Tink...tink...tink...anyone out there? Hi! I'm Barbara Donlon Bradley - Author - editor and slightly crazy - ask anyone in my family. I hope to use this blog to talk about writing, editing and whatever pops in my head. Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Writing Down the Bones: More about tags

So back to the he said she said. These tags help your reader know who's talking.

There are several places you can place your tags - before, in the middle or after dialog.

If you put the tag first:
I see a lot of new writers do this. They start with description, then do dialog, then put a he said or she said at the end as well. You don't need all that. If you have something in the beginning, and it identifies the character speaking, that is all you need.

Here's an example:

Mary sat at the bar, nursing her soda. "I wondered when you'd get here," said Mary.
Her friend sat next to her.

With the part about Mary nursing her drink we already know where she is and what she is doing. If the dialogue is in the same paragraph as the description then as a reader you're going to assume that Mary is the one talking. That extra tag isn't needed.

So lets look at it again:
Mary sat at the bar, nursing her soda. "I wondered when you'd get here."
Her friend sat next to her.

Having the description, or tag, before the dialog will also slow down your action. If you have too many it will make the scene drag. so you need to make sure you have your tags at the right places.

"I wondered when you'd get here." Mary sat at the bar, nursing her drink.
Her friend sat next to her.

Having the dialog first picks up the pace a little more.

Now let's see how this changes again when the dialogue is last.

Mary sat at the bar, nursing her drink.
Her friend sat next to her.
"I wondered when you'd get here," said Mary.

The pace of the scene changes with each of these examples.

Tags are sneaky little devils. They seem to be something simple, but as you can see they are an important part of your story. They give information to your reader, help set the pace, and let us know who's talking.

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