor who insisted on tags at the beginning. It must have been in a style manual somewhere. I agree that flexibility and variation are more attractive to humans. As much as we admire robotic replication, we crave the reminder that uniqueness gives us dignity.
Dialogue tags are different from action beats, aren't they @Claire Tucker ?
 

Johne

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And probably reading in a book, "said" is OK, but listening to it all the way through an audio book is ... well, I noticed it every time.
I've used John Scalzi as an example. He has said that he's pared 'said' down in recent years, establishing who people are and then reducing the 'saids' as much as possible for just this reason. This is hard but do-able.
 
Aug 10, 2013
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I'm not Claire, but the answer to your question is "Yes."

Dialogue tags use some kind of speech word, like said, reply, ask, yelled, whisper, etc. They are separated from the spoken words by a comma.
An action tag is some kind of physical action. She smiled. He nodded. They left without a word. He fell at her feet. She dismissed him with a wave of her hand.
They are separated from the spoken words with periods. They also may precede, interrupt, or follow the words.
Action tags are a good way to indicate the speaker without using the dialogue tags.
 

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