Dialogue Tags

monsterchic

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#1
Thoughts on this dialogue? This is an excerpt from the middle of a scene I just recently wrote. I'm struggling with dialogue tags. I don't want to be constantly typing "he said/she said," you know? Does the lack of tags make sense? Thanks in advance :)

********

Iruka brought a foot up to rest on the stone he was sitting on and set his chin on his knee. He sighed. Because he’s captivating. “I don’t know.” A piece of hair had fallen from his ponytail over his eyes and he blew it away.

“I don’t believe you.”

Iruka glared at him. “Too bad.”

“Iruka, I’m saying this as your friend.” Izumo stared back at him cautiously, keeping track of his friend’s hands, lest he get a faceful of water. Iruka continued to glare. “I’ve seen you like this before, and it’s because you don’t know how to process something.”

The teacher’s face softened slightly. “Mmm,” he hummed.

“And--correct me if I’m wrong--I think that may be the case with Kakashi as well. You’ve told me about all the times you see it in class,” Izumo said. He had heard countless stories about the antics of Iruka’s pre-genin and their blossoming interest in classmates. Hair flopped over his eyes as he extended a hand and put it on Iruka’s knee. “You don’t need to accept it, just think of it as a working theory.”

Iruka groaned and set his forehead heavily on Izumo’s hand. “No, I think you’re ****ing right, as much as I hate it.” He banged a fist on the rock below him. Well, f*ck me, he thought. “What the hell am I supposed to do with that? I mean, for gods' sake, Izumo, it’s Kakashi Hatake.”

Izumo just shrugged. “That’s your problem now. Take some time to think on it before doing anything rash.”

Iruka tapped his forehead against Izumo’s hand before unraveling his arms and standing to leave. “Yeah,” he said with a wan smile. “Well, I’ve got thinking to do. And grading. I’m in for a fun night.”

“You know where to find me if you get bored,” Izumo said with a wave of his hand. He was resting his elbows behind him, leaving his chest wide open for Iruka to tweak a nipple as he climbed out. Izumo groaned at the sensation.

Iruka bent down behind the other chunin and reached a hand down to play with the other nipple. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he whispered in his ear. He nipped at Izumo’s earlobe before standing and walking to the door.

“Not fair, Umino,” Izumo called after him.

“Life’s not fair, ‘Zumo,” Iruka said before shutting the door behind him.
 

Brian G Turner

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#2
I just mentioned in another thread that you only really need to use dialogue tags to indicate who the speaker is, but when there's only two people speaking you can drop using attributions every line. Also, using "said" is perfectly fine as the word will not distract the reader.

You really do have a problem with far too many physical actions here, though - these are really dragging down the pace of your scene. What you're basically doing is writing this as if we're watching a film (or an anime) but the unique selling point of a novel is that you can get inside a character's head - and you're using physical actions in lieu of that.

Hope that helps. :)
 

monsterchic

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#5
I've had betas tell me pretty much opposite reactions lol. some think there's too much description and others insist there be more. Still working out that happy medium.
 

CTRandall

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#6
I got confused in a couple of spots. First, "Because he's captivating". I had no idea who tnis referred to (though perhaps this is because it's an excerpt--it might make perfect sense in context). Second, you might need a tag on "I don't believe you"(unless, again, the scene has already set up that only Iruka and Izumo are present). Third, "The teacher's face softened..." I don't know who the teacher is (and, again, not a problem if previous part of the scene has made this clear.

Overall, you've done a good job of indicating who is speaking. I suspect my confusion would be fixed by seeing the whole scene, so it looks like you've cracked this.

Beyond that, I also found the descriptions distracting. Think about why you are putting in the descriptions and what purpose they serve. Do they draw attention to features that are important for the reader to remember? Are they there to slow the pace of this passage and make it stand out as important? Are they there to reveal aspects of the characters (if this is the case, I don't think the descriptions are doing their job)?
 

TheDustyZebra

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#7
Looks good to me. There are a few more actions in there than I would really prefer, but it's not unclear in the least.
 

monsterchic

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#8
@CTRandall, yup, all your first points are from earlier in the scene :)

It's meant to be kind of a realization scene, I suppose would be the way to say it. Not some huge reveal, but important enough to make the reader slow down and think.

My prose does tend to get quite purple though.
 

Toby Frost

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#9
I might be wrong about this, but my understanding of a dialogue tags is that it means using words like "exclaimed", "announced" etc instead of "said" or "replied". If I'm right about that, there's really only one that I'd remove, and it's "hummed". I think "called" is OK here.

I agree with the points made by Brian and CT about the descriptions. Obviously this is taken out of context, but my main quibble would be that I've got no idea where anyone is in relation to each other. It did seem like a vaguely sexual jumble of limbs towards the end but I'm sure it makes sense in context!
 

Teresa Edgerton

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#10
my understanding of a dialogue tags is that it means using words like "exclaimed", "announced" etc instead of "said" or "replied"
Those are all used in dialogue tags (phrases that are attached to dialogue to identify who is speaking). I believe what you are thinking of is saidisms, also known as saidbookisms: words used in books, but rarely in speech, in place of "said." "Exclaimed" and "announced" are saidisms. So is "replied" though not such a blatant one.

*****

One has to be careful not to use too many saidisms, and especially not use too many of the showy, dramatic ones, because they can call too much attention to themselves and away from the dialogue itself (among other reasons). Used sparingly they can be effective. Over-used they can make the writing look like the writer swallowed a thesaurus.
 

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