Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday's Tip for Writers - #1

My inaugural Tuesday's Tip for Writers is about dialogue.

TIP #1: People don't routinely address each other by name in conversation. A character may say a name in greeting, to get someone's attention, or to make a point, but it's not natural to keep calling someone by name.

"I see what you mean, Tom."
"Do you? Do you really, Margaret?"
"Tom, would I lie to you?"
"No, I guess not. I didn't mean to question you, Margaret. Forgive me?"

I frequently see this done in the novels and stories I edit, and I think I know why. As long as a character keeps calling the other by name, the author doesn't need to use dialogue tags to make it clear who's speaking. Now I'm all for eliminating unnecessary dialogue tags, but this isn't the way to do it. Sit in a public place and listen. You rarely hear one person address another by name. If your characters do it, it'll ring false to your readers.

This tip is one of 13 in my article "My Lucky 13 Tips for Dialogue." You can read the full article beginning Monday, September 29th, at the Murder by 4 blog. But don't wait until Monday to visit the blog. It's run by 4 murder mystery authors, and it's full of great advice for writers. Visit it anytime and bookmark it. It's updated often.

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