Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tags, tags, and more tags and Dialogue, too.

Don't forget to vote on which title you love for my new book. Polls close (I've always wanted to say that.) August 30th. Go here peeps.>

Tags. We love 'em, we hate 'em. Sometimes we don't know what to do with them. Or at least I don't. :) Too many tags can distract the reader. Pull them out of your story. I like to see dialogue with nothing else but the dialogue. No tags. Not all the time, mind you, but there are certain times when you need nothing but the characters speaking.

Good dialogue can be complicated. It needs to move the story forward and reveal important character info without seeming fake. It needs to seem genuine without actually being genuine. Throughout your novel you can sprinkle in a couple of lines of just dialogue. The reader should be able to KNOW who is speaking without any help from tags or beats.

Listen to the way people talk. Pay attention to the natural rhythms we use when we speak. Then use them in your writing.

Never use dialogue to tell the readers things your characters all ready know. I have been guilty of this more times than I'd like to count. Okay, HUNDREDS!

The best way to figure out if you're using too many tags is to read your scenes/story aloud. It is very telling when you actually hear what you've written.

Oh, and how many times does your character shrug or breath? YIKES! I am guilty of having my characters breath so much they should have been hyperventilating.

Anything I forgot? Tell it to me in the comments. :)

And I want to give a SHOUT-OUT to my pal Jody Hedlund. Her book The Preacher’s Bride will be out in October, but you can pre-order it now. And her blog is mentioned on the Write It sideways site, 23 (more)Websites that Make Your Writing Stronger.

Don't we love it when our fellow writers have success? Friday another shout-out to Glam. You peeps are having so much success that I'm going to get hoarse with all of this shouting out. :) Write on.


  1. I don't use tags 'said', 'shouted', etc. I do use:

    "Can you believe it?" Scott reached for his margarita.
    "Yes." Robyn reached for the chips.
    "The Dolphins actually won a game."
    Robyn threw the chips at Scott.

    I try to use actions within the dialogue because, well, people don't stand/sit frozen in place while they talk. People do shrug, breathe, sigh, arch an eyebrow, reach for a chip, a drink, drum their fingers on the table, or, whatever. As much as the dialogue needs to flow, the characters need to react as well.

    Great post, my friend. Isn't it funny how the Dolphins only win in the ficitonal world?


  2. "Yes!" Tricia clickety-clacked a response on her computer keyboard. "Robyn is back, with expansive good cheer and a tool box of tips."

  3. And she threw several dishes his way and when she was finished, Scott had dip from head to toe. That thought was nice. hehe

    I get what you're saying, but there is a place for, "the Dolphins are numero uno," she said.

    And as far as them winning only in the fictional world, WATCH OUT. It's almost FOOTBALL SEASON. woo-hoo, here they come, flying down the field, scoring touchdowns and the occasional field goal. The opponents are eating the Dolphins dust. YEAH!

  4. Pat, you make a body feel so good, especially when a body needs to hear it. I loves you. And loved that example. I could actually hear the clickety-clack. Nice touch! :)

  5. Great post! Tags are my enemies. I swear they jump up and bite me every time!! :)

  6. Kristi, tags are the bane of my existence. But I'm learning. :)

  7. I actually like tags.
    Like everything, they have their place.


  8. Patti, and everything in its place. I hear my words to the kids echoing in my ear. :) Gotcha girl!

  9. I love your hyperventilating remark. That cracked me up! All good advice here for us Robyn. Thanks so much. I think it's good advice to read it out loud. You gain such perspective as both a reader and a writer when you truly hear the dialogue.

  10. This is a SUPER helpful post on dialogue Robyn!! I love writing dialogue. And I so agree with you. Sometimes I like straight up dialogue too...without the tags.

  11. Kelly, thanks. I know I love to write dialogue, but my characters beg to do more than just breath. :)

  12. Katie, thank you. I know you love to write dialogue. And I've learned a lot from you girl. See? I was paying attention. :)

  13. Oh Robyn, thank you for the shout out!! I can't wait to set off cyber fireworks for you! You've been such a cheerleader to so many of us. I, for one, appreciate just what an encouraging spirit you have! You're a blessing!

  14. Jody, I can't wait either. Girl! I am so excited to read your book. I will probably read it in one sitting. Locking the kids and hubby out of the house till I'm done. :)

  15. Hi Robyn, I am guilty of using plenty of dialogue tags. Now I am making an conscious effort to curb it and make it more real.

  16. Hi Robyn, I think dialog tags are kind of like punctuation. If the dialog is doing its job, you don't really notice them.

  17. Perfect timing. I've been over-tagging bunches lately...I say with a slight wince (hee hee). And Woo Hoo to Jody! I've already got her book preordered.


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