Dialogue Tags; A tri-fold Writing Asset.

‘He said, she said,’ are unobtrusive tags but can be overdone. Sometimes you can avoid using this altogether if the way the character expresses themselves identifies them immediately for the reader. Perhaps they use a recurrent phrase or have a certain way of putting things – think Yoda for example. Another way to avoid repeating ‘he/she said’ is to use body language. After all, most communication is in what we observe about the person speaking – or even not talking at all. A silence can be more telling than a spoken word.

If someone has just learned of a shocking revelation, you can convey their shock by their silence even more than if they utter a few words. In this case, describe their reaction – perhaps their face loses animation and they freeze on the spot or their pupils dilate and their mouth assumes a thin line or gapes – depending on what they’ve just been told.

In normal conversation use action to accompany the character’s words – for example; 

‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ Angela’s hands were already at the tap. She filled the kettle before Brian answered or even made any movement of assent.

This serves a tri-fold purpose. You introduce action at the same time as you indicate who is talking.  Action or pace serves to carry your story forward. You also introduce something of your character’s personality. Without having to say ‘Angela acted on impulse’ in this case, you have shown her nature by her action. You haven’t told your reader what she is like. You have shown it.

I would love to receive or comment on any examples of your own. You can contact me from my website.  Remember – WHO – HOW – WHY – Who is talking, How they act when they do and Why they have acted this way. Round your characters with the use of good dialogue tags.


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