How you say it is as important as what you say

August 3, 2007 at 3:56 pm | Posted in character, Meg, writing | Leave a comment

I had a few topics rumbling around my head this morning, but real life experience directed me to this one…

Dialogue (which is the blog topic for next week) is an essential piece of any fictional writing. It helps move a story along, gives depth to characters and entertains. That’s all true, and since dialogue is my favorite thing to write, I could discuss this until the cows come home. BUT I could also argue the importance of the dialogue tags. After all, that’s where the true essence of the dialogue is conveyed.

Not understanding my point? Allow me to digress for a moment. We are in the age of text messaging and emailing. A fantastic way to communicate quickly, but it loses the nuances of speech and nonverbal messages. For example, how many times have you had to ask someone what she meant in her email or text message? How often have you sat, staring blindly at the computer, trying to decipher if the comment was a joke or insult? Sure we add those cute little faces to let people know we winked or laughed as we wrote, but can they really replace the subtle inflection in the voice, body language or a facial expression found in a real conversation?

This goes for dialogue in writing as well. You can have a character say something, but it’s the tags about the body language that allow the reader to know what is meant behind the words. For example:

“Yeah, I love you.” She smiled and leaned in to kiss him. (She really does)

Her laugh, bitter and cruel, caught his attention. “Yeah, I love you.” (She so does not and she’s mocking him.)

“Yeah, I love you.” She checked her watch. (She’s only saying it and is bored.)

“Yeah, I love you.” She put her hands in the pocket of her jeans and looked at the floor. (She’s lying!)

Breathless, she yanked off his shorts. “Yeah, I love you.” (She’s just trying to get him into bed.)

See how it can be different?

A few random online resources I’ve used to help with writing body language: Descriptions of body language or Examples or How to write a good liar and an extensive non-verbal dictionary.

-Meg

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