Tag Archives: dialogue

“Beats” and Attribution

It has been a while since I wrote about my writing. I put Naked Alliances in a drawer after my last edits following my beta reads. I wanted to give the MS time to breathe and come back and do a reread to get a fresh perspective on what else it might need.

One of my beta readers is a professional editor. He did a most thorough edit and made some invaluable suggestions on how to improve the manuscript. I have always had a handle on doing realistic dialogue well, but I have struggled with attribution tags and how to avoid them except in the most necessary of situations where more than one person is speaking. Unnecessary speaker attributions slow down your flow. Unless the speaker would be uncertain, giving no attributions makes for a faster exchange.

He suggested what he refers to as “beats” showing the speakers action at that moment. Eg. Rather than, “I think it’s time we left,” he concluded. Try, “I think it’s time we left.” His brow furrowed, his worry obvious.

There is a chapter where I felt the use of dialogue tags was necessary because there are four women talking and I did not want anyone to feel lost in the conversation. Here is a brief excerpt between two or three of the characters that demonstrates how the tags seriously slow down the read. I wanted it contemplative, yet needed something to indicate which of the four are engaged in conversation:

“So sad about Maria,” Patty said with a sigh.

“Not so sure what she saw in that politician,” Sabrina stated.

“I know what she saw and you do, too.”

“Well he’s hot for you now,” Sabrina reminded.

“He’s just a good time for me. I don’t plan to fall in love with him.”

“Maria sure did. Do you think he loved her, too?” asked Sabrina

“Hard to say. His relationship with her was politically motivated. But I don’t think Maria loved him either,” answered Patty.

“You don’t?”

“She lied to him,” Gail interjected. “She put on the act of devoted housewife and mother for his constituency. She partied with us on the sly every chance she got. I feel sorry for Tim and his loss. More than that, I feel sorry for him that she misled him so.”

 

Here is the exchange cleaned up. It starts with a couple of “beat” sentences and that’s all that is needed until another person joins the conversation and a “beat” is required.

“So sad about Maria.” Patty sighed.

“Not so sure what she saw in that politician.” Sabrina arched her overdone brows.

“I know what she saw and you do, too.”

“Well he’s hot for you now.”

“He’s just a good time for me. I don’t plan to fall in love with him.”

“Maria sure did. Do you think he loved her, too?”

“Hard to say. His relationship with her was politically motivated. But I don’t think Maria loved him either.”

“You don’t?”

“She lied to him.” Gail slammed the photo album closed and pushed it aside. “She put on the act of devoted housewife and mother for his constituency. She partied with us on the sly every chance she got. I feel sorry for Tim and his loss. More than that, I feel sorry for him that she misled him so.”

 

More examples of “beats” added to the MS:

“Jason Pauly, you don’t run,” Richard said while standing.

“Jason Pauly, you don’t run.” Richard was now on his feet.

 

“How long do you do it? A year, five, ten?” Sabrina asked.

“How long do you do it? A year, five, ten?” Sabrina’s voice was venomous.

 

“A lot of folk think bikers are bonkers,” Brandi said.

“A lot of folk think bikers are bonkers.” Brandi laughed and leaned in closer.

 

While best to have no attribution tags, when required, “beat” sentences show an action identifying the speaker when there are more than two and carry the story forward with momentum.

This is where I am today with my progress on Naked Alliances. I have cleaned up most of the attribution tags. I have a few places where I am tightening up the manuscript and minimizing exposition. Then, it’s done.

I would be out on the boat today if the weather was better, but it’s overcast and windy. Not good for boating.

What are you up to this weekend?

Any time for reading, outlining, writing, editing?

Feedback Needed on Excerpt Dialogue

My protagonist, Richard, the detective, just slammed a suspect down on the ground after a chase through the ghetto. He’s trying to question him. The guy is Jamaican. He speaks primarily patois. What I need to know is whether or not I have Americanized the language enough for the average person to understand enough of what happened without feeling too alienated. I want it to be authentic. It won’t spoil the plot to read it.

 

“Bumbo! Wah di rass, mon!” the man sputtered, through gasping breaths.

“Don’t give me that patois shit,” Richard panted. “I know you’ve been in this country at least ten years.”

“Yuh got di wrong guy, mon.”

“Now, how do you know that when you haven’t heard what I have to say?” Richard didn’t wait for an answer. “You can start by telling me what you were doin in Melbourne July 4th, 2005. Tropical Border House Inn.”

“Long time ago, too nuff, too nuff.”

“You’re going to think I’m messin in your business if you don’t start talkin.”

“Mi cannot breath, lemme up.”

“Can you stay in one place?”

“I and I done nuh ting wrong.”

“How do you say, ‘badman ting?’”

“No sah, no sah. Ten year ago mi a young man makin love.”

“How’d that go?” Richard asked. He eased up on his back just a bit and released his head roughly, yanking off hair as he did. “Tell me about Maria. You remember her? Latina girl married to former mayor Timothy Morrison? Did she piss you off? Did she dump you? Did she tell you she couldn’t fuck you anymore so you decided to make sure she couldn’t fuck anybody? Did you stab her to death, or did she accidentally fall on your knife?”

The man heaved, “Yuh a chat bagga nonsense. Easy nuh. Lemme up.”

“I’m chill man, you do the talkin.” Richard eased off Jason’s back and released his left arm. They sat up in the midst of the field, knees up, with the sun beating down, wiping away the sweat and the sand and catching their breath.

“Sumady Murda. Yuh no mi sah, no sah. Hol it dung, mon. Mi and mi dupes en gayls meet at Firestone Club, pretty gyals from di Leisure Lagoon, pretty gyals. She give mi di hotel and di day. Mi dunno she married. She wonna mi eat unda sheet. She wanna cock it up pan me. I and I to di hotel on di day. She bring di babies and givem candies. Pum pum tun up. Rude gayl jus wanna have good times. Timothy Morrison, dat one be di ball an chain. And she all broughtupsy. She say big tings a gwaan. No woman, no cry. Put di babies en di car. I and I come home di mornin. See it pan di news, pan di televsion.”

“So you just met and screwed? Consoled her. With the kids there?”

“Awoah! Di lil babe an di boy. Jus di boy watch cartoons, eat di candy. Di babe sleeping, Nuh one hour.”

“You couldn’t come forward, tell what you knew?”

“Look a mi, mon, an sit en di white mon prison? Yuh gotta Jamaican mon, no mi suh. I and I nuh know he di brinks, Morrison, till mi read en di papers. Mi done no ting wrong cept by di mon, nuh by mi.”

“Jason Pauly, you don’t run no more,” Richard said while standing. He stuffed his hand in his pocket and relaxed his fist. “You stay around. If you do nuh ting wrong, you’ll be okay, but don’t run.” He brushed the dirt from his jeans, “I will find you, mother fucka” he added. He walked away leaving the man sitting in the sand.