Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tags and Direction

A fellow critique person, otherwise called a critter, who I cross-critique with in mentioned a bit of confusion when I made an observation about his tags and direction. What a great topic to bloviate about.

Tags and Direction

They are the plethora that litter our dialogue that helps the reader feel in the scene and identify the characters.

Tags serve only one purpose. No other. They are to clue the reader which character just spoke. Tags ideally disappear. Studies show readers completely ignore Joe said, Mary said constructions. When they get wordy or out of the ordinary (said Tom, in a throaty rasp), they disrupt the flow of reading. This is considered bad by many who write style books and speak at workshops. [In children stories, tags work the opposite. Verb-Noun IS the norm. Duh... who knows—]

Direction is the description/setting/environment between our dialogue. "Jeff stuck his hand in his pocket and squinted at his feet." When you have a direction, they usually allow you to leave out any tags, since they identify the speaker. (This is the reason you never include "direction" of one character within another character's dialogue. That would really screw up the reader.)

Take note that our dialogue is usually separated from our tags by a comma. "He did it," she said. Direction normally stands alone. "He did it." Mary thrust her hands onto her hips angrily.

The minutia of the craft. It's riveting. Ain't it?

Write every day!


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