Friday, July 01, 1994

Dialogue tags

The phrase 'he said, she said' at the end of dialogue is called
a tag. There are two types of tags: action and acoustic. An action
tag denotes the event of a lead-in to dialogue. An acoustic tag is
used to denote the tone implied or expressed in dialogue.

"Don't let me fall!" she pleaded. <-- acoustic tag

Josh tore the blanket away from the wall. "Leave me alone!"
The clause immediately before or after dialogue is an
action tag.

There are a whole set of rules for punctuation and usage of
tags in dialogue. I would suggest that you obtain a copy of those
rules from one of many books on creative writing and study them.

I, personally, vary the choice of tag usage to reflect the
moderate change in tone in dialogue. Use of acoustic tag phrases
such as; she pleaded, he bellowed, and other adjectives to describe
the expressed tone of dialogue can vary. Attenuation is a noun to
understand when using acoustic tags because as with electronic
waves, signals in speech can be tuned to produce a harmonic
vibration. Used in moderation, acoustic tags can help the reader
understand the shifts in tone.

Action tags are similar to acoustic tags and implicate the character's
'before' or 'after' actions predicated by the dialogue. Don't forget
to use a tag when there is an obvious shift in sentence/paragraph
construction. A lead-in paragraph will require a tag to differeniate
between what has happened and what will happen.

Timmy showed everyone how smart he was by solving the problem
without using his toes. His parent's were pleased with his progress.
"I count ten, also."
Who is the person speaking? The lead-in paragraph was from the
point of view of Timmy. Yet, the dialogue immediately afterward wasn't
Timmy speaking so an acoustic tag would be necessary to show who spoke.

Now, if the next paragraph was dialogue and it was Timmy speaking
then a tag is needed to differeniate between the two people speaking
in the scene.

The acoustic tag is usually necessary to inform the reader as to
who is talking immediately after narrative or compostion. After that,
the acoustic tag can be lifted once the character's have been identified.
This changes if there is a shift in the sequence of dialogue. Should
narrative interrupt dialogue and the same person starts talking again,
then an acoustic tag is necessary.

Disclaimer: I don't pretend to know all the rules of fiction, so please
don't bother critiquing my suggestions. :O

J.L. Campbell -- I'm not the one they're talking about, so why do I
feel guilty?