Good morning, authors! Hope 2013 is treating you well. Today's editorial little tidbit is about tagging dialogue and the 'invisible' said.
It's the dialogue tagging. While this particular little cut of text might not grate on the nerves, imagine page after page, every dialogue tagged in some fashion. This is not something you want to present. It is redundant, among all the other reasons it should be avoided.
Dialogue tagging is a tricky little devil. We need it for clarity--without any tags at all, we wouldn't know which two women said what, above. But there are more effective ways to show it.
Use said, because it's invisible -- right?
Well, said is invisible to a degree, yes. But presented above -- swap out said for every thing else in bold -- it is still redundant. And it occurs so frequently it's obvious, and therefore the invisible effect said has is moot. Invisible said only applies when you use it as a scattered dialogue tag. (tagged in between other ways of showing who's speaking.)
The better way of handling dialogue is to connect the dialogue to an action tag. An action tag is when the 'speaker' does something. Something other than said, yelled, screeched, whispered, intoned, or any other verbal action.
For instance: "You can light that in here!" She snatched his cigarette from between his lips and snapped it in half.
As opposed to: "You can't light that in here!" she exclaimed, grabbing his cigarette from between his lips and snapping it in half.
Action keeps the story moving along and pretty much eliminates all redundancy -- unless, of course, it's the same action over and over.
So, going back to that original example, this is how it was originally done:
“Never ring my home this late again.”
“Wait!” She bit out the exclamation before Isolde could terminate the call. “Isolde, I swear, it is me. You came to Paris with Fintan in the spring of 1890, after Belen informed you that I had taken up residence with your brother. The four of us dined at Maxim’s.” Solène gripped the edge of the table top, squeezed her eyes shut and said a silent prayer Isolde would believe. She had to. She must.
“This is…impossible,” Isolde murmured.
“No. No, it isn’t.” She shook her head adamant. “When I excused myself to the ladies’ room, you followed. You begged me to leave Taran.”
And from that moment on, they had become the dearest of friends.
In the silence that followed Solène’s words, she opened her eyes and moved away from the table. Her heart thumped against her ribs, her mind churned frantic circles. No one else knew of their conversation that evening. Isolde must believe. Please, please, remember.
“Solène?” Isolde whispered.