“Need to work on my dialogue tags,” I groaned.

Bird Vacuum“Dialogue—Ouch, my OCD,” said editor

Some dialogue from my draft:

“The peace makers have successfully vacuumed up the hummingbird.” The pleasant female voice pauses then continues. “And are requesting that it be expunged into space.”

Adjusted to:

“The peace makers have successfully vacuumed up the hummingbird,” says a pleasant female voice, “and are requesting that it be expunged into space.”

Barely six pages into my Destiny Hand’s doc before a friendly editor student had an aneurysm.  Apparently I’ve developed, refined even, some bad grammar over the decades.

And she said,”Commas are your FRIENDS

I had it in my head that a period would come after “he said”.  That’s been corrected with a crash course in dialogue tags.

Along with a lot of added commas, I’ve replaced “…” with “—” for when speech is interrupted.  I suppose knowing how to use the em dash properly is the difference between a History and English major.

Here is my dialogue mantra:

Mandala Dialogue MantraI say. I ask. I sometimes add or continue, but rarely whisper or murmur.  I can answer and maybe respond, but I shouldn’t interrupt.  I’ll never gasp or groan.  I’ll never laugh or moan.  I could exclaim or retort, but I’m trying not to.

With my NaNoWriMo instincts pushing me to ignore editing as I write, I’ve created some dialogue monsters snaking through my book drafts.  Despite taking my time, it seems Destiny’s Hand is no exception.

I didn’t even realize quipping was taboo until I finally took the time to research dialogue standards—thanks Google.  Now I know why a helpful student almost burst a blood vessel.

Nothing’s worse for a writer than to have the stories they need told discounted before they’re heard. For the greater good, it’s time to butcher some words.

Cut the pronouns and show not tell.

I’ve been mowing dialogue tags as I edit, clipping and blowing them off the paper.

I’ve been pushing descriptive beats and trying to be more entertaining, as in this excerpt from Destiny’s Hand.

“Serene needles with sweet tips, your voice is perfect pleasant.  Your words pierce me and let my joy for life hiss out.” Two fingers press hard against the nose side of his right eyebrow. “Why’ve you been trying to manage me lately?  Badgering me like my mother haunting, she’s dead and you were never alive.  So stop with false heart no heart caring, embrace your soullessness.”

Many pages still to go. Many words still to write.

I’m still on track for my deadlines.  And forging ahead, my improved dialogue grammar will mean less of an editing jungle.

I have the realistic goal, not of perfect grammar, but just good enough that an English major can make it through.  I’ll trust OCD to give me free final corrections.





2 thoughts on ““Need to work on my dialogue tags,” I groaned.”

  1. Indeed, a lot more lessons learned in the past couple of years, will post about them again now that I’ve got my new book done-ish.

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