Today’s topic is dialogue tags. In case you haven’t heard this phrase before, a dialogue tag is the “he said” or “she screamed” that goes after a line of dialogue. For example:
“I love you,” she said.
“But our love will never be,” he said.
“How do you know that?” she demanded. “We’re made for each other!”
“No, we aren’t!” he cried. “You’re a human being, and I’m chocolate pudding! The only thing you’re meant for is to eat me!”
“But I don’t even like chocolate!” she wailed.
Etcetera, etcetera. Now, here’s the dilemma. Using only “he said” and “she said” is boring, because they aren’t always just speaking in their normal voices. Sometimes the character needs to bellow, or mutter, or exclaim–it’s like reading an essay otherwise. For example:
“Please don’t kill me!” she said.
“I will consume your flesh and then make love to your extended family,” he said.
“You monster!” she said.
“Oh, you’re one to talk,” he said. “You’re a Lady Gaga fan.”
On the other hand, when a story is riddled down in fancy verbs, the writing gets bogged down. For example:
“Uncle Fred passed away last night,” she bemoaned.
“I had no idea!” he exploded. “How are you?”
“As well as can be, considering,” she ruminated. “Did Dad mention anything?”
“Of course my Dad didn’t say anything,” he belittled. “He’s dead. I’m your cousin, remember?”
I guess the trick is finding a balance between the two. But what’s the right percentage? 60% said, 40% fancy verbs? 30/70? 90/20, if you have poor math skills?
Imminent Danger (my book) is probably about 50/50. My characters get into a lot of emotional situations, so they need emotional dialogue tags. And short of sticking adverbs onto my “he said”s and “she said”s, the only way I can really see to do that is by using fancy verbs.
What’s your fancy verb/said percentage? Extra points if you use poor math skills.
Silly video of the day: