Writing Tip

group-1825513_1280Strong 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.

But …

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?

Writing Tip

gerund-1025453_1280Verb, That’s What Happening

On Almost an Author, Hope Toler Dougherty will be discussing parts of speech this year and started with verbs.  Click here to read.  I am adding what I have learned so far about using verbs.

Strong Verbs

When I was in college, a visiting author said she told some local reporters to use strong verbs in their writing.  This is something I am relearning since I hired a fellow writer who is also a free-lance editor to edit my novel.

For example, let’s look at the sentence.  “He walked across the street.”

Really?  Is that all he did?  I don’t want to waste an opportunity, so I need to pick a verb that conveys more action or description or both.

  • If he’s angry: “He marched”, “He stalked”, or “He stormed off”
  • If he’s in a hurry: “He ran”, “He raced”, “He scurried”, or “He dashed”
  • If he’s relaxed: “He strolled”, “He sauntered”, or “He moseyed”

Some other words for “walk”: “ramble”, “wander”, “parade”, “tramp”, “hike”, “tread”, “pace”, and “step”.

Because I write from the first-person point of view of a teenager, I don’t want to use verbs only an adult would use.  But my editor pointed out that in my effort to stay in character, I used the same verbs too often, which will bore my readers.

“Look” was the major culprit, not only as in “to see” but also in appearance  I need to find synonyms that add variety to my writing while staying in character.  Turning to my hand-dandy thesaurus, I find listed under “look” the synonyms “behold”, “perceive”, “discern”, “inspect”, “scan”, “stare”, “seem”, and “appear”.  I won’t use the first three because my character wouldn’t use those words.  But the others will work.  So will “glance”, “glimpse”, “turn”, “move my eyes”, and “shift my gaze”.

If you write in third-person, select verbs that convey the correct meaning but not ones so obscure they send your reader to a dictionary, or worse, to another book.

My editor pointed out there is one place where you don’t want strong verbs.  I’ll talk about that next time.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑