Saturday, May 19, 2012

Speech Tags . . . or Evil Tells

Okay, so I've decided that speech tags are evil tells! So often I have seen stories where the authors are lazy and use their tags to tell the reader how the character feels, instead of showing them. I try to avoid telling my readers how my characters feel, instead using their expressions and actions to show them instead.

Then, you also have to consider the common view that using tags other than said or asked is gratuitous as well, and distracting to the reader. Said and asked are so common that most readers don't see them.

The problem?

They don't show the reader what is going on with your character physically.

There are so many things to consider in writing!

Where my ruminations have left me . . . speech tags are to be avoided; they're like evil little speedbumps for readers, and I don't want that in my writing. I use them occasionally but try to stick to said or asked when I do so. Typically I'll use actions or thoughts from my characters to show the reader what is going on instead since it feels so more immediate.


"That's not fair!" she cried in petulant anger. (I know she's angry, but only because I'm told. Not as visual)

"That's not fair!" she said.  (This doesn't have nearly enough emotion, even with the exclamation point)

"That's not fair!" She glared at me with her lip stuck out in a little pout as her foot stomped sharply on the floor. (Did you get that I'm writing a little girl throwing a temper tantrum this time?)


  1. Thank you sooooooooo much.
    I've been told not to make the reader feel some way but I didn't get the point. Now I did.
    You're my idol!

  2. Awww, nostalgiclikeyou, I'm so glad it helped you! Lately I've tried to focus on really letting my characters tell the story without my interference. Instead of telling the reader their emotions, I try to show it through physical cues. Stomping versus strutting versus tiptoing all make you think of different types of behavior even though they all mean walking, right?

    People act in certain ways when they are mad, or happy, or horny, sad... and you just have to consider those cues. A confident person would flirt by touching the other person and licking their lips, right? A shy person might flirt by looking up through their lashes and biting their lip. Using specific actions, and then creative verbs such as the different synonyms for 'walk', can all show your reader your character's personality and feelings.

    Good luck on your writing, nostalgiclikeyou, the best way to learn is by doing!!


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