Tag Archive: Dialog


Using Short Sentences

Power of WordsEvery so often, I come across an author trying to use short sentences and paragraph-fragments. Sometimes this author is one of my clients, and therefore hasn’t had the benefit of a good line-editor yet, but sometimes this habit makes its way to print.

And what’s wrong with that? After all, we speak in short sentences in real life. We don’t use academic grammar that has us continuing for several lines in the same thought, sometimes separated into more manageable chunks using semicolons; no, when people speak normally, they speak in fragments, rather than continuing on and on like this sentence, as if commas were going out of style.

Well, like with any part of writing, it’s a matter of art rather than science. Contrary to particularly pedantic grammarians, there are a lot fewer rules to English than we teach in school. In fact, as I’ve described previously, a lot of those modern grammar rules came about because certain people were overly-enamored with Latin and Greek and objected to the idea that English had become streamlined. (As if lots of rules meant a language was somehow more dignified.) That includes stuff like “Bob and I” versus “Bob and me,” which not even the rules-conscious French language (well, the official French language; there’s an even greater difference between academic and colloquial French than with English, which is why the French look so pained when you try to speak their language) has found a problem with.

So the problem with short sentences isn’t that there’s some rule against them. It’s that, as with any art, it’s a good idea to know what your tools are used for. Continue reading

Addicted to Mystery

I’m in Minnesota visiting Elizabeth and Nathan (yesterday was, incidentally, the half-anniversary of their wedding). We’ve been plotting and scheming, sometimes even about books. But our series isn’t the subject of this blog post, no. See, last night, we watched the Veronica Mars movie.  Continue reading

Don’t Dump

One of the most common mistakes, even with professional storytellers, is to deliver a lot of exposition in a small space, or otherwise give “idiot lectures” where you have one character being a bit more dumb than usual simply so that a second character will have to explain something to him (and therefore to the audience). This is often called infodumping, and it’s often hard to avoid — but the best authors watch out for it and work around it.

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When to Use Dialog Tags?

Dialog tags are sometimes tricky to use. When to use them? Why? Where? How much?

I’m not going to assume you don’t know what dialog tags are. I’m not even going to go into grammar and whether you should ever use “said” versus something else. I’m just going to give you four rules of thumb that I give my authors.  Continue reading

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