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Friday, December 18, 2009

Too Many Shoes, Part 2

So, we've talked about exclamation points and adverbs this week. We also need to be careful about using too many dialogue tags, especially non-said ones. But, like we discussed with adverbs, some authors get away with the overuse of dialogue tags, so why can't we? Again, it's another one of those contradictions. The use of tags like 'he screamed' or 'he demanded' is in a sense telling rather than showing. The dialogue itself, in most instances, can be worded so that the reader gets the idea of what tone the speaker is using. If the dialogue doesn't quite get it across, then the characters actions might be able to do so. For example, you could say this: "I don't want to go to school," she screamed. Or you could say this: "I don't want to go to school." Her face reddened as she clenched her fists. Both sentences portray the same meaning, but the second one shows instead of tells. Don't get me wrong; there will be instances when a non-said dialogue tag will be the only way, or the best way, to get the meaning across, but like with adverbs, their use should be limited. Now, on a final note, I will be unplugging next week, but will be back the week after for a few more posts on contradictions. I want to thank those of you who have given me awards recently, and I hope you all enjoy whatever holiday you celebrate. See you on the 28th!

40 comments:

Matthew Delman said...

The other thing you have to consider is variation as well. Sure it's great to show and not tell, but if you're showing the same emotions the same way then you're getting repetitive.

Sometimes telling works to avoid repetitive writing. Sometimes it doesn't.

Of course, this also why I avoid saying there are "rules" to writing. There aren't. Everything we're spouting are guidelines, plain and simple, that can be thrown out whenever you want. So long as you know why you're throwing them out that is. There's a huge difference between knowing the guidelines and ignoring them and not knowing the guidelines at all. And hawkeyed readers can tell the difference.

Matthew Delman said...

Oh, and Happy Holidays!!!

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I do a ton of the latter. I'm needed to cut down some of the details during a high conflict convo though.
~ Wendy

Tamika: said...

When I do use tags I like sharp brief blurbs. I'm finding that less is better sometimes. The last example is the kind that I hope for when they do show up in my work.

Thanks for tackling the hard questions!
Merry Christmas Susan!

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Merry Christmas to you and yours Susan!

Janna Qualman said...

Absolutely! Well said.

Enjoy your break, Susan. We'll be here when you return!

Bane of Anubis said...

Another key (once you've gotten past the telling part), IMO, is not to show so much that it interrupts the flow of the scene (i.e., let the reader imagine some of the interplay and highlight the highlights).

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Solvang Sherrie said...

This is one of the biggest changes I've noticed in writing over the years. Books I read as a child tend to have more of the "she screamed" writing than books we read today.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Showing verses telling is huge. It's often what stumps new writers, I find.

L. T. Host said...

I think Matt nailed what I would have said. Completely agree (and often worry about that in my own work). I try to use beats more often than tags. Sometimes I do just to mix it up though.

Have a good week next week-- I'll be around but may not post myself Thursday and Friday. Yay for holidays!!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Awesome writing lesson! ;-)

Have a wonderful holiday, Susan.

Jill Kemerer said...

Tags. Sigh. Thank goodness for revising!

Have a very Merry Christmas!!

destrella said...

We'll miss you! Merry Christmas. :O)

Robyn Campbell said...

Susan, dialogue tags are the BANE of my existence. The BANE I tell you.

Thank you for your blog. I love it. And Merry Christmas my friend. I do hope Santa is good to ya. I'm unplugging too. See you after Christmas. :)

Oh and I was tagged by Tricia(post coming in a few minutes.) So consider yourself tagged. :) After Christmas. Don't you love me?? Bwa ha ha ha

ElanaJ said...

I'm also a big fan of showing vs. telling. Sometimes it's hard as we want to include variety in our dialog and narration.

Happy Holidays!

MG Higgins said...

Yep, I'm guilty of inappropriate tags and constantly have to watch myself.

Have a wonderful week off and enjoy being unplugged!

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Is it six lines one can write without using a tag? Short lines, perhaps, and dialogue between two people.

Always good to visit your site. I'm thinking writing about writing must keep you much more in the writing practice.

"Have a lovely holiday," Julie said.

Nancy said...

I suppost you are right about the dialog tags. It takes a lot of effort but makes the passage clearer and more in the moment.

Mary said...

I need to work on this, but I'll wait till I finish the rough draft. Thanks for all the advice.
Merry Christmas!

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Have a Merry Christmas! Enjoy your break!

Amy Tate said...

Sometimes I like sentences like the first one, if the author has already painted the picture. When there is too much explaining, it gets on my nerves. I've read a lot of books lately that tell me too much, and when that happens I lose interest. Know what I mean?

K. M. Walton said...

I try to do a blending of both "said" and the physical "showing".

Hope you have a wonderful holiday, Susan!!!

p.s. I really would like to get back into your manuscript - I keep wondering what your characters are up too...

Patti said...

It's all about moderation. Have a Merry Christmas.

Melanie's Randomness said...

You should be an editor, seriously. You know so much!! SO happy I found your blog dear! I hope you have a very happy holiday!! =)

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Have a great week, Susan! I hope you have a merry, wonderful Christmas! May you savor every moment and feel the celebration deep in your heart. See you in a week!

Angie Muresan said...

Merry Christmas to you and your, Susan! Hope it's fun, peaceful and blessed. Can't wait to chat with you on the 28th!

Karen said...

In addition to using words other than "said", I think you made a good point that you didn't state with your example. We should limit how many said-tags we use altogether. It gets tiresome to read:

"I'm tired," he said.

"Me too," she said.

"I think I'm going to sleep," he said.

"I think I'm going to the beach," she said.

I have literally read books with back and forth dialogue like this that just made me want to SCREAM! If it's obvious who is speaking (because they are also DOING something, like breathing or tightening a lug nut) then it's not necessary to tell the reader that the character just spoke. The quotation marks already told me.

~Ellie Kings~ said...

This is one of the areas that I really must work on. Thanks Teach! Have a wonderful time with your family Susan. Hugs!

Word Designer said...

May your Christmas be merry and your time off relaxing. Merry Christmas, my friend.

Word Designer
Architect of Prose

#167 Dad said...

Thanks for pushing me to evaluate...
Merry Christmas.

Tara McClendon said...

Have a great week unplugged. Enjoy your holdiay time.

Yaya' s Changing World said...

I love the way you show how its done. So much better to see it in my mind's eye than only to wonder at the emotions taking place.

Merry Christmas! Enjoy the time with friends and family. ~ Yaya
Yaya's Home

Stephanie said...

Hi Susan-
"That Susan, she sure shares some useful info." My grin widened. Thoughts of who else I could share this info with raced in my head.

(Ok, just going on the cuff, but making an attempt...what'd ya think?)Showing, not telling.

Have a wonderful, well-deserved time off. I too will be unplugging for the most part until the first of the year. I am traveling to visit my family.
Happy wintertime!

Margo said...

thanks for the great advice. I always need these reminders - the other day's about the adverbs too. I do find that when in first draft mode it sometimes best not to get too hung up on it. Sometimes a quick tag or adverb is the best I can do to keep going. On the other hand it can be a sign that I haven't imagined something enough, and am writing at too great of a distance. Happy Holidays!

Dawn Simon said...

"Enjoy the holidays!" I shouted loudly. Hee! I do hope you enjoy the holidays, Susan. Thanks for all the wonderful posts this year. :)

Kathy said...

"I don't use too many adverbs!" screamed Kathy.

Terri Tiffany said...

Dropping by to wish you and your family a very MERRY CHRISTMAS@@@@

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Just wanted to say Merry Christmas to you and let you know that you are mentioned in my Christmas poem. Click for my holiday message!
Hope you have a wonderful holiday!

Melanie's Randomness said...

Hey girl just wanted to wish you a very Merry CHristmas!!! =) *Hugs*

KM said...

I've always had an issue with internalizing the don't-use-too-many-dialogue-tags thing. It's s ohard for me. lol I just love the "he mumbled," "he cried," "he asked," etc.