Tag Archive - writing tips

He Said, She Said

Here’s a worthy bit of advice–only use speaker tags when needed. Too many writers feel they have to put “he said” (or worse: “he quipped, interjected, exclaimed”) every time any character says something. However, most of the time the reader knows who is speaking. If you are writing a conversation with just two people, you only occasionally need to mention the speaker’s name just to keep the reader clear. But alternating with a narrative tag instead is a good idea. Don’t use both.


John shook his head. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he said.


John shook his head. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

Be sure that when you do use an action (narrative tag) to identify who is speaking, you keep the action and speech together in the same paragraph to avoid confusion. Too often in the manuscripts I edit, I get confused as to who is speaking because the writer will put a line of speech on one line, and then that character’s action in the next paragraph along with a different character’s speech.

And it always sounds more natural to say “John said” rather than “said John.”

History as Mystery

We’ve gone over some nifty things about character in the last few weeks. Hopefully by now you have gotten a great glimpse into how to create a complex, driven character. If you missed the posts, take a look and read through them. I’d like to add some more insights about character development today and get you to think about history as mystery.

I mentioned how it’s not all that helpful (or interesting) to spend time creating the outward attributes of your character, for what really shapes a person is their history. I showed how by creating and exploring a character’s past hurt or wound you can determine the way she looks at herself and the world. When your character believes lies about herself and her world because of this hurt, she creates a persona that’s not her true self. And when someone is not their true self, they feel restless, unhappy, and lost. Which spurs them on their journey to find their essence. It’s the place she needs to get to, and her journey through the novel is not just aimed at her reaching her visible plot goal but also her spiritual goal of embracing her essence or who she truly is. Remember the sixties and how we were all about “finding” ourselves? This is the same thing but without the drugs. Continue Reading…

Character Arcs?

Okay, I confess. I’ve never quite understood the use of the word arc when talking about plot and character. I keep picturing a big boat in a very heavy rainstorm. But seriously, even the image of an arc (shaped like a rainbow–which brings us back to the other ark . . . hmm) confuses me. For if you are creating a character arc showing some sort of progression of a character’s inner growth through your novel as a bow that goes up and then comes down, it feels to me as if the character didn’t go anywhere. So I have trouble using that term. Continue Reading…

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