He said, she said…dialogue tags. We put them in during dialogues to tell the reader who is talking. Easy right? Hm. Not so much.
If you repeat them too often, it sounds monotonous and pretty artificial. That’s bad. If you don’t put them in, no one has any idea who’s talking any more. You’ll lose your reader and that’s bad too.
To try and avoid repetition, I once tried to replace the famous ‘said’ with something more…flowery. I got horrid things like: ‘sarcastically rebutted’. It wasn’t pretty. So, I started reading and seeing what the pros did.
Some work it in. Watch.
Here’s an example with the tags.
‘”Have you seen the man who works on the third floor? Who is he?” Anna asked sipping her coke.
“I have no idea,” Michael said, seating back on his chair and scratching his nose.’
Here’s an example without the tags.
‘Anna sipped her coke. “Have you seen the man who works on the third floor? How is he?”
“Michael sat back on his chair and scratched his nose with gusto. “I have no idea.”‘
In the second example. We know who’s speaking, even if the writer doesn’t actually say it.
Did my example help or make things worse? No worries, here come the experts! 🙂
Jodie Llewellyn has a great post about dialogue and tags here.
Here are three other great links about dialogue how-to’s and questions I never dared to ask; scary things like hyphens, comas and ellipses.