Tag Archive - dialog

Actions Speak Louder than Dialog Tags: Using Beats in Writing

 This month our editors are taking a hard look at pesky adverbs and “weasel words”—our Fatal Flaw #11. Even a story with a great plot and engaging characters can suffer reader ennui due to the overuse of these words. No matter how long your novel, every word should be chosen with care. Words have weight, and all those extraneous words can sink your story. Editor Rachel Starr Thomson kicks off our look at this flaw with a discussion of dialog tags and narrative beats.

Our focus this month is on words: specifically, adverbs, superfluous verbiage, tics, and “weasel words.” Overuse of such words constitutes our Fatal Flaw #11, a pox on many writers’ prose.

Before I jump into my own topic on this flaw, a few words about said.

Said, when used with a pronoun, creates what’s known as a dialog (or speaker) tag: it’s a phrase that tells us who’s speaking. He said, she said, they said, he called, she cried, he replied, and all the rest. Continue Reading…

Talking Heads Avoidance Device

Back in August, we spent a month going over one of the fatal flaws in fiction writing: Flawed Dialogue Construction. We touched on the subject of “talking heads,” which is a problem in a lot of manuscripts. What this means is scenes with dialogue are not well grounded in setting and do not show clearly the actions the characters are engaged in while talking.

But even if writers drop in some lines here and there to show where their characters are when engaged in conversation and some body language or background activity, often these characters are still basically “talking heads.”

A lot of writers fail to take the time to bring a richer environment to the scene because they are so focused on writing the dialogue and making sure the information being revealed is done well. But so much more is needed to make a heavy-dialogue scene effective.

 Writers might get their dialogue mechanics down pat, appropriately using speech and narrative tags effectively, and avoiding that “on the nose” dialogue that just doesn’t come across as believable. But all the great dialogue in the world will still be problematic if it’s floating in space, coming out of talking heads that don’t seem to have bodies attached to them. Continue Reading…

How Writers Can Seek and Destroy Banal and Obvious Dialog      

This month our editors have attacked Fatal Flaw # 8: Flawed Dialog Construction. Dialog is a tricky component to master in fiction, and it’s easy to fall into numerous pitfalls that will make dialog sound forced or phony, or come across jarring due to bad structure. (If you haven’t read the previous posts on this flaw, click here, here, and here). Today editor Robin Patchen wraps up our discussion by pointing out ways to identify and destroy banal, boring dialog.

This month, we’ve been discussing writing great dialog. I’ve heard editors say that when they’re evaluating a manuscript, they’ll check the first block of dialog to see how the author handles it. The manuscripts of authors who don’t have a handle on dialog get passed over. It’s that important.

The problem is that dialog needs to sound realistic, but you don’t want it to be realistic, for one very good reason—realistic dialog is boring. Here’s an example of what I mean. In this passage, the heroine, Reagan, is desperate to get some information from Walter. Continue Reading…

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