“Dialogue tags?” she asks. “WTF can be wrong with dialogue tags?”
Today we’ll discuss the dos, don’ts and the right and wrong words to choose.
While editing, I cut a lot of dialogue tags. They are the “he said, he replied, she asked” etc. Why do I cut them?
“Let me explain.” She ran her fingers through her hair.
“Let me explain,” she said.
Which is more powerful? Which sentence brings a visual to mind?
If the character has action following the dialogue, we do not need a tag. Don’t do this:
“Let me explain,” she said. She ran her fingers through her hair.
“Let me explain,” she said, running her fingers through her hair.
When do I NEED a dialogue tag? When there is so much action you can’t/shouldn’t show another single thing. Yet you still need to reveal who is speaking. Or to avoid confusion.
“Drop me off here.” He pointed to the dark alley.
She glanced at him. “What? Do you have a death wish? Toby, tell him he can’t do this.”
“Drop me off.” Ryan grabbed the wheel and jerked it.
“Stop acting like an ass,” Toby said.
Now the nitty-gritty. Earlier I mentioned some words aren’t really acceptable to use as dialogue tags.
Here’s an example.
“Stop playing games with me,” she sniffled.
“No games, baby. Please stay,” he begged.
“But I have to work tomorrow,” she interjected.
“Call off. We can have breakfast in bed,” he cajoled.
See the problem? Those words might work in some books. I particularly see such dialogue tags in kids’ chapter books. But in romance, your publisher/editor/reader wants to be shown what’s going on, not told. So use your words in the best possible way–and eliminate those tags if possible!