[Writing Tips] ‘Say’ it when you say it

This is my biggest personal bugbear, a serious bad habit that has crept into my writing. What I say here, therefore, is as much a writing tip to myself as it is to you, readers.

My characters snarl, ‘Shom, you a**hole!’

‘That Shom fella thinks no end of himself’, they murmur.

Or ‘You are such an awesome guy, Shom’, they chime.

And I am saddened by them. They shouldn’t.

They should have just said. Or asked. Or told. Or used other gentle, neutral expressions such as added.

Try to keep the action in the dialogue, not in the description of the dialogue. As often as possible. Why? Because your murmurs and chimes, and your reader’s murmurs and chimes are different. Murmurs and chimes might not mean the same to you and your reader. On the other hand, the words your character use, are the same for both you and your reader. And if you use neutral descriptions, they allow your dialogues the space to become stronger. (Remember the tip on writing good dialogue?)

My characters should say, ‘Shom, you a**hole!’

Or say, ‘that Shom fella thinks no end of himself’.

Or ‘You are such an awesome guy, Shom’, they should say.

But why would they? I haven’t been awesome to them. I have made them growl and murmur and make such vocal contortions.

I am sorry. I will keep that in mind, going forward.

You should too, fellow writers.

Note: Here is something even bad-habit-ridden I wouldn’t do.

‘You are funny’, she laughed.

Really? Okay, why don’t you record a YouTube video of how you laughed and talked at the same time? Help me learn something new.

About Shom

Shom Biswas is a writer from India. @Spinstripe
This entry was posted in Dialogue descriptions, Useless embellishments, Writing Tips and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to [Writing Tips] ‘Say’ it when you say it

  1. Totally agree!

    My own personal bugbear is when people use an adverb with the dialogue tag to explain something that was already evident. Such as:

    “Where the hell are you going?” she said angrily.

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