I personally am not for using dialogue tags except in rare occasions. I find they take me out of the story even if the tags are only said and asked. I’ve read several articles saying people don’t see the words said and asked anymore because they’ve been used so much, but I disagree. I find reading said repeatedly, annoying to myself. When it comes to the tag asked, I don’t think you need it if you already have a question mark at the end of the sentence. I don’t think putting in she/he asked adds anything to the story. What it all comes down to is this: Do these words really add anything to your story? Same thing with the word stuttered. By the phrasing of the sentence you can tell that the person is stuttering, so why put it in?
The only time I use the word said is if there are more than two people in the room or if I just went to another page. You have to be careful when using action tags when speaking. Take a sentence like:
“Well I didn’t see you doing anything, so I took it on myself,” she smirked.
This would be a good line but you can’t smirk while you talk. The better way to say this would be:
“Well I didn’t see you doing anything, so I took it on myself.” She smirked at him.
All a dialogue tag does is to tell the reader what is happening; it doesn’t show an action or reaction of the word you are using.
Another example is when your heroine is crying. Ask yourself, why is she crying? Feel her pain. Get inside your characters head. What is she/he feeling or thinking at that moment in time? Is she/he in mental/physical distress? Write those emotions instead.
A final thought I’d like to share, and while not really on topic I decided I would bring it up since I recently saw this in a book. Watch out for dropping/throwing appendages unless it adds to the story – like in the movie “Beetlejuice”. Be careful about giving stage directions unless it adds to the story.
** Contributed by SSRA Member Michael Ditchfield
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