More Style Stuff–Speech Tags


You may recall that I put up a post a while back about style. I addressed participles and appositives, and I mentioned that I got the idea for the post from reading self-published books with a critical eye. I considered making a thing out of commenting on style issues I notice in self-pubs, but since then I haven’t had the privilege of reading very many self-published works.

The main reason I haven’t been reading many self-pubbed books lately is that my own work, The Tiger, is in heavy editing right now and I’ve been committing every spare minute to it. Because of this, I’ve decided to do something better than criticizing others’ works–I’m going to criticize my own! There are a few things worth mentioning that I’ve noticed during my edits and that I’d like to point out and warn others against. They are: Speech Tag Abuse, Unnecessary Descriptions, and General Weak Writing Through Half-Actions.

Today’s topic is:

Speech Tag Abuse

I’m a fan of my dialogue. I think it’s one of my strong suits. I spend a lot of time eavesdropping–er–that is–accidentally overhearing conversations that make for high quality character studies–and I’ve become adept at creating solid, realistic conversations. One point where I dropped the ball, however, was in the general area of speech tags. I had waaaay too many of the damn things, and they muddled up the conversations to the point of making my dialogue less enjoyable.

You don’t need a speech tag every time somebody talks. My advice to you, based upon examination of my own shortcomings, is to use a speech tag only when the reader may be confused about who is speaking. If I were to make a general rule and say that any given paragraph is “about” one person in particular, then the speech tag is unnecessary. Observe:

Iris opened the jar and looked inside. “How many of these things do we have?” she asked.

The fact that Iris is the sole occupant of this paragraph, if you will, reasonably makes her the person who is speaking. The “she asked” is rendered useless, and can muddle up the flow.

And remember: it’s all about flow.

Like all style suggestions, I recommend that you not take this to the extreme. Cut back on your speech tags if you need to, but don’t forget that we still need to know who’s talking. Nobody likes to reread a section of a book to find out who’s saying what.

Tune in next time for Unnecessary Descriptions!


Thoughts on a Kindle

I bought a Kindle. I had a little extra money and I thought, I have a Nook, but maybe I’d like to do some side-by-side comparing of my own and see which one I like better. Turns out that’s the Kindle. Check this out:

Joe Konrath recently said in this blog post that he thinks ereaders and ebooks are going to consist of all this fancypants gadgetry in the near future. Some of what he said sounds like it would be fantastic, but much of it was over the top. Consistent updates to one book based on reader feedback? Admittedly, this sounds AWESOME in theory, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an author right now with that kind of spare time. Go on. Try to. Right now. Okay, that’s what I thought.

Anyway, here’s the strongest, most condensed point of what Konrath said, and I think it’s a good one: With coming (and already available!) technology, readers will be able to connect even MORE easily with one another about a book they love, and the author will be able to join in and play a part in that connection.

Okay, so check this out:

Amazon already has a way for readers to share their highlights and annotations with other readers. I was reading I Wish… by Wren Emerson on my brand new Kindle and I found that every time I highlighted something or typed in a note, it saved it to my very own web page at Apparently (in higher volume books, at least) Amazon keeps track of passages that are highlighted or annotated often. Apart from that you can follow your friends on it and see what they’re highlighting. The update system makes it appear as though Amazon has taken a turn for the Goodreads here, and that’s a good thing!

I’ve got to do some more messing around with it to become super familiar, but I’m thinking that this could be the gateway into the Author Interaction stage of where ereaders and ebooks are headed. If anyone can go and put annotations into a book, why not get them from the author? Just little notes here and there–where an idea came from, stuff like that. The time required for something like that would be minimal, but the result would be invaluable. It would be like watching a movie with director commentary.

Click here for my Kindle public notes page if you wanna keep track of what I’m highlighting.