July Update/Speech tags

Now that July has started it feels like summer is finally in full swing.  The days are longer and the hours creep by at a snails pace.  Here at CambridgeEditors the number of clients has not shown a hint of slowing down, yet we all seem to have started to feel a slight lag in our daily routine.  We are officially on a working vacation, so if you try to contact us we might not get back to you as promptly as you deserve.  Please don’t think that we don’t like you, it’s just that it’s summer and we are trying to enjoy the precious little time of relaxation we have.

Here is just a little update on what is going on in the office.  We have been getting some wonderful clients-a few novels, which we always like-and we are currently in the process of creating a writing workshop class that will be taught and led by Dr. Weiner.  If this sounds interesting to you, then you should head on over to our Contact page on our website and let us know.  We were originally planning on starting it this summer but we didn’t think we had the time to get everything ready and we really wanted to knock this one out of the park. So, come September we should be all ready to start the class.  Be sure to contact us soon, because there are only 10 spots per class.

In any case, in this slow period I’m going to try and keep the blog as updated as possible.  More so than I have been, which I apologize for. I want to get into an issue in writing that I think is important, speech tags.  Whenever I read a beginning writer’s short story or chapter from their book, I find that their dialogue is strained and unrealistic.  I’m not saying I’m any better, but it’s easier to see the mistakes in other people’s work.  There are two mistakes that I think beginning writers make when they try to write dialogue.  One is making the conversation too neat and the other is flashy use of speech tags.

Usually beginning writers try to do something like this:

“Hey,” she whispered.

“Hey,” he replied courteosly.

“Whatcha doin,” she flirted coyly.

“Oh nothing, just watching scrubs on Netflix,” he explained, “what are you doing today.”

“I thought I would go down to the park and sunbathe,” she suggested, “want to join.”

“Nah,” he answered, obliviously.

To me an overuse of speech tags like “answered, suggested, flirted, explained,” are, for the most part are unnecessary. Not that you can never use these words but an overuse of them to add to the action is unnecessary.  Either the dialogue or the descriptions of the characters should inform the reader of the mental minds of the characters.  For example if you try and spell out the fact the girl above is trying to flirt with the boy, then you’ve ruined the fun of literature, trying to interpret people’s actions.

Don DeLillo is probably the best at writing sparse and concise dialogue. With DeLillo, the only really speech tag that is necessary is “said.” Yes I know that people say overusing “said,” makes your writing boring, but I disagree, and I think DeLillo would as well. The reason is that speech tags should fade into the background of your internal reading voice and bring dialogue to the forefront. Unless there is something telling in the tags, most of the narrative work should be done within the dialogue.  Don’t distract the reader reader with fancy modifiers.  If someone is being flirtatious, it should be expressed in their words.

Merely something to think about.

Best regards,

Sandor Mark



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