Now Available! 100 Fantasy Prompts to Conquer Writer's Block »
Author Blog
« Back to Author Blog

Positioning Dialogue Tags, A Self-Publishing Editing Tip

December 30, 2020
|

Category:

Last time I spoke about my annoyance with dialogue tags using “said”. This time, we’ll talk about another technique; positioning.

For me, dialogue tags are beyond annoying when I read. They always were before I started writing. When it came time to write my first story, I devoured knowledge on self-editing. I bought books and read articles on writing dialogue, something I know I need to improve, and I continue working on it with each draft. In those first months, the drafts I wrote improved after reviewing my dialogue.

As a reader, dialogue would always trip up my imagination. I’d read along, enjoying a fantasy or science fiction story, and suddenly I’d hit some dialogue, stopping me dead in my tracks.

Why Did Dialogue Stop Me in My Tracks?

Because it looked something like this.

“Give that to me,” George demanded.

This is a simplistic example. When myself and other readers pass over this sentence, we read the dialogue first and imagine it. We read the tag second. This forces us to halt our imagination. Then we have to return to the dialogue in our imagination to alter the words George said. In this example, the dialogue can be rather calm, until you read the tag.

Now, read these examples.

“Give that to me,” George said calmly.

“Give that to me,” George said without a care.

“Give that to me,” George said irritably.

“Give that to me,” George demanded.

“Give that to me,” George demanded with bloodshot eyes and smoke pouring from his ears.

In each example, the dialogue tag expresses a different way to imagine George as he speaks. Even the last two give a different picture, with the last one feeling much angrier. If those tags come last, the reader has to stop to imagine the scene with that tag.

Most writers will write like this. They sprinkle the dialogue tags into the dialogue rather than placing it before, where it needs to be expressed for the dialogue to make sense.

Look at any number of books, and you’ll probably find something like this.

“Give that to me,” George demanded. “I told you I needed the glass. Didn’t you hear me?” he politely asked. “Please hand that to me.”

In this example, the tags break up the dialogue. This is a good thing for pacing and explaining the scene. However, it’s not good when a reader has to re-imagine the dialogue.

How Do We Fix This Problem With Dialogue Tags?

Easy! For each example, move the dialogue. Here are the examples with the dialogue moved.

Calmly, George said, “Give that to me.”

Without a care, George said, “Give that to me.”

Irritably, George said, “Give that to me.”

George demanded, “Give that to me.”

With bloodshot eyes and smoke pouring from his ears, George demanded, “Give that to me.”

George demanded, “Give that to me. I told you I needed the glass.” He politely asked, “Didn’t you hear me? Please hand that to me.”

Each example leaves the reader’s imagination intact. With the tags moved, the conversational tones are immediately understood by the reader.

Why Do I Bring up the Positioning of Dialogue Tags?

Because in my time writing, readers have complimented me for moving my dialogue tags. The first time I received that compliment, I realized I wasn’t the only one who struggled to imagine dialogue when I encountered the tags after the dialogue. Then more readers complemented me at shows.

It made me realize that although having tags after dialogue is common in mainstream publishing, we can make the reader’s journey easier by simply changing the flow of our words. When we make it easier for them to imagine, they enjoy our stories more.

So the next time you self-edit, make sure you look into the placement of your dialogue tags. You may enhance your readability, which enhances the experience of reading your story.

If you want an in-depth look at dialogue, I highly recommend James Scott Bell’s How to Write Dazzling Dialogue. This is the first book I read on dialogue. It may have been the first writing book I read in early 2018 when my journey started. Either way, it is an excellent resource when it comes to describing ways to improve your dialogue skills.

Back to Author Blog

I’m Back!

July 19, 2021
|

Category:

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything to these blogs—for good reason. My goal in the spring was to finish Revenge of the Brownie and Experiences with Extraterrestrials, Sasquatch, Interdimensionals and Others. Those books took up most of my time in April. Read more on the Intuitive Blog »

Read More

How to Build Reader Reviews as a Self-Published Author

March 8, 2021
|

Category:

The hardest struggle as a self-published author is the collection of reader reviews. Finding those readers who are willing to review is like finding a needle in a haystack… unless you use the right methods. Most people just need an incentive, but that doesn’t mean you offer an incentive since

Read More

Booksprout, an Advanced Review Service

March 1, 2021
|

Category:

In sticking with my philosophy of “always try something new”, I started the launch of Revenge of the Brownie with the addition of my books to BookSprout, an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) service. So far, I’m pleased. Launch Teams That Don’t Review Books I’ve tried the newsletter route, a Facebook

Read More
WooCommerce

Get Your FREE Resource Checklists

Sign up for my resource newsletter and receive a Resource and Convention checklist. You'll only be emailed with information related to my website.

Recent Articles

I’m Back!

July 19, 2021
|

Category:

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything to these blogs—for good reason. My goal in the spring was to finish Revenge of the Brownie and Experiences with Extraterrestrials, Sasquatch, Interdimensionals and Others. Those books took up most of my time in April. Read more on the Intuitive Blog »

Read More

How to Build Reader Reviews as a Self-Published Author

March 8, 2021
|

Category:

The hardest struggle as a self-published author is the collection of reader reviews. Finding those readers who are willing to review is like finding a needle in a haystack… unless you use the right methods. Most people just need an incentive, but that doesn’t mean you offer an incentive since

Read More

Booksprout, an Advanced Review Service

March 1, 2021
|

Category:

In sticking with my philosophy of “always try something new”, I started the launch of Revenge of the Brownie with the addition of my books to BookSprout, an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) service. So far, I’m pleased. Launch Teams That Don’t Review Books I’ve tried the newsletter route, a Facebook

Read More

Are You Really a Best-Selling or Award-Winning Self-Published Author?

February 21, 2021
|

Category:

I can walk down the street and find ten bars, restaurants, and other food service providers who claim to have the “World’s Greatest Burger”. Signs emblazoned with those words, blink in neon colored lights to grab our attention. Occasionally, someone is entranced by the message, steps into the establishment, and

Read More