But we haven’t talked that much about dialogue and the various tones involved: yelling, whispering, crying, wailing, etc.
We often rely on dialogue tags to convey this information, using “she complained” or “he whined” to convey the tone and attitude behind the words. But is this really necessary?
“You might have called.” He kept his place by the door, one hand hovering about the deadbolt.
“Called? You? After what happened?” She turned her back to him and walked across the room.
“Never mind.” He slammed the door closed.
There are no dialogue tags in this conversation, yet I think the tone is still detectable through the words and body language. But, for argument’s sake, let’s see if the dialogue tags actually add anything.
“You might have called,” he stated. He kept his place by the door, one hand hovering about the deadbolt.
“Called? You? After what happened?” she retorted. She turned her back to him and walked across the room.
“Please…” he cajoled.
“Never mind,” he snarled. He slammed the door closed.
If anything, I think the dialogue tags just add clutter and rob the actions of their job–showing what a person is feeling through body language and movement. If you’ve set up a scene effectively, know your characters, and can personally tell how they are saying a line, then all you have to do is let them say it.
You just have to trust your reader to interpret what you’ve written, without the “shouted,” “exclaimed,” “spat,” “growled,” “or “begged.” Highly descriptive dialogue tags are a form of telling, and if the reader can’t figure the tone from the words, characters, and action, then maybe you need to focus on sharpening what they say and what they do, instead of relying on “he said emphatically” to bail you out after the line. 🙂
What do you think? Did the sample scene need the dialogue tags? Did they help or hinder the reading experience?
Copyright 2016 Andrea Lundgren