Dialogue Tags

by Jack Woe

I’ve read quite a few blogs about the evilness of dialogue tags.  For example, Joe Moore wrote in The Kill Zone how new authors are overusing the alternatives of said.

They go to: exclaimed, murmured, screamed, whispered, pleaded, shrieked, demanded, ordered, cried, shouted, and my all-time favorite, muttered.

Thing is, I as a reader, don’t care.  I just don’t read dialogue tags — at all.

For example, in The Crimson League, I almost missed an action following the the dialogue tag because I automatically skipped past the paragraph.

“Describe it,” Neslan prodded.  Kora obliged.

Here, I backed up and reread the above because something was missing.  I had skipped everything past the name; maybe even the name too.

I have noticed myself skipping whole paragraphs while reading dialogues.  Most of the time the action is just superfluous to the story; character emphasis or other parts I just don’t care about.  A fictional example:

“What?  You mean to tell me, “ he rose from the chair and strode towards the boy and grabbed a hold of his ear, “that someone else stole the chalice?”

“Yes, yes,” the boy cried out.

In these situations, I typically don’t read the overstricken parts.  My eyes simply skip to the next quote and I continue to read from there.

This is probably the reason I hate continued paragraphs, where the final symbol isn’t a close-quote but the next paragraph starts with an open-quote to signify the speaker is continuing.

As a writer, I believe it’s important to separate dialogue from the important action with paragraphs, because I’m surely not the only one who does this.  I just don’t know how successful I am.

How much do you read around the dialogue?

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