Dynamic Dialogue

Last week Rita asked about ‘beats’ in dialogue.  This was a term I had only seen used in plays or scripts when the author leaves a ‘beat’ before the character answers to create suspense.

It appears the term ‘beat’ has been applied by writers as a form of tag, only this tag drives the story forward with action or reveal character reaction.

A dialogue tag can be:

‘How dare you!’ she said.

It can also be:

She slammed the mug down on the table. ‘How dare you!’

In this case the action is the tag because it identifies the speaker and tells us how the character is feeling. And this is what people are calling ‘beats’. It is what I was told was an ‘action tag’ when I first started writing.

For a fuller explanation with an example see here where Marisa Wright talks about effective dialogue.  And here there’s Tara McClendon’s explanation of how to use beatsto bring dialogue to life.

Here we have the redoubtable Richard’s thoughts on dialogue, from his 145 pages of writing tips.  He talks about keeping dialogue lively. And here from Judy Cullins are examples of how to spice up your dialogue.

Here is a free online workshop from Holly Lisle on writing dialogue. She says ‘Dialogue is about demonstrating character through conflict, either internal or external’. Inthis section on pacing, she talks about how to speed up dialogue and how to slow it down.

ROR has covered dialogue in the past in Convincing First Person Narrative and Primal Emotions.

Thanks to Rita for bringing this up. Using these kind of action dialogue tags is something we’ve all been doing but putting this post together has made me review the process and now I’m itching to get back to the clean up of The Outcast Chronicles and make sure I’m using all of my dialogue tags as effectively as possible!

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