What an odd title! Solutions to the dialogue tag. I’m sure the author means, solutions that help in fixing up bad dialogue tags, or something like that. Dialogue tags are not, of course, in need of a solution in general. You have to have enough to let the reader easily follow which character is saying what. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of reading a tag-free section of dialogue and getting confused and having to back up and count lines to see who said something. You know what prevents that problem? Correct use of dialogue tags.
Of course I wrote a post about this quite some time ago. Let me see. Oh, here: Dialogue Tags: The Bad, The Visible, The Audible, And The Absent. Among other things, I hit overuse of “said” in that post, but the problem was not entirely due to use of “said” — it was due to lack of variation in sentence structure AND the use of “said.” I also provided what I consider some great examples of dialogue, with appropriate tags, including movement tags.
I’m quite sure movement tags are one of the “solutions” proposed in the linked post. Let’s just see …
In other eras, that was accomplished by verbs and adverbs. People didn’t just speak; they screamed, snarled, muttered, and moaned. Nowadays, though, the neutral said is preferred.…
Yeah, uh huh, see my linked post for how to screw up dialogue by using “said.”
“Said” is not preferred. Smooth use of all dialogue tags is preferred. Right now, three short paragraphs into this post, and I’m already feeling argumentative, even somewhat hostile. The post really put my back up with that facile “said is preferred.” Let’s see if it manages to say anything I agree with. …
Good heavens, this post is defining “dialogue tag” to include only movement tags.
Enter the dialogue tag—an extra phrase that precedes or follows an utterance. With a sigh. Lifting an eyebrow. Her voice growing shrill.
Who in the world defines “dialogue tag” in a way that excludes “he said”? I mean, what?
And look here! The very first suggestion is to use VERBS, exactly as the post said was too “high-drama” just a few paragraphs above!
FIRST, let’s look at some strategies that include a line of dialogue. Use an evocative verb instead of “said”
“Actually, it’s not okay,” Ellen snapped.
The verb snapped is economical, conveying a tone of voice and the emotion behind it in a single word.
What happened to “said” is preferred?
Okay, I have to admit, the rest of the post does in fact manage to show many useful techniques for delivering the same line of dialogue. It really does. Here, look:
“Actually,” Ellen said, her voice cold, “it’s not okay.”
“Actually,” Ellen said. She dropped the words like chips of ice into a bowl. “Actually, it’s not okay.”
I do like that, but I would adjust it this way:
“Actually,” Ellen said, dropping the words like chips of ice into a bowl, “actually, you know what, it’s not okay.”
But moving on, here are a couple more suggestions for the same line:
Ellen’s smile disappeared. “Actually,” she said, “it’s not okay.
Ellen pulled in her breath and shifted the phone to her other hand. “Actually,” she said, “it’s not okay.”
Plus lots of movements that permit the dialogue to be left out entirely, conveying the idea that whatever it was, it wasn’t okay. Like this:
Ellen crossed the boarding area in three quick strides and banged her palm against the wall.
FINE. I think it’s useful to take the same line and present it in a lot of different ways. I just think it’s both unnecessary and stupid to start by saying “said is preferred” without pausing to consider the obvious problems with restricting the use of other verbs, especially if you’re going to go right on and suggest that other verbs are actually peachy. Of course the post says “if used sparingly,” but that’s true of practically everything, including “said.” Seriously, click through to my other post to see how to make “said” as obtrusive as possible.
This post doesn’t admit that adverbs in dialogue tags are also okay, but they are. That, too, is addressed in my linked post. I will draw a deep breath here and add, if used sparingly.
The overall rule is:
Use dialogue tags, including said, including other verbs, including adverbs, including absolutely everything, smoothly, in order to convey the proper feel of the sentence to the reader while preventing the tags from becoming obtrusive.
This post is okay. Parts of it are good. But as always, better advice is to open ANY beautifully written novel and look at what excellent stylists actually DO when they are actually writing. Then throw away ALL advice about how you should write and what’s passé in modern novels and just write effective prose.