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26

From the Turkey City Lexicon: “Said” Bookism An artificial verb used to avoid the word “said.” “Said” is one of the few invisible words in the English language and is almost impossible to overuse. It is much less distracting than “he retorted,” “she inquired,” “he ejaculated,” and other oddities. The term “said-book” comes from certain pamphlets, ...


20

If you're writing a novel, the correct way to go is Example 1. Example two is completely wrong in novels and is only seen in amateur writers. If you send something like that to a publisher they'll most likely laugh at you and automatically reject it. Modern advice is to use as few dialog tags as possible. Most publishers want you to use action tags instead. ...


16

First of all, thinking of some conversations as solely the domain of women and some as solely the domain of men is not going to get you anywhere. For example I know of many female computer programmers, women in a male-dominated career field, who can talk circles around most guys when it comes to discussing computer hardware. I know men who enjoy sharing ...


16

There's two main techniques I use. Mix and match as appropriate for your story. The simplest one: for a conversation between two people, don't give attributions like "he said", but just state it. If it's going to be a lengthy conversation, you can also throw names into their speech. "Hey Sally, check it out - I found an important clue!" "What's ...


16

The short, cop-out answer is: It depends. Longer explanation is: It depends on the type of novel you're writing, and also on your skill level as an author. It's possible, and common enough, to have none if you're writing the kind of novel that's epistolary (written communication, eg. letters, reports, postcards) or a monologue from the main character(s). ...


14

In some paragraphs, have the speaker do things in addition to speaking. Readers will understand that it's the same person acting as speaking. Bob knocked on door. "I found an important clue." Sally held her breath. "What was that?" She cranked the pencil sharpener more furiously. "The killer left this behind." Bob held out an evidence bag ...


13

A scriptwriting exercise that always helps make a nice shape out of dialogue. Follow the instructions without reading them all the way through the first time. Just do each step one at a time: 1) Take a sheet of paper and write in the margin down 20 lines the letters A and B. They don't have to just swap e.g. ABABABABABAB but you can have no more than two ...


13

I like a mix of dialog tags and action tags. You should definitely break up paragraphs of speech with stage business and action tags. Dean Wesley Smith had an advice piece for writers which I ran across for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and I don't have it to hand, but the one bit which stuck with me is "The word 'said' is invisible. Use it." He thought ...


13

First, commas indicate pauses, so put them where a speaker or reader would naturally pause. "Look, Jones," That one is important, because there's always a bit of a pause between a command and a name. Second, imagine how your speakers are moving physically. Does Dan just point briefly? Does he only mean the castle will belong to Jones? Does he make a ...


12

It depends who will use the word. If it's one character talking or thinking about another, it's a great word, and will help to characterize both characters in one swell foop. It will also trigger many readers to react in ways that enhance what you're trying to say. Readers who understand the word will get the intent. Readers who have to look up the word will ...


12

My personal preference: omit the "he said" / "she said" entirely. You will need it when there is the slightest possibility that who is speaking is unclear, but otherwise there is no need for it. If you wind up with a stretch of dialogue so long that it's easy to lose track of who is speaking, that's a sign that your dialogue needs to be cut down or broken up ...


11

The other answers are absolutely correct about the use of action tags, but I think there's a larger issue here. You don't really want to write "just" dialogue. That would be a screenplay. Action tags certainly help, but if the remain at the level of "the character's physical expression or action as s/he talks," then you really haven't added anything beyond ...


11

In real life, conversations ramble, so it's unsurprising if your dialogues ramble as well. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In realistic literary novels, it would be unsurprising, or even expected, for your dialogues to include long tangents and unrelated content. This is part of that genre's attempt to present situations naturalistically. In other ...


11

If you're writing for an English audience, your readers are expecting an English novel. From a reader perspective, it is utterly tedious to read a lot of dialogue you cannot understand. Providing translations can help, but that's equally tedious, since the POV character won't have those translations. I would recommend keeping use of foreign language to a ...


11

Spend more time with your character outside the book. Have you ever seen those email questionnaires which go around occasionally? What's your favorite toothpaste, Coke or Pepsi, Beatles or Stones, ever been to Africa, what's under your bed, etc.? Get one of those, blank it out, and answer it from the perspective of your character. Cast your character. ...


11

You should watch - or maybe better read up on - Hitchcock's movies. Build up a sense of normal, dull life, then shatter it. The more standard, dull the image, the harder the blow hits, the stronger the effect. Of course don't overdo it, don't just bore the reader, but setting up the pristine stage for a disaster is an essential step. Add some good ...


10

Get a video recorder and a few friends. Explain to your friends what the scene is about, and what you want to have happen. (Eliot and Alec walk into a bar and order a drink. They start talking about inconsequential stuff. Their friend Nate walks in and asks Eliot for the $50 Eliot owes him. Eliot says he already paid Nate. Discussion/dispute/argument ...


10

FWIW, I faced exactly this problem in a novel I wrote a few years ago that included a large amount of both spoken and signed dialogue. Having such a large amount of italicized text was distracting for the reasons discussed in other answers, so my approach was a punctuation convention: "Spoken dialogue goes in normal quotes like this," he said. «But ...


10

If it is clear who is speaking, you do not need a dialog tag. He looked to the side and blushed. "I probably love you." "He" is looking to the side and blushing, so "he" is the one who speaks. Skip the dialog tag. Add them if you do not have an action tag and it could be unclear to the reader who is speaking. But this has nothing to do with: He ...


10

Interrupt the character. Have you read The Hobbit? Gandalf had to make a lengthy explanation, which he didn't want to get boring, so he set up the dwarves and Bilbo to interrupt him from time to time. From a cat flashing by to another character getting in, there is much you can do. Having the character unwilling to talk, but being coaxed into telling the ...


10

On top of what others gave as excellent advices on getting "in the mind of a character" let me add a few crutchy "dialects" you can give your characters. The speaker is using Learner's English. The language is correct, but simple. The sentences are short. Correct sentence structure is used, where native speakers use clauses. The speaker avoids complex ...


10

Then he said to her: "I told you I won't do that!” In an undertone, he added, “And I think you shouldn’t either.” Unfortunately, I think that’s the best you can do. I’ve hardly ever seen parentheses used as punctuation within dialogue, so if I saw it now, I would have no idea how to interpret them.


10

Not all ESL speakers will sound the same, for the simple reason that they all had a first language. If you want to add realism, you need to determine what language they natively speak. Your native language shapes your ideas of tense, sentence structure, and what phonemes you're used to considering as actual word-sounds and not mere noise. Some oriental ...


9

I like to describe the how (explain intonation, body language) and the purpose of the dialogue, not just the fact of the speech being made. "Your chest pains have not subsided, have they, Mr. Gittes?" Zimmerman squints at me across the desk. "How did you guess?" I mumble, scanning his morose, concerned expression. He arches his eyebrows, ...


9

Consider the different characters': Level of intelligence stupid characters contribute stupid thoughts to conversation smart characters might only contribute when they know they have something important to say Interest in the conversation Social personality: whether introverted or extraverted Subject matter of interest (since they would continually ...


9

The classic solution is to introduce conflict or tension. These naturally intrigue the reader and command his attention. Any conflict, no matter how minor or subtle, is enough to engage the reader's curiosity to find out what happens next. In this context, "conflict" and "tension" are pretty much any negative outcome to the conversation that your ...


9

In addition to Lauren's list, here are a few things I do: Give each character a distinct background. Some possible elements to vary are geography, culture, ethnicity, education, age, friends, family. Each of these can affect a character's vocabulary, grammar, and general attitude toward the people and world around them. Even in the same family, age and ...


9

It's stylistic. You can use either. "Said" isn't wrong. Some writers feel very strongly about "bookisms," which is using words instead of "said" which tend to be more elaborate and give some action to speaking. (hissed, crooned, muttered, sighed, barked, laughed, snarled, grumbled) Personally I'm fine with them if they are used appropriately and ...


9

"The point of a Horcrux is, as Professor Slughorn explained, to keep part of the self hidden and safe, not to fling it into somebody else's path and run the risk that they might destroy it — as indeed happened: That particular fragment of soul is no more; you saw to that." "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", J. K. Rowling "Lord Voldemort liked ...


9

Linguists have found that semicolons, colons, and even commas, are on the wane in everyday usage, and that many speakers no longer understand the use of a semicolon. Non-writers – and you will see this in emails, forum posts, and other written messages – often do not use punctuation at all, but rather let all "sentences" flow into each other, only putting ...



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