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Speech Tags

 
 
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Old 09-01-2008, 03:13 PM
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Default Speech Tags


Speech Tags

Qualifiers
Make your characters say what they mean, mean what they say, and the feeling behind those words will come through. Adding a qualifier often weakens dialogue structure, especially if strong words are already used. But what if the meaning is unclear?

“You're kidding,” he said can be read several different ways. Adding a concise qualifier will help it along: “You're kidding,” he said in disbelief or “You're kidding,” he said angrily.

But don't overdo it. “I don't know what in blue-blazes you're jabbering on about,” he angrily cried in confusion is a bit much. The words already convey the feeling. Instead, build around it with beats (short bits of description interspersed throughout dialogue) rather than dressing up the speech tag.

The Physically Impossible
Speech tags should be speech related. Characters can say, yell, shout, scream and whisper words. They can't smile, grimace, or frown them, just as you can't do these things in real life. These actions are better used as beats rather than as dialogue tags.

“I really liked that,” she smiled and “I know,” he frowned, “but I didn't.” contain physically impossible tags. This can be easily remedied, however, by adding a proper speech tag to the first and setting off the second as a separate beat:

“I really liked that,” she said with a smile.
“I know.” He frowned. “But I didn't.”

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