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Friday, October 25, 2013

Useless Words

Another appointment this morning gave me more time to read "Where Power Lies" off hard copy, and I keep finding tons of stuff to change. All those conversation tags that add nothing--I said, he said, she asked. So remembering some tips from one of my favorite editing books, I devised a set of "rules" to follow regarding tags.

  • Replace a tag with some action where feasible. "I think you're wrong on that." He looked down his nose at her. "You need to rethink your reasons."
  • If there has been a break in conversation, a narrative passage for example, tag the first two exchanges of dialog to establish who is speaking to whom. 
  • Use tags a bit more liberally (or better yet, the action substitution mentioned above) when more than two characters are speaking. 
  • If a line of dialog opens a chapter or scene, make sure the reader knows who is speaking.
  • If the tag does not clarify anything, cut it.
  • Watch out for overuse of adverbs on tags, i.e., seriously, jovially, softly, gently, etc.
  • Avoid repeating the same pattern of avoidance. For example, doing the first option above over and over again. Mix it up.
What I also (re)discovered is that by removing those useless words, it leaves room for more creative stuff where it really makes an impact. I'll be reading more in days ahead.

Now I'm eager to write the next scene in "Mongan Manor" which will crank up the action some more.

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