He Said, She Said

I’m in the middle of drafting the first of two manuscripts I’m contracted to develop in the next eight months, so things are a little crazy on the writing front.  And the home front, but that’s best left for another time.  The thing about this business is the game is constantly in-flux.  Self-promotion through social media (blog tours, tweet parties and Tribes–oh my!), indie-publishing, small press publishers.  It’s crazy.  I know this because I spent last weekend at Georgia Romance Writers’ annual Moonlight and Magnolia Conference.  It’s always a wonderful weekend, with lots of informative craft workshops.

But this year I came away a little intimidated.  Why?  Because I realized there really is no right or wrong way to write, as long as you do it well.  Okay, Keynote Speaker, Julia Quinn actually said this, but my independent perusal of the workshops and seminars backed this up.  Each year, I go to these conferences looking for the answers and formula for how to write well.  When, really, all anyone can give me is guidelines.  Because what it takes to be a successful writer is to actually get your butt in the chair and write.  Keeping up with the trends will drive me crazy.  (In my case, it’s a short drive. 🙂 )

However, there is one trend I’ve begun to notice more frequently: the lack of attribution or tag-lines (he said, she said) for dialog runs.  Have you noticed that as well?  Now, some writers are genius at not using the word ‘said’ at all, instead using action tags to convey the identity of the speaker.  Elizabeth Hoyt is one of those geniuses as is Kathryn Ashe.  Suspense writers Karin Slaughter and Kendra Elliot are masters at this as well. Others, like Julia Quinn, still use said (and giggled, shrieked, drawled, screamed, etc.) along with an occasional adjective to describe the speaker.  But, something I’ve begun to see all too often lately is no tag-line or attribution at all.  It’s kind of confusing for the reader, don’t you think?  My question is, how did this get started and is this practice effective?  Inquiring minds want to know.  Or at least desperate writers trying to slog through a manuscript.

As I said, (tag-line) I’m chained to the computer, so my thoughts are mostly on writing, but I figured this might be a fun thing for we writers to discuss.

What are your thoughts and do you have any good examples of what works and what doesn’t?

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About Tracy Solheim

Best-selling author of the Out of Bounds series--sexy, contemporary sports romance novels. See what she's up to at www.tracysolheim.com.

Posted on October 12, 2012, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Great observation, Tracy. I’ve noticed this trend as well, mostly because I find myself having to reread lines of dialogue to figure out who was speaking!

    I prefer action tags, but sometimes a he said/she said tag is necessary. As a writer, I never want to confuse a reader. Tags, if done correctly, are invisible and keep readers moving forward.

  2. I have noticed a drop off in the usage of dialogue tags, but it doesn’t usually confuse me.

    They are supposed to be “invisible” so why use them?

    I’m sick of all the rules and guidelines and trying to do the hokey pokey on a twister pad.

  3. I just finished going through one of my books for my editor and I cut out a ton of tag lines and substituted action lines. I sprinkle “he said” and “she said” throughout the book instead of “raining” them all over the place. But, it’s not coming from me. It’s coming from my editors who want them “outta here”. What bothers me more is when they want all adverbs GONE. I don’t understand this. Words are words and there’s nothing wrong with using them. Sometimes I feel like all I’m left only with stating the facts and the beauty of the written word is out the door.

  4. I’m late to this post, sorry. But I wanted to chime in because I think it’s a fine line that if done well, works beautifully. I don’t care for an extreme either way…I like when it’s mixed up. I try to do that. I’ll do a tag and then if it’s a bantering scene and only two people talking, I’ll answer with no tag, and then follow with an action of some sort from the other person. The no-tag idea gives a faster pace when you’re going for that kind of scene.

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