The Journal: Dialogue Tag vs. Brief Descriptive Narrative

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* An extremely good post link
* I lost a subscriber on the 12th
* The purpose behind the Journal
* Trigger Alert (joking)
* I expect a good day
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“Be ruthless about protecting writing days…. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance.” J.K. Rowling (via The Passive Voice)

“Jenny told me that the eye passes over ‘said’ and ‘asked’ and doesn’t stop my story the way flashier tags did. Nothing said amateur writer like so-called ‘creative’ dialogue tags. I avoided the hundreds of synonyms for the simple, efficient ‘said.'” Elaine Viets

“Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue. Never use an adverb to modify the verb ‘said’.” Elmore Leonard

There’s an extremely good post by David Farland linked in “Of Interest” today. I enjoyed it, and I like (and agree with) his excellent examples.

The only differences between what he teaches in this regard and what I teach are the labels. What he calls a “dialog tag” I break into two categories: The first (he said, she said) is what I call a dialogue tag. It provides no information other than which character is speaking.

But the second, in which the reader is given a bit of action, I call a “brief descriptive narrative.” You’ll see examples of both in his post. (PS: The same goes for what Elaine Viets calls “observations” in her post, also linked in “Of Interest.”)

Wow. I lost a subscriber a couple of days ago. He’d only been around since the 6th of January. The reason he gave was “Too negative for my taste.” Must’ve been my one-time “Gripes of the Day.” Which at least were all about language. Sheesh. They were not, for example, about politics or religion or any other hot-button topic.

Anyway, I looked back over the seven posts from the 6th to the 12th. I didn’t think they were negative, or not all that negative. So I’ll mark it up to reader taste or what a reader/writer feels comfortable with. I wrote quite a bit about WITD in some of those posts too. I suppose for some writers that’s a hot-button topic. Oh well. I do hope he finds what he’s looking for in the way of writing advice.

Your opinion matters to me. If you feel I’m too negative, please email and tell me. If you feel I’m too positive, I’d appreciate knowing that too.

However, bear in mind that the purpose behind the Journal is not to butter (or mold) anyone’s bread, though I do make a weak attempt at being a little entertaining on occasion, usually through a dry kind of sarcasm.

But seriously, my real purpose with this venue is to pass along to those who read the Journal the same opportunity (to learn) that Dean Wesley Smith gave me almost 7 years ago. That opportunity so radically changed my life that I want to pay it forward.

I guess you could say I want to be the alternate go-to poster boy for following Heinlein’s Rules and for writing into the dark. Because it makes so stinkin’ much sense. That’s it. Shrug.

TRIGGER ALERT (joking): I guess it’s a good thing that one subscriber is gone ’cause this paragraph and the next will be negative too, and God knows I don’t care enough to want to “offend” anyone. I didn’t write fiction yesterday. I did do about an hour of cycling and wrote maybe 100 new words, but my Internet in the Hovel went out right after I posted the Journal. (That’s the negative part.)

So I spent part of the morning walking back and forth to the house trying to get it to work. By about 7 I was so digusted with my Internet Service Provider (they refuse to send a new modem or to service the one they sent us before because apparently we now live in a time when customer service is no longer a thing) and in such a bad mood that I finally flopped on my fanny and watched TV most of the day. (Okay, that part was negative too.)

But it was all good. Mostly I watched old black and white Twilight Zone reruns, complete with Rod Serling. And for the first time ever, I noticed in the upper left corner of the screen a warning that the show contained “horror and smoking.” I’m not kidding. And frankly, I was horrified a short time later. One of the characters in one of the shows sipped from what appeared to be an alcoholic drink, but there had not been a warning about “drinking.”

Then around 3:30 or so I came back to the Hovel, smoked a cigar to relax, and wrote most of what appears above this.

I expect to have a good day of writing today, and a great day if I can pull it off. The novel is charging ahead.

At one point, I thought the novel seemed a little slow. But when I read back over the reverse outline (yet another positive use for the RO) the story seemed to flow well and was fine. And again I reminded myself to Just Write the Next Sentence.

God I love my job.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Attributions in Dialog” at

See “‘Nuff Said” at In one of those strange coincidences, this is a good companion to Farland’s post above.

See “Serial Killers by State, 2020 Edition” at How many serial killers live near you?

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 950 words

Writing of The Journey Home: Part 5 (novel)

Day 10… 3547 words. Total words to date…… 36277

Total fiction words for January……… 39495
Total fiction words for the year………… 39495
Total nonfiction words for December… 10610
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 10610
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 50105

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… X
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 54
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 214
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

2 thoughts on “The Journal: Dialogue Tag vs. Brief Descriptive Narrative”

  1. Gasp! Not smoking!

    TV warnings have gone a bit far.

    If you’re looking for something a bit newer and are subscribed to a streaming service or two, check out any of the superhero shows. They are doing wonderful things with writing and character decelopment.

    As for the provided router, I would suggest getting an after market one. The default one that are provided to you are junk, at best.

    • Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind them warning people against smoking, especially cigarettes. But warning them they might see someone smoking on the TV? Yep, that’s a little much for my taste. And definitely, getting an after-market router will be my next step. Of course, they won’t service that one either, but at least they’ll have the excuse that they don’t own it. (grin)

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