Speech Tags and Action Tags: Part One

Sunday, February 5, 2017


Speech tags. Action tags. Words that I feel we writers either overuse or don’t use at all Poor things. Today, we’re going to look at how we can give speech tags and action tags a happy medium in our stories.

Before we move on any further, let’s take a look at how speech tags look to a reader by reading a sample of writing in its gorgeous speech tag drenched form.

“Lyon,” I said, falling onto the ground in exhaustion. “Do you hear that?”

Lyon stopped and, cocking his head to the side, answered, “Hear what?”

Honestly, Lyon? Exasperated, I said, “That sound coming from the path. Are you deaf?”

Lyon’s eyes widened as the sound found his ears and he said, “No. That’s not possible.” Dropping our precious map and taking off in the opposite direction of the path, he yelled, “Run, Kiera, run!”


Now take a look at the difference in the same sample using action tags instead of speech tags…

“Lyon.” I fell onto the duty ground. “Do you hear that?”

Lyon stopped, mid stride. He cocked his head to the side. “Hear what?”

Honestly, Lyon? “That sound coming from the path. Are you deaf?” My voice came out like the growl of a bear.

Lyon’s eyes widened as the sound found his ears. “No. That’s not possible.” Suddenly, he took off in the opposite direction of the path, dropping our precious map. “Run, Kiera, run!”

What difference could you detect in these short samples? The first one was all right, but the speech tags gave it a “telly” feel and slowed the story down with extra baggage. However, in the second one, action tags helped to immerse you in Kiera and Lyon’s story while keeping the pace moving.

Using speech tags can be a form of telling. Action tags are much better for when we want to SHOW our readers something. Action tags help put our readers in the story world. Even without speech tags, we saw that Kiera’s tone was grumbly.

More photography. =D
Am I saying that we need to completely slash speech tags from our writing and throw them into Mount Doom? No! Some of the greatest authors to put pen to paper-C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Suzanne Collins-they used speech tags.

Speech tags can be our good friends in moderation. In some instances, I believe that these “telly” words can SHOW. Consider the third revision of Lyon and Kiera’s story.

“Lyon,” I panted, falling onto the dusty ground. “Do you hear that?”

Lyon stopped, mid stride. He cocked his head to the side. “Hear what?”

Honestly, Lyon? “That sound coming from the path. Are you deaf?” My voice came out like the growl of a bear.

Lyon’s eyes widened as the sound found his ears. “No. That’s not possible.” He took off, dropping our precious map and shrieking over his shoulder, “Run, Kiera, run!”


With vivid speech tags, we saw more than with just action tags. We were shown that Kiera must’ve been really tired, because she panted in addition to falling to the ground. Lyon’s distress and fear went up a notch when he shrieked.

Speech tags and action tags aren’t necessarily enemies. I believe that, with the right ratio, readers can get an even better experience in the words we write.

Next week, we'll be looking at some tips to help us out on achieving a great speech tag/action tag balance in our dialogue.

Which do you prefer to use-speech tags or action tags? What are your thoughts on speech and action tags? Do you have any tips for writing great dialogue?

12 comments:

  1. Wonderful post, Micaiah! I always agonize over which to use :P One of my greatest pet peeves as a reader is when the author uses speech tags EVERY time. These were great examples, and the perfect medium read great :)

    audrey caylin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Audrey! =D I almost always opt for action tags, although it used to always be speech tags. =) That's one of mine too! That and overuse of adjectives and adverbs.

      Delete
  2. Ooh, this was super helpful. The only problem? It left me dying to know what happened to Lyon and Kiera! ;)

    Hailey
    haileyhudson.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad it helped, Hailey. =) Hhmmm, maybe I should write more about them. ;)

      Delete
  3. Great post, Micaiah!!!! I love it!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. This was really good, Micaiah!
    I hadn't put a lot of thought into this before. . . it's really interesting. Thanks for your tips!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I like action tags best. I hate writing dialogue! It's my least favorite part of writing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Action tags are also my favorite. Dialogue can be hard, but it's an essential part of stories and can actually become fun once you get the hang of it. =)

      Delete
  6. GREAT post, Micaiah! And OHMYGRACIOUS your worrrrrrds...I must read more of this story!!
    -Ariel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ariel! =) Maybe I should write more....

      Delete

Hey, you came by to comment! *gives you salted caramel hot chocolate* I can't wait to see what you say! But let’s keep the comments clean and cool. I don’t want to have to banish them from my blog. Thank you!

CopyRight Micaiah Saldaña © | Theme Designed By Hello Manhattan