What Your Choice of Dialogue Tags Says About You

One way to look at it is to consider any movement away from the exclusive use of said or asked a step away from the very “best” writing, from the kind of writing intended to be considered “literary.” If you spend any small amount of time examining blogs or books on writing, you will find that this is a very common directive: use said, asked, and nothing else.

There are a number of reasons for this, but the most common works in conjunction with that other famous maxim: show, don’t tell. If you use the word ranted to describe the speech act of one of your characters, you’re telling your readers how to understand what is happening rather than illustrating through action and dialogue.

Source: What Your Choice of Dialogue Tags Says About You | Jane Friedman

One of the first things a new writer hears about dialogue tags is how annoying it is when somebody finds a thesaurus and inserts a dozen synonyms into his/her story for “said” and “asked.” The result is often highly annoying except when it is done sparingly.

For humor, where was the ever-popular, “‘Ouch,’ he explained” approach and the campy Tom Swifty insertion of a punning adverb such as: “‘Let’s get married,’ Tom said engagingly.”

I see nothing wrong with substituting the word “shouted” when the people are far apart from each other or in a noisy place. Otherwise–as the article says–we have author intrusion into the story and telling rather than showing when we substitute words for “said.”

Writers can avoid the fact they’re inserting an editorial opinion into the story when they, for example, substitute a word like “ranted” for “said.” The character’s thoughts can show that he’s ranting and so can his facial expressions and movements during the conversation.

Big-name authors often take a stylistic approach to dialogue tags. One in particular constantly uses “observed.” That’s really not a good general synonym for “said,” especially, in quick back-and-forth dialogue because it implies that the comment is measured and based on logic rather than simply uttered.

When an author goes nuts looking at a manuscript page of dialogue with the word “said” all over it, one way to avoid this repetition is to ask how many of those dialogue tags are needed. A back-and-forth conversation doesn’t need a dialogue tag after every line as long as the reader can always tell which person is speaking.

A lot of food for thought in this blog post from Christopher Hoffmann on Jane Friedman’s blog!

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Critical Things You Won’t Learn in an MFA Program

The pros and cons of an MFA in creative writing are widely debated: on one hand, such programs offer students the opportunity to work with accomplished authors, whose expertise (and endorsements) could make all the difference in publishing their first book. On the other hand, such programs often come with a hefty price tag, with fully funded options few and far between. But regardless of whether you go for an MFA, some things are critical to establishing a career as an author that you probably don’t know, unless you’ve learned them the hard way (or you’ve worked in publishing).

Source: 3 Critical Things You Won’t Learn in an MFA Program | Jane Friedman\

The important take-aways from this post have little to do with whether or not you’re considering an MFA program or even know any reasons why anyone would sign up for one.

This post is interesting because it shows you that agents and publishers don’t read your manuscript the same way a beta reader, professor, or colleague in a critique group reads it.

Obviously, the agent and publisher want to see if your story will sell and to do that they focus closely on the voice you demonstrate in the opening lines and whether or not the characters and plot develop reasonably throughout the work.

Their view, while narrow and expedient, is often similar to what reviewers and knowing readers bring to a book. Worth looking at, I think.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

Masterful Wordsmithing with Metaphor and Imagery 

Metaphors, similes, and creative imagery can be useful, creative tools for relaying emotion. In case you don’t remember, a metaphor, according to Reedsy, is “a literary device that imaginatively draws a comparison between two, unlike things. It does this by stating that Thing A is Thing B.” A simile compares things, usually with as or like.

Filmmakers carefully construct image systems similar to how writers use motifs in fiction: with color, placement, sound, or emblematic imagery. They are used to subtly manipulate the emotional state of the viewer.

This is clip art and not a photo of Jane, Lakin, or me.

Take the time to add these skills to your writer’s toolbox because they will help you become an emotional master.

Source: Masterful Wordsmithing with Metaphor and Imagery | Jane Friedman

I have a strong bias against the term “wordsmithing” because it’s often used to imply that a writer is like a mechanic who simply tunes up a story or an article that needs help–like there’s no art in the process. Nonetheless, this post from Jane Friedman’s site has some good ideas for those of us who are constantly trying to improve our stories, essays, and articles.

This post includes a fair number of examples that show just how “creative imagery” is used. C. S. Lakin does a good job with this post, one that veterans and emerging writers alike can read for fresh inspiration.

I find that these how-to posts remind me of techniques I learned a long time ago but haven’t actively thought about for years. They’re kind of a jump start.

Malcolm

 

 

Excellent Source for Self-Publishing Help

“I was recently tasked with putting together a publishing workshop for my local library. As I researched and gathered information, I realized everything they needed to know was available right here, on IndiesUnlimited.com.”

via Everything You Need to Self-Publish – Indies Unlimited

As author Melinda Clayton says, there’s a wealth of information stashed under the Knowledge Base and Resource Pages menu selections on the Indies Unlimited main screen. Sometimes I think we become so accustomed to the menu selections on blog-oriented sites, we forget they’re there and miss out on the links and other information they lead to. We read the posts of the day and move on.

Self-publishing can seem like a daunting process when an aspiring writer first decides to take the plunge. In addition to Indies Unlimited, you can find helpful resources on sites such as Poets & Writers, Association of Writers and Writing Programs, Jane Friedman, and Writers Digest.

The information is “out there.” Half the battle is knowing where to look.

–Malcolm