Dialogue Tags – To Be or Not To Be?

0449.lowresby Linda Bennett Pennell

Man, there certainly is a lot of advice for authors floating around these days! If interested, a writer could spend most of his/her time reading, rather than slaving away on the ole manuscript. Some advice can be ignored, but one area is a must read. The importance of improving one’s craft cannot be understated. Every facet of craft can be researched and explored ad infinitum, but the topic that seems to get some of the widest degrees of variance in advice is dialogue tags. You know, those little two or three word things that come before or after the quotation marks, things like “he said” or “she asked.”  Some writing coaches firmly believe there should never be a single dialogue tag to muddy up the reader’s immersion in the fiction experience. Others say there should be tags so that the reader knows who is speaking, but by all means limit them to the minimalist “said”, “asked”, or their simplest synonyms. Finally, there are those who advise using them as one wishes, including turning body actions into dialogue tags. They are even so permissive as to suggest that the much maligned adverbs and adjectives are okay as well.

dialogue bubblesBy way of example, let’s play around with these three differing theories. They are theories, after all, since no one has written the absolute, definitive, never-to-be-surpassed Craft Rule Book to End All Rule Books.

The scene: two men in a bar, John and Dave, argue over a debt.


Example 1. (No tags.)

John glared at Dave. “You owe me. You’re not going to weasel out of paying this time.”

“Who owes whom is a matter of opinion, old boy.” Dave smirked. “Have you forgotten the five hundred you bet and lost earlier this year? I have yet to see any of that sum.”

“Now see here. I never meant to make a wager. I thought we were simply joking.”

“Nonetheless, the wager was made.”

Example 2. (Minimal tags.)

John glared at Dave. “You owe me. You’re not going to weasel out of paying this time.”

“Who owes whom is a matter of opinion, old boy,” Dave said and smirked. “Have you forgotten the five hundred you bet and lost earlier this year? I have yet to see any of that sum.”

John replied, “Now see here. I never meant to make a wager. I thought we were simply joking.”

“Nonetheless, the wager was made,” Dave said, pounding the table for emphasis.

Example 3. (No holds barred.)

John glared. He leaned in so that he was eye-to-eye with Dave and sneered, “You owe me. You’re not going to weasel out of paying this time.”

“Who owes whom is a matter of opinion, old boy,” Dave replied with a broad smirk. “Have you forgotten the five hundred you bet and lost earlier this year? I have yet to see any of that sum.”

John frowned and stated loudly enough that the heads of fellow patrons turned,  “Now see here. I never meant to make a wager. I thought we were simply joking.”

“Nonetheless, the wager was made.” Dave hissed sharply, his fist pounding the table for added emphasis.

So tell us, what’s an author to do with such mixed messages? Does genre make a difference in the use of dialogue tags? If you are a reader, which do you prefer and do you have a genre preference? If you are a fellow author, what is your strategy?




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Those Devilish Details

My fourth-in-series romance, Waking Up To Love, pits nerdy Kyle Pennington and luscious Lyssa Doughty against charismatic bad guy Rand Cunningham. This was my first experience with a villain, and I enjoyed exploring all the ways the ill-intentioned Rand could mess with the hero and heroine and their relationship.

As I wrote Kyle and Lyssa’s love story, it became apparent that the two of them have inquiring minds, albeit different styles. Kyle is relentlessly logical and is cleverer than any bully he might encounter. Lyssa tenaciously follows the money story and shamelessly flirts with villains and innocents alike. The two of them simply had to spin off a cozy mystery series with romance in every chapter. Now that Waking Up To Love is under consideration, I’m writing the first cozy.

Writing a cozy mystery, for me, is a very different process from writing a character-driven romance. As the author, I have to know, in depth, the backstory that led to the murder, while my characters know none of that at the start of the book. Their job is to ask the right questions and pursue their leads until they solve the who-done-it mystery. The process reminds me of the logic puzzles I loved so much in the middle grades. You remember: the man with the collie lives across from the widow in the house with the purple shutters; the vamp has three cats, and so on; whose pet bit the mailman?

In their first cozy mystery, when Kyle and Lyssa have to salvage their reputation in their new neighborhood after a shooting in their backyard, they turn their good-will tour into a fact-finding expedition. I dove right into that scene! However, at the end of the day, I had two completely different people living at number 52 Seneca Street and the same problem at number 59 Seneca Street. OMG! There was nothing for it but to sketch the street, add in the residents and their bits of knowledge, and re-route Kyle and Lyssa so the clues they collected added up correctly to new leads.

Good old-fashioned graph paper saved the day! Here’s my map:

Scene-of-Crime copy

I’m curious what techniques you use to keep things straight in your books, your series, or your more complex works? Hope you’ll share! –katie o’boyle

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The Renewal of Spring


I thought long and hard about what to write this time for my blog. So many things went through my head and one theme kept cropping up – spring. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, spring has arrived—on the calendar anyway.

In Northwestern Wisconsin, we had a brief, but delightful week of warm weather. I could feel the dark web of winter sly free with the higher temperatures, bright sunlight, and NO SNOW. It’s all everyone talked about. People wore shorts and flip flops. A few brave, and I say crazy, people even wore tank tops. They smiled, and there was a definite spring to their steps. Local stores started roping off portions of their parking lots for gardening items. You have to understand—it was in the fifties, after all.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????We found excuses to be outside. Of course we couldn’t plant or rake or lay in the grass, but our dreams of doing those things seemed more realistic. I kept a close eye on my spring flowers to see if any of them were brave enough to peak through the soil. I started thinking about whether my summer clothes would still fit, and I itched to put out the patio furniture and my planters. I put away my dark, winter bedding and curtains and replace them with bright, cheerful ones.

Everyone knew it wouldn’t last. And it didn’t. We’re back in the 20s (that’s above zero, so we’re making progress), have had snow, and the wind has been ferocious. But the days are getting longer, the birds are returning, and those brave spring flowers are popping up. ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

notebook-computers-green-grass-background-42808325What does this have to do with writing? I love to write outside. On the deck, in our boat, while camping—it doesn’t matter as long as it’s outside. With the renewal of spring, comes the renewed interest in starting a new project. I’m ready to shake off story ideas that are set in the winter. I want my characters to swim, boat, hike, and camp. No more sitting in front of fireplaces or watching the snow fall. My characters are even getting excited.

So, from Northern Wisconsin, Happy Spring!

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Spring For Love blog hop buttonStarting today, prepare to have some blogging fun! Cynthia Gail is hosting a blog hop for Soul Mate authors, with a Rafflecopter giveaway and twenty-six participating authors.

The Blog Hop runs from March 27 through March 29.

Check the links below to get in on the fun:

Cynthia Gail’s Blog and Event Info:

Rafflecopter Link For Giveaway:

Facebook Event Page:

Great blogs and great prizes. See you there!

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It’s About A Wedding by Terri Patrick

Tami Lund blog“It’s about a wedding” is a really a great tagline for promoting a romance novel. Weddings are those rite-of-passage celebrations that emphasize our ingrained desires to be connected to someone special regardless of how fulfilled we may be as an individual. This is the backbone of every romance story ever written, or lived.

When I first drafted Checkmate First Mate I chose the activities around a wedding as the plot and pacing structure of my novel. The story spans the three weeks leading up to the event, and the following week as the romantic leads in the story return to ordinary life. Weddings can include a whole cast of characters who invest a lot of emotional energy into that main event, and their effort does not end with a honeymoon. Weddings are also a great setting for the unattached to muse over their desire for, or against, a romantic partnership.

I forgot about the wedding angle as I designed my marketing blurbs when Checkmate First Mate was published. This romance was originally written to be the second book of a trilogy where all the stories had the “wedding” tagline. Making this novel into a stand-alone story means I can’t just rework the other companion stories, and my title for the trilogy doesn’t work for a stand alone. As I’m  currently reshaping the entire world and cast of characters it was a happy coincidence that I saw Tami Lund’s call out to us Soulies for submissions to her Matrimonial March blog posts.

This is the biggest benefit for an author to be connected to, and networking with, others in the genre.

Our email exchange for my participation spawned the idea for an interview of two of the surprise “Wedding Dates.” This was a fun enough twist in my story to make it a solid subplot. Everyone who attends a wedding wants to do so with an escort, especially the maid-of-honor and mother-of-the-bride. In Checkmate First Mate it is the bride who does the most meddling to get her MOH and mom well escorted for the day, and for the photos that will be perused in future decades.

Escorts for the bridal party are a big deal.

Now I’m working on the story about those escorts, a father and daughter who were quite content in their quiet lives until they became caught up in the wedding festivities. Their dates for the event are both global travelers and fluent in multiple languages. Now the wedding is over and hanging around the family owned marina doesn’t feel as fulfilling as it did before that special day. Ha! What had seemed like a solid subplot is now becoming a new novel.

The father and daughter are interviewed by a teenage niece who thinks the escort story is exciting.

Thank you, Tami Lund, for featuring me on your site this month!

Learn more about Tami and her novels at http://tamilund.com/

Visit me at www.terripatrickbooks.com.

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Writing Distractions

 photo tumblr_lys887IXHE1qz80pso1_500_zpsgbil4hkc.jpg

I just signed up for Pinterest and it’s like crack—totally addictive (not that I would know if crack is addictive…oh, forget it). I’ve started storyboards and gone through all of my saved image files, just PINNING ALL THE THINGS. Meanwhile (oh my, the time is just flying!), I’ve blown off hours of potential writing time.


I tend to do social media on the go—during breaks at work, while I’m drinking coffee in the morning, when I’m standing in line at the grocery store, etc. Sometimes (most times) I’m burned out by the end of the day and I need something mindless to do. But when I think back and realize how much time I spent doing “mindless things”, I feel guilty and realize I could’ve wrote X amount of words in that time. I do the same thing with TV shows and movies (particularly if they’re bad)—I usually ask myself, “Did I just waste my life on that crap? I could’ve been making up my own damn story!”

Sure, brains need breaks every once in a while, but there’s a line you cross before you’re lost forever in the black hole of the internet. For example, I’ve had my WIP open for an hour now and I’ve written a grand total of ten words. Why? ‘Cause I’m letting myself get distracted by all the shiny social things…and I have a headache…and I’m scared of this next scene…and… *whine* (I could certainly use some wine right now).

Of course, social media is part of a writer’s armament in order to reach readers. A website is a must and probably Facebook and Twitter too. How else are you going to get your book out into the wild world? With an ever-rising plethora of novels inside the monster that is Amazon, we need to try to get our books seen and our voices heard whether your self-pubbed or trad-pubbed.

But, I admit, social media is great fuel for my procrastination machine, and I consciously need to shut it down and throw away the key. Here are a few ways I do it.

Shut off your Wi-Fi.

Yep, you heard me—take that baby down. Even better, turn off your router, especially if it’s in another room. Every time you try to open Facebook, your computer will give you a big fat “NO” and tell you to get your ass back to work.

Use a timer.

Okay, so you refuse to shut down your Wi-Fi—fine. Grab a timer and set it to write for however many minutes/hours you want. Once it goes off (and it should go off loudly) then yay, you’re free to putz. Set it again for your putzing time (for equivalent or less than your writing time), and once it goes off, get your butt back in the chair and your fingers on the keys.

Write or Die.

I’ve never used this program, but I heard it works quite well. Similar to my timer method, it forces you to write in spurts of time and allows you to have intermittent breaks.

Close the door and shut off your phone.

Announce to your family/spouse/kids/whatever that you’re writing for however much time and you shouldn’t be disturbed. Lock the door and throw in some earplugs if you must. Obviously, if there’s an emergency, address it, but only if it means certain death (and I mean certain). Guard that writing time with your life and be a stickler about it—if you don’t, you’ll never be taken seriously and you’ll never get anything done.

Also, TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. Not only does it have all of those fabulous social media distractors, but it also allows people to call you (does that happen anymore?). Put it on silent and put it away.

And that’s all my achy head can think of right now. Do you have any tips to fight off distractions? I’d love to hear them!

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The Ménage in Menagerie

Warning! Adult Content! You must be 18 or over to read this blog post as it’s about sex and stuff. Also it would help if you had a really irreverent attitude about sex and stuff.


the chair that didn’t make it

Romance writers sometimes get a racy reputation, but I’m finding that the more you write about love, the harder it is to write about sex. Maybe it’s exposure. Maybe it’s learning the craft. But after awhile, the mechanics of the process seem largely unrelated to the effect we’re trying to convey. A deep, passionate attraction and adoration hardly seems to  match the physical realities of sex, particularly if said sex is on the adventurous side.

Case in point, my cats have a theoretical ménage relationship. Pierrot came to live with us at Thanksgiving after crossing a six-lane highway and freaking out animal rescue. He’s not particularly dominant however, so I thought he might provide good company for my other male without being threatening.

Lindor, my original male, needed company because Kaluha, the female, doesn’t like to wrestle. In stories, the woman is flattered to have the attention of two males, but Kaluha doesn’t want to play with either of them. She hides under the couch and hisses at both unless I’m serving dinner in which case, both boys better stand back.


the final word

The relationship between my two guys also doesn’t quite match the stories. Testosterone in real life isn’t sexy. I don’t want to make any sweeping generalizations that are unfair, but it wasn’t the female who needed extra litter boxes! My males’ dominance issues have destroyed one armchair and gotten both banned from the bedroom.

So unless your ménage involves a mop, vacuum, and lots of environmentally friendly cleansers, you may not be writing with biological accuracy. That’s okay. Even the grittiest reality needs romance. At the end of the day, all three kitties cuddle up and keep Mom company as she plays with words!

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