Dialogue Tags

“I told you. You can’t do that.”
“Watch me.”
“I’m sorry.”

Writing dialogue is fun right? It does so much:

  • Moves the plot forward
  • Creates tension
  • Starts conflicts
  • Reveals a lot about the characters
  • Reveals plot twists

So useful right? Well why it is to confusing to read sometimes?

Two words. Dialogue. Tags.

The difference between dialogue you can follow and ones you can’t is the use of dialogue tags.

The whole purpose behind dialogue tags is to convey which character is speaking and how it is said, but you can’t keep writing “he said this” and “she said that” throughout your entire piece. After a while it can seem really annoying and unnecessary. So for this post we’re going to talk about the pros and cons of dialogue tags, as well as how to use them properly.

Pros

When it comes to using dialogue tags, they are meant to convey who is speaking, but they add other benefits as well. For example they can be used to show how the words are spoken or what the character is doing while they are talking. Used in combination with the dialogue itself, it can reveal a lot about what your character is feeling in that situation rather than you having to tell it.

Cons

Using dialogue tags constantly can get really monotonous. So when you use {character} said again and again, you lose your reader. Also going without the tags completely makes it very confusing. So either way you may have a difficulty.

How to Use them Properly:

The word said is a dangerous thing. It can keep your dialogue from having any sense of emotion or realism. Using variations in place of said creates better dialogue tags. You can use forms of speaking (whispered, muttered, screamed) in place of said in order to help convey the emotional and mental state of your character. The use of actions (as she clenched her fists) is another way to bring in a variation with the word said. But if used too often, variations of said can become just as monotonous and pointless.

When it comes to the amount of dialogue tags used in a conversation, the first time a character contributes  is usually the only time it’s needed and after that, if the character’s speech pattern is discernible enough, it isn’t needed anymore. The exception to this is if the character is saying or doing something that contributes to the situation.

After a while all you need to do is let your dialogue speak for itself. Sometimes all your reader needs it to read the words and they will put their own emotion into it.

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