Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dialog or Dialogue?

Numbers 16:31 And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them:

“Excuse me, can you help me?”

No! I’m busy.

“But I need your help in understanding something.”

Okay, but make it quick, I have a lot of work to do here.

“What is dialog? And why can’t I use tags?”

Well, missy, you need to listen up. Dialog is a conversation between two people in a story. Like what we’re doing?

“Are we in a story?”

No, but your on my blog and I’m talking to you!


Did you see that play on words up there? This weeks lesson at f2k is dialog. The word dialog can be spelled with the U.E or without, just for those of you grammar checkers out there. I’ve looked up the word and either spelling is acceptable.

Anyway, our lesson is for dialog with no tags. Tags are the cozy words at the end of who is speaking.

“Excuse me, can you help me?” she says in a timid way.

“No! I’m busy.” The lady behind the counter grumbles.

Practicing not using tags, really helps you see into the window of the characters. We have no backdrop, no setting up of the scene, we have words. Words that need to be read by the reader, and they need to follow who is speaking. If you can’t do a 500 word piece of dialog with no tags, then you need to strengthen the personality of your characters.

Something always stands out with your character, whether it is a strong accent, a southern belle type character, a farmer Bob type guy. In practicing no tags, we’re fleshing out our character and giving them personality and making them come alive.

Yes, in books we use tags. Novels are written with the dialog using tags, but take a look at those novels, any one of them. The dialog does not have a tag EVERY SINGLE sentence of a conversation. It doesn’t because once you’ve established who is speaking, you can really carry a conversation along a few pages with a tag here and there.

This is a tough lesson also. I never said that F2k was this easy, fly by night course on easy writing. No, it teaches important skills that are going to carry you through your writing and hopefully have you writing better with just one course. Maybe through all my blog posts on the matter of the free course, you can tell if it is something that you’d like to try when we offer it again in April.

Even if your not a writer, maybe this course will give you something to try for. Believe me, it will help when you’re jotting down a blog too. You’ll soon see that this course will have you using these skills without you realizing that you’ve drank from the knowledge pool and are now serving it to others.


Stormcrow said...

Yeah, I sometimes get caught up in that He said, She said stuff. It does sound better without the tags sometimes.

June said...

Great advice (and example) for any writer, Joni!

And there are different ways to let the reader know who's talking:
he/she said...
character action...
character inner thought...
body language
...and a writer can have a short section without any of these, as long as it's a dialog between two characters and it's clear who is talking...

Take care,