Back to Articles Index

Toe-Tags an Exercise in Dialogue

Oh, dialogue. The bane of many a writer. Littered with all those little grave markers called dialogue tags. They feel necessary, but are they really? Or are they just marking the final resting places of otherwise good prose? Your dialogue is sprightly and lively, why put it in the morgue? These are the common things I hear from other writers when discussing toe tags: “But how do I keep track of who says what?” “My dialogue feels naked without them.” “I have a condition wherein in real life after everything I say I say ‘I said.’” To answer the first question, in most cases you only have two characters talking so it really isn’t that hard. Have faith in your reader. Or rather, have faith in your dialogue. Unless all of your characters sound exactly the same because they’re from a cult in the middle of the cornfields, chances are it’s easy to tell who said what. Next, let your dialogue be naked! Look how happy it is because it’s still alive, not tagged on a slab in the prose morgue. Not that all dialogue tags are bad, but usually the ones you keep aren’t toe tags but themselves buried in the description. Don’t be a grave robber and dig them back up. Don’t condemn your dialogue like that. Excersize: We’re going to write scenes featuring a character from our work and a rando from List A who talk about a topic from List B. We know our characters, how they think, how they talk; this shouldn’t be any problem. What we are NOT going to do is tag ANYTHING. You get Two Whole Lines of description here to set the stage and indicate who speaks first without tagging them. Then they’ll just talk on your page. Sometimes they may do something: Randall stood abruptly; Theodore kicked the wall; Clementine shot the pastor; etc. In fact, they can do anything you want them to. Except go to the prose morgue. The object of this is not only to push you out of your normal way of thinking about dialogue, but help give you more confidence in your dialogue, that it stands on its own, that it is clear and delivers exactly what you need it to to the reader. Try to do at least four decent conversations. The randos will appreciate it. List A: Randos a hunchback a schoolgirl a cake designer a were-sloth a therapist a grocery bagger a street preacher a Raggedy Ann enthusiast a clog dancer a forensic plumber a drunken toddler the ghost of Jules Verne a talking hedge in front of the library List B: Topics swimwear herring as a dessert the weather in Mexico cuckoo clocks socks the end of the world the price of spotted dick nuclear war sailing the danger of swings the best burger in town public displays of affection the sex appeal of long underwear Feel free to add anything to each list and have fun dialoguing!

Added by: User Mason Bushell
Created on: 2021-10-26 10:25:31
Last Updated: 2021-10-26 10:25:31

Back to Articles Index





BOOKiWROTE Affiliations