Strong Verbs Not Allowed
From the writers in my writing group, I’ve learned that dialogue tags are out of style. You should only use “said” with maybe “asked” and “whispered” sprinkled in. And only use “said” when there is no better way to indicate who is talking.
The style now is using action statements to show who is speaking.
Don’t write: “Don’t do it,” I warned.
“You can’t stop me,” sneered the Evil Villian.
“Help me,” screamed the Hysterical Victim.
“I’ll do whatever I can,” I vowed.
Do write:. “Don’t do it!” I charged up the stairs.
“You can’t stop me.” The Evil Villian grabbed an automatic.
“Help me!” The Hysterical Victim strained against the handcuffs.
“I’ll do whatever I can.” I dived for the gun.
I see how they second version provides more information to the reader to help him create a more vivid mental picture. I also understand how tags can be overdone with characters replying, yelling, crying, adding, interrupting, gasping, and so on.
You can also convey the delivery of the dialogue with the words used within the dialogue.
Instead of: “That’s terrible,” he growled.
Write: “That’s the worse news I’ve had all year.”
The second line delivers more meaning, it’s more precise, more colorful.
Personally, I don’t mind reading tags, if, as I said above, it’s not overdone. I like to know how the dialogue sounds. The action tags give me clues sometimes, but I think a verb describing the sound of the voice in the dialogue tag give just as much information.
I don’t know when the minimizing of dialogue tags began. I find a lot of them in older books, from 50 years ago or longer. Perhaps it has something do with TV shows and movies. People are so used to storytelling being visual that authors try to copy that action as best they can in print.
Authors of current children’s books still use a variety of verbs for dialogue tags. The technique makes the story easier to follow.
So what’s your opinion? Should no one ever growl or yell or sob? Or can these be used sparingly?
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