Monday, September 17, 2018

Use Speaker Tags and Beats Correctly


By Andrea Merrell

Dialogue can make or break a story—too much, too little, too stilted, or too corny.
 
When we read, we want to see the characters interacting with each other. We want to know what’s going on in the scene and/or what the POV character is thinking or feeling. The communication should be real and flow in such a way that we get pulled into the story.

Using speaker tags and beats correctly will enhance your dialogue. Let’s look at the difference.

Speaker Tags
A speaker tag shows the speaker’s name and a speech-related verb (said, asked, shouted). This is generally the best way to show which of your characters is speaking, but sometimes we tend to overuse tags. They’re not necessary each time someone speaks, especially in a long section of dialogue. Notice that tags require a comma, not a period.

Example: 
“That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing,” Wendy said.

“Thank you so much,” Beverly replied.

“Where did you get it?” Wendy asked.

“It came from Dillard’s,” Beverly answered.

“Oh, that’s my favorite department store,” Wendy said.

Do you see how annoying—and boring—that is? Let’s try it again adding beats.

Speaker Beats
A speaker beat is the action that accompanies what the speaker is saying. It also indicates to the reader who is doing the speaking.

Example: 
“That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing,” Wendy said, wishing she had worn something besides jeans to the party.

Beverly’s face lit up. “Thank you so much.”

“Where did you get it?” Wendy hoped she wasn’t being too forward.

“It came from Dillard’s.”
                    
“Oh, that’s my favorite department store.”

“Mine too.” Beverly lowered her voice to a whisper. “Especially when they’re having a big sale. I got this for only twenty dollars."

Both girls laughed and went to the party arm in arm.

Just like speaker tags, don’t overuse beats. Too many will interrupt the flow of dialogue. They’re not necessary every time, but they work well to help set the scene when used correctly. You can use them at the beginning of the sentence or the end. Mix it up.

Side Note: This is a common error when using speaker tags: “That’s a pretty scrawny dog,” Jim laughed. Since Jim can’t laugh that comment, the proper way would be: “That’s a pretty scrawny dog.” Jim laughed. This now becomes a speaker beat instead of a tag.

What can you add about using speaker tags and beats? We would love to hear from you.

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Master Isolated Images.)

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Four Tips to Distract Your Internal Editor


by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

I’ve spoken with a lot of writers who have trouble disconnecting their INTERNAL EDITOR when they're working on an early draft of a manuscript. 

This overly helpful person lives inside most of us and comes in handy when we’re putting the finishing touches on our manuscript. But when we’re in the midst of a creative surge, that same
person can short circuit our progress.

Today's post will give you the tips you need to turn off your internal editor.

First you should know there’s a scientific reason for that roadblock. The creative act of writing your first draft stems from the right side—or creative side—of the brain. Later in the process, when polishing begins, the left side takes over. Here are some of the characteristics of each side.

Right Brain
  • Visual in process, focusing more on patterns and images.
  • Generally intuitive, led by feelings.
  • Is the epitome of multi-tasking, able to process ideas simultaneously.
  • Progresses from the big picture to the details.
  • Lacks organization, utilizes free association.
Left Brain
  • More verbal, needs to find specific words to express ideas.
  • Analytical, led by logic.
  • Takes things step by step, one idea at a time.
  • Organizes details first before moving to the big picture.
  • Very organized, utilizing lists and detailed plans.
Mixing up the process—trying to use both sides of the brain at the same time—can lead to a tangled mess and a major roadblock. All of this information is good to know, but what if our left-brained, Internal Editor won’t go away? How do we make her be quiet?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one way that works for everyone, but here are some tips that should help.

Tips

1. Don’t give in to temptation. Our Internal Editor gets stronger the more frequently we give in to her demands. If she thinks you need a certain word before you can finish that sentence, stay strong. Type XXX and go on. Later, during the rewriting process, you’ll have plenty of time to find the right word. This goes for anything that demands you slow the creative process. At this point in your manuscript speed is your best friend.

2. Set a daily and weekly word count goal. This can often sidetrack the Internal Editor because of her need to meet a goal. Sometimes, in her drive to succeed, she can even become an ally.

3. Make lists in a separate notebook. Use your computer for the story, but if the need for details overshadows the creative urge, make a quick note in a notebook. Don’t let yourself get bogged down, but let the free association part of your right brain give you ideas to explore later with your more logical left side.

4. Don’t give in to fear. Many times our Internal Editor is driven by fear. Fear that this draft isn’t good, won’t work, or just doesn’t make sense. Remind yourself that this version isn’t written in stone. Sometimes just giving ourselves permission to write what Anne Lamott calls the sh*%&# first draft is all we need to derail our Internal Editor.

All of these can help, but I’d like to know what tricks you use to keep that INNER EDITOR quiet.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Ambro, and Stuart Miles.)


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Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, no matter if she’s writing for fiction readers, parents, or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives.

She’s a leading professional within the publishing industry and travels to numerous conferences as a popular keynote, writing instructor and mentor. Her blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month and is a Writer’s Digest Top 101 Websites for Writers. She’s the Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, the Mountainside Marketing Conference and Soul Care, as well as Vice President of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine. In addition, she's a regular columnist for Just18Summers.comPuttingOnTheNew.com and http://www.soulfulink.com. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.