Tag Archives: action scenes

Readers, Writers and Editors: Need Help and Thoughts on Attribution and Dialog Tags

 

SAID_thumb4I have some questions about attribution or dialog tags.

When I wrote the first manuscript of “Red Clay and Roses”, I used very few attribution tags in dialog. Often the action was stated and a comma indicated the quote, followed by the quote, and the end quote.

When the work was edited, the editor told me that I needed more attribution tags throughout the manuscript.

It was a lot of work to go back and add these. The work seemed chopped up to me. There seemed much greater pauses in the action than I had intended. It was also a challenge to come up with unique and original tags for such a long manuscript. The flow was affected, but I left them. The editor said it read better, but I felt I lost some of the writing style.

Now, I am working on a new manuscript. Again, the only time I have been using attribution tags is when I want to indicate a certain tone of voice, or a thought the character is having.

I don’t really want to go back and edit these into the entire manuscript, so I am asking for thoughts on this. Is it a style issue or am I clearly wrong to write so much dialog without attribution tags.

******************************SPOILER ALERT***********************************

Here is an example from my new WIP:

Original

Snatching open the screened door, Claudette found her mother writhing on the living room floor in front of the piano. Blood oozed from a wound on her head. Her limbs twitched and jerked violently and her eyes rolled back. Her jaw was locked. Claudette saw her daddy standing in the kitchen, gun in hand. “I didn’t shoot her! But maybe I should have! She’s having an epileptic fit. I think she hit her head on the piano bench when she fell.”

Claudette looked mildly reassured and knelt beside her mother, “Hand me a cold rag.”

Hershel wet a cloth and brought it to his daughter. “Laura Belle Barber, my own wife, pulled a gun on me, Claudette! She was angry about yesterday’s tips being too little to buy any groceries, she accused me of holding back money from the family to buy liquor, and she pulled a God damned gun on me! I didn’t even know she had a gun!”

Laura Belle relaxed and was snoring deeply in post convulsion slumber. Hershel laid the small pistol on the counter next to the sink, “She pointed the gun at my face, and I pushed her back, grabbing the gun, and that’s when it went off.” He pointed to the hole in the ceiling, “I guess we best check upstairs and make sure nobody got hurt.”

“You do that, Daddy. It’s a small scrape, nothing serious. I’ve got things here. Go on to work afterward. You’re going to be late. You don’t need to be here if someone has called the police. Check with the Marshes upstairs. Tell them you were cleaning the gun when it went off, and then go on to Chuck’s. Here’s your music, get going.” She passed him his briefcase from beside the piano.

Hershel took his briefcase from Claudette as she went back to tending her mother’s wound, “Where’s Carol?”

“I left her outside, just go, Daddy. Like I said, I have things here under control.”

After I added Tags:

Snatching open the screened door, Claudette found her mother writhing on the living room floor in front of the piano. Blood oozed from a wound on her head. Her limbs twitched and jerked violently and her eyes rolled back. Her jaw was locked. Claudette saw her daddy standing in the kitchen, gun in hand.  He immediately began to defend himself, “I didn’t shoot her! But maybe I should have! She’s having an epileptic fit. I think she hit her head on the piano bench when she fell.”

Claudette looked mildly reassured and knelt beside her mother, “Hand me a cold rag,” she demanded.

Hershel wet a cloth and brought it to his daughter. “Laura Belle Barber, my own wife, pulled a gun on me, Claudette!” He explained, “She was angry about yesterday’s tips being too little to buy any groceries, she accused me of holding back money from the family to buy liquor, and she pulled a God damned gun on me! I didn’t even know she had a gun!”

Laura Belle relaxed and was snoring deeply in post convulsion slumber. Hershel laid the small pistol on the counter next to the sink, he continued, “She pointed the gun at my face, and I pushed her back, grabbing the gun, and that’s when it went off.” He pointed to the hole in the ceiling, “I guess we best check upstairs and make sure nobody got hurt.”

“You do that, Daddy. It’s a small scrape, nothing serious. I’ve got things here. Go on to work afterward. You’re going to be late. You don’t need to be here if someone has called the police. Check with the Marshes upstairs. Tell them you were cleaning the gun when it went off, and then go on to Chuck’s. Here’s your music,” she offered, “get going.” She passed him his briefcase from beside the piano.

Hershel took his briefcase from Claudette, as she went back to tending her mother’s wound, and asked, “Where’s Carol?”

“I left her outside, just go, Daddy. Like I said, I have things here under control.”

To me the attribution tags seem to slow down the action and steal the flow from the event. It seems too stifled.

What do you think? Does all speech need to be introduced or qualified?