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  #1  
Old Dec 28th, 2020, 07:42 AM
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Attribution Tags

Many moons ago, I was reading something by Robert Asprin about his writing. He was talking about how he never (or almost never) used “said” as an attribution tag. He went out of his way to use more colorful and diverse language like “he blurted” or “she suggested” to paint a more colorful scene, so to speak (my words, not his). That made sense to me.

Yesterday, I was watching a YouTube video by another author who made the exact opposite point. He felt that you should only use “said”. His argument was that the emphasis should be on what’s being said, not clever ways of presenting it. He also mentioned that if you need to portray a laugh or a sigh during dialogue, do it as a separate sentence. I know authors, especially new authors, have a tendency to go too far to dress-up their writing, so this made sense to me also.

As a reader or a writer, does anyone have an opinion about this?
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Old Dec 28th, 2020, 08:06 AM
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What you do is really a matter of personal taste, and will become part of your individual writing style.

However, the general consensus amongst writers seems to be that you don't need to resort to fancy dialogue tags. There are two reasons given for this:
1. If the dialogue is well written, then the tone of the dialogue should already be self-evident. In essence, this is the argument that good dialogue doesn't NEED a huge variety of dialogue tags.
2. Good fiction allows the reader room to impose their own imagination. In other words, you can either tell the reader what the tone of a piece of dialogue is, or you can let them imagine it. Many writers consider the latter to be preferable.

Robert Asprin is, of course, a very well respected author. I have his Duncan & Mallory series on my shelf, and I read many of his Myth series of books. I cannot recall that his approach regarding dialogue tags ever bothered me, but I don't think it added anything to his fiction either.

For your own purposes, I think the best approach would be to list some authors whose writing you personally admire, and read through some of their stories/novels to find out how they approach the issue of dialogue tags.

I posted one of my published stories in the fiction section, here. As you can see, my dialogue tags are pretty minimal.

Last edited by Menzo; Dec 28th, 2020 at 08:18 AM.
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Old Dec 30th, 2020, 09:26 AM
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From a personal point of view, the only author I've noticed it affecting their writing is Glen Cook. If he's not my favorite author, he's in the top 3 for sure. I've noticed that when he leaves the attribution out, I get lost in who is saying what. Every once in a while he inserts a character with an unusual speech pattern but most of the time his characters all sound pretty much the same.

I'll take a look at your story to see how you do it.
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Old Dec 30th, 2020, 11:05 AM
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Ultimately, I don't think there's an objective right and wrong on this issue. I'm just suggesting that you don't NEED fancy dialogue tags. But if you want to use them, you can. It will neither hinder you nor aid you. It'll just become part of your individual writing style. Besides, it's the actual dialogue that matters... and that readers will remember.

I have a more minimalist approach, but that doesn't have to be your thing. I still think a parsing of the writing of your top 10 authors is probably the best way to resolve it for yourself. After all, there has to be something about the writing style of those authors that you admire, whether consciously or subconsciously.

Last edited by Menzo; Dec 30th, 2020 at 11:06 AM.
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