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Monday, 17 January 2011

The important of the dialogue tag...SAID

Why the tagline ISN'T boring and should be used AT ALL TIMES - told through the eyes of a novice.


'But "said" is boring. Why can't I use other taglines such as “demanded”, “whispered", or "shouted"?’ I said, and reached for a red apple from the fruit bowl.

‘Because "said" is invisible,’ said my writing coach. ‘“Demanded”, “whispered”, and “shouted”, are not. Well, “whispered” isn't so bad, and neither is “shouted” if used sparingly, but “demanded”?’ He shook his head. ‘Don't even think of it.’

‘What about -’
‘No.’
I glowered at him as I rubbed the apple to a mirror-shine on my arm. It flaked a bit; must have been in the fruit bowl a while. ‘Well, how do you make clear somebody is shouting or whispering or being demanding then?'

‘With good prose and a little trust of your readers.’
‘Trust?’ I took a bite of the apple. ‘What are you talking about?’


‘Do you mind?’ My writing coach brushed off sprayed pieces of Royal Gala. ‘If your writing is strong, your readers will know whether your characters have “whispered” “shouted” or “whined.”’

‘I can’t have whined?’
‘Certainly not! Use your writing style to direct your readers to what your characters are saying.’

I pointed the apple at him in excitement. ‘But that’s telling. We’ve always been told not to tell. Ha! Gotcha.’


My coach, sighing, pushed the apple away from his face. ‘Telling is something different. Telling is just that, telling –’

‘So well explained. Not.’ I chewed on the apple somewhat triumphantly. ‘My English teacher taught me to use my imagination for taglines. I remember I had to think of fifty alternatives for homework and then use them in a story the next day. I thought up more than fifty. Wanna hear them?’


‘Er, no thanks.’
‘Go on. You’ll be amazed: cooed, fenced, claimed, queried, presented, alleged –’
'Creative writing is different to the English lessons you had at school.' He reached for his coat.
‘Going so soon?’
‘I’ve just remembered I needed to de-flea the cat.’
I put the core of my apple in my pocket - there wasn’t a bin, and I loathed litter.
My coach nodded to my core, safely nestling inside my coat. ‘Why’d you do that?’
‘I hate litter. Law-abiding citizen, me.’


‘Unnecessary taglines can be described as litter. They are pointless, and clutter up your writing,’ he said as I stared at him with slow realisation dawning on my face. ‘Worse, they can distract your reader from the story.’


‘They aren’t helping the reader, then?’


He shook his head. ‘Not in the slightest. Do you think your readers are stupid? Do you think they can’t understand whether your characters are shouting, querying or even whispering? Or do you think your writing is so poor that you can’t engage your readers in what your characters are saying?’

‘Neither. I think neither!’


‘Well then.’ He looked pleased with himself as he buttoned up his coat. ‘Next time though let’s have this discussion during the writing circle meeting, and not in the gents’.’

‘Sure.’ I grabbed another apple. ‘Posh place though. I mean, not often you get fruit in the loos.’


‘You’ll find,' he said with a smirk, 'those apples are soap.’









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