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Dialog question : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Dialog question

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
tkdubb
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Dialog question

Postby tkdubb » Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:04 pm

I made an oops and posted this in a different thread at first. As I said in that thread, newbie alert, watch your heads.
So, I have been doing some browsing and read that when writers use anything other than "said for dialog, it drives the person reading it crazy and makes for a long read.
So my question is, is it ever ok to us "replied/s", "ask/ed", or "says"?
If it is ok, when is it appropriate, and how often can it be used before it becomes annoying?

kamalayka
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Re: Dialog question

Postby kamalayka » Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:34 pm

"He/She said" is the most common tag because it's invisible. Other ones are ok if used sparingly and necessarily. I see it all the time in fiction.

However, I've always thought "he/she asked" was redundant. If a question is being asked, isn't it obvious?

Just don't do this:

"I'm scared," John shakily mumbled.

(That only works for Philip K Dick. In The Simulacrum, he had a character "squishily squish in the mud," or something like that.")

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pls
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Re: Dialog question

Postby pls » Mon Feb 01, 2016 10:07 pm

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James A. Ritchie
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Re: Dialog question

Postby James A. Ritchie » Tue Feb 02, 2016 2:58 pm

When only two people are in a conversation, you rarely need any tag at all. Just use one often enough to allow the reader to know which one is speaking.

When more people are in a conversation, you still don't need to use a tag each time. You can introduce the character using action or description, or by simply writing something like, Ron paused before speaking.

When you do need a tag for identification, or just for rhythm, it's almost always best to use "said". There's very seldom a reason not to do so.

As always, pick up a novel by your favorite writer. Read it and count how many times he or she uses a tag other than "said".

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shadowwalker
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Re: Dialog question

Postby shadowwalker » Tue Feb 02, 2016 4:21 pm

I typically go with "said" or no tag. I will use a different tag to get the right nuance if the context is ambiguous, but I try to steer clear of that whenever possible (without leading the reader by the nose).
"It seems rather like wanting to be ... a writer, rather than wanting to write. It should be a by-product, not a thing in itself. Otherwise, it's just an ego trip." - Roger Zelazny

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DrG2
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Re: Dialog question

Postby DrG2 » Tue Feb 02, 2016 11:58 pm

When I tag, I mostly use "said." I will use "asked," because: "How old are you?" said John. looks odd to me. I never use a replied or a synonym, because that it always obvious.

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Re: Dialog question

Postby OneBlindEye » Wed Feb 03, 2016 6:18 pm

I find this dialogue very interesting as a novice writer!
I have noticed this in a lot of the stories and books on writing that I have read.
In my first manuscript I have tagged the lines in my writing with something other than said/asked/replied when I want to make sure the reader knows the character's precise feeling or state of mind. Out of nearly 20 readers thus far none have commented on the tagging.

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onceuponwednesday
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Re: Dialog question

Postby onceuponwednesday » Wed Feb 03, 2016 9:00 pm

The Rule of Three

James A. Ritchie
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Re: Dialog question

Postby James A. Ritchie » Wed Feb 03, 2016 9:25 pm


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RonnaJG
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Re: Dialog question

Postby RonnaJG » Fri Feb 12, 2016 1:25 pm

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