Wednesday, February 09, 2005

TAG...You're it!!!!!

Let your gentleness be evident to all. Phil. 4:5a NIV

This isn't something I did, but I have to tell the story. My husband's friend was a chaperone on a youth ski trip. At the hotel one evening, he came through the lobby and caught site of two couples (what he thought was a group of high shoolers) getting a tad too cozy in the hot tub. Being the faithful chaperone that he is, he gets a running start across the floor, leaps in the air, lands in the middle of the hot tub screaming, "Jacuzzi invasion!" Jacuzzi invasion!" and splashes around wildly until he opens his eyes to discover four complete strangers (all adults) staring at him as if he's just grown three heads.

Help me to see people as You see them, God. Even myself.

Let's chat about writing trends. Just like clothing styles, what was "in" ten years ago may not be "in" today. What prompted me to talk about this is an article I read encouraging writers to use dialogue tags. What is that? A Dialogue tag is the word at the end of a stream of dialogue such as "said."

For example:
"You silly cat, stop chasing the bird," she purred.
"Look at the owl!" Thomas hooted.
"He wanted those eggs over-easy," the waitress waffled.
"How 'bout ya take five dollars for that instead of eight?" he haggled.

Okay, okay. I know those were extreme examples but really, it seems to me that most editors today are veering AGAINST the use of dilogue tags other than plain ol' "said."

So, only in rare cases and very sparingly should you use anything other than that and if you do, have a very good reason, to set tone of story, etc.

Helena cowered in the closet with the cordless phone, willing someone to answer.

"911, what is your emergency?"

"Someone is in my house," she whispered.

See? "whispered" helps to set the suspensful tone because she doesn't want the intruder to know where she is. So I don't leave you with the icky feeling of looking over your shoulder, feeling like someone is behind you, I'll finish the story. By the way: I ALWAYS write happy endings. Always.

"Where are you?" the dispatcher asked.

"Bedroom closet," she whispered. "Oh, no! My bedroom door creaked open. Can't talk."

"We have a unit on it's way. Stay on the phone."

"RUFUS! What are you doing?"

"Ma'am?" the dispatcher said.

"Ugh. I'm like, so sorry. My dumb dog crawled through the opening in the screen. How positively embarrassing."

"So, there's no one in your house?"

"No. No one besides one in-trouble dog and its very blonde owner," Helena said.

Clear as mud?

Next time I'll talk about beats. The actions characters do, sometimes to replace tags.

Until next time,



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