Monday, June 7, 2010

Tag-You're It

Someone told me I oughta stop giving books away in the hopes that someone would buy one. But what the heck, huh? :) Hang in there, read this through, and find a chance to WIN WIN WIN! Okay, all of a sudden Seekerville is in Vegas. How does a thing like that happen?

I've been writing a series on revisions for a finished book. Though it has occured to me more than once that people usually actually get DUMBER after taking advice from me, still I soldier on with my glorious advice giving.
I blame that on being a mother to teenagers. They never listened to me, so I just talked LOUDER.

Here’s what I look for as I give a book a final read through.
1) Grinding action to a halt--Read about that HERE
2) Consistency—Feel free to review that HERE
3) Telling--Read about that HERE
4) Dialogue tags
5) Comedy

Today, I’m writing about—Dialogue Tags

Here’s something interesting (well, to ME!).
I write dialogue first.

A lot of people hate dialogue, but I just love it. I wonder why that is? Something about being a middle child I suppose. I'll consult my psychologist and get back to you.

I like telling a story through the back and forth between two characters. Dialogue is fun for me. But it's the TAGS that make dialogue come to life. The tags make your story three dimensional.

I’m going to show you a snippet of Doctor in Petticoats, coming in July. . .three weeks from now, to illustrate how tags make dialogue come to life. AND THAT IS THE BOOK I'M GIVING AWAY!

As I write, I go into spells that are almost 100% Dialogue. I think it might be a learning disability. I'm applying for a handicapped parking sticker immediately.

Here's the set up:
Beth McClellen, a woman doctor coming home to Texas after years in school.
Alex Buchanan, a burned out army doctor who can't stand to dole out any more pain, even if it is to make someone better.
There's been a wreck on a stagecoach. Alex withdraws. Beth wades in to help.
Now, she needs another set of hands and Alex is the only one available.
Guess what? The two of them clash.

This is how I'd write it on the first draft.

Doctor in Petticoats

“We need help over here!”
The man didn’t even look up.
Beth looked down at the stage driver. “I’m going to get us some help.”
The stage driver said, “Good luck.”
She stomped to the man’s side and swatted him with his own hat.
“I didn’t exactly sneak up on you, now did I?” She hit him again.
“Will you stop that?”
“Do I have your attention?”
He nodded.
“You get up off the ground and help us, you worthless skunk.”
“Get away from me.”
“You stand up right now. I need help. I don’t care how drunk you are, how lazy you are or how stupid you are. Right now I need some muscle, and I know you’ve got it. Get on your feet and get over there and help us, or so help me I will rip your arm off and beat you to death with the bloody stump.”
“I’m not drunk.”
“Oh, puh-leeze, you expect me to believe you’re this worthless without the help of whiskey? If that’s true then I might as well shoot you here and now. Do the whole world a favor.”

Mary again:

That’s almost pure dialogue. And if I do it right--use a really well developed VOICE for each character, you can usually tell who’s talking. It’s very common for me to write-on the first run through-many pages like this. Most first drafts of scenes start with long, running strings of dialogue. I’m not saying this is the right way to do it or even a good way. It’s just MY way.

Next, I’ll go through and tag the sentences. This is a revision that needs to be made and I’m not trying to do it badly the first time, but it just seems to be how the first draft reads. Often I can't figure out who's talking...which is a bad sign that their voices aren't unique. On the second pass I’ll try and add body movements, tone of voice.

Beth surged to her feet and yelled, “We need help over here!”
The man didn’t even look up.
She looked down at the stage driver and the woman. “I’m going to get us some help.”
The stage driver shook his head doubtfully, “Good luck.”
Beth stomped to the man’s side, grabbed his Stetson off his head and swatted him with it.
“Hey!” He turned as if surprised to see her.
“I didn’t exactly sneak up on you, now did I?” She hit him again.
He shielded his face. “Will you stop that?”
“Do I have your attention, you miserable worm?” Beth threw the hat at his head.
He held his arms over his face and glared through his wrists at her.
Doing her very best to set his skin on fire with her eyes, she said, “You get up off the ground and help us, you worthless skunk.”
“Get away from me.” The skunk’s eyes flashed like he had rabies.
She leaned closer. “You stand up right now. I need help. I don’t care how drunk you are, how lazy you are or how stupid you are. Right now I need some muscle, and I know you’ve got it. Get on your feet and get over there and help us.”
The man’s eyes seemed to clear. “I’m not drunk.”
“Oh, puh-leeze, you expect me to believe you’re this worthless without the help of whiskey?” Beth jammed her fists on her hips. “If that’s true then I might as well shoot you here and now. Do the whole world a favor.”

Back to Mary:
So, that’s a little more fun. But I still need to do more. Dialogue tags are a rich source that need to be mined fully. You should show how they feel through body language. Bring the senses in. She calls him a skunk, we can develop that because our hero really stinks. What’s he wearing? How’s the weather? What’s the countryside look like around him. (I don’t include all of that in this one stretch--but the scene goes on, it got a little long for a blog post, but trust me, I include it here-eventually)
One more Time.

Beth surged to her feet. “We need help over here!”
The man didn’t even look up. He stared as if asleep with his eyes open.
Well, Beth wasn’t one to let a good temper tantrum go to waste and seriously, this afternoon had worn her out right to her last bit of restraint. . . and beyond.
Who better to punish?
She looked down at the stage driver and Mrs. Armitage, struggling to hold the injured man in place. “I’m going to get us some help.”
The stage driver looked with distaste at the other passenger. “Good luck.”
Beth whirled and used the hundred foot downhill march to get her knees to stop shaking. Not because she was afraid of this man. She still had her gun, but because the afternoon had just been more than too much.
She stomped to the man’s side and, carefully considering her approach—or maybe not so carefully—she grabbed the man’s filthy, flattened black Stetson off his head and swatted him with it.
“Hey!” He turned as if surprised to see her.
“I didn’t exactly sneak up on you, now did I?” She waled on him again.
He shielded his face. His once-white shirt tore up one side at his sudden movement. “Will you stop that?”
The sound of the ripping fabric—good grief it looked like silk—gave Beth a sense of doing the Lord’s work. She wondered how long he’d been wearing it. The cloth must be rotten to tear so easily.
“Do I have your attention, you miserable worm?” Beth threw the hat at his head.
He held his arms over his face, the bedraggled white sleeves rolled up nearly to his elbows, and glared through his wrists at her. His eyes narrowed.
It occurred to Beth that the man might be dangerous. Well, she could be dangerous, too. If he was, she’d make him sorry he showed that side of himself.
Doing her very best to set his skin on fire with her eyes, she leaned down, hoping to find a balance where she could rage at him without Mrs. Armitage hearing her. The poor woman had been through enough.
“You get up off the ground and help us, you worthless skunk.”
And wasn’t skunk just exactly the right word for the filthy pig?
“Get away from me.” The wormy, skunky pig’s eyes flashed like he had rabies.
Gritting her teeth so she could look fierce and still breathe through her mouth, she leaned closer. “You stand up right now.”
She hissed at him like a rattle snake, so she had a few animal attributes of her own. “I need help. I don’t care how drunk you are, how lazy you are or how stupid you are. Right now I need some muscle, and I know you’ve got it. Get on your feet and get over there and help us, or so help me I will rip your arm off and beat you to death with the bloody stump.”
The man’s eyes seemed to clear. Maybe she’d pierced the alcoholic fog. “I’m not drunk.”
Interesting that he hadn’t protested being called stupid or worthless or a skunk. . . what else had she called him? She’d lost track of her insults somewhere along the line.
“Oh, puh-leeze, you expect me to believe you’re this worthless without the help of whiskey?” Beth jammed her fists on her hips and straightened away from him. She had to get some air. “If that’s true then I might as well shoot you here and now. Do the whole world a favor.”

One other point to make, notice how much LONGER it gets. If you're trying to write a 100,000 word book that's a good thing.

~~~ Now to the contest. I'd like to hear what you think of dialogue. How hard do you struggle with the over use of 'he said' and 'she said'?
How many times to you over do it? His gut twisted and dived to his lower intestine, taking a right turn at his appendix before splatting against his broken heart.
His eyes flashed guilt and nerves, with just a bit of anger and despair, laced with laughter and everlasting love. (them are some busy eyes)
How addicted are you to adjectives? He said angrily. She replied sheepishly. He asked brokenly. She whispered poignently.

To get your name in a drawing for a signed copy of Doctor in Petticoats, leave a comment about dialogue tags that have tormented you--as a writer or a reader.

Disclaimer--I don't have my author's copies yet. But they should be coming in the next few weeks. I get them before the bookstores. So if you win, be patient, it'll come soon," she said. Dread lanced her stomach and lacerated her small intestine as she made a promise she might never be able to keep.

Or, if you've got another one of my books you've never read, I'll substitute any book of mine you'd like-if I have copies still," she hedged nervously.

"I think I've still got copies of all of them." Her heart lurched as she thought of the boxes and boxes and boxes of books stacked in her small rural home. Her husband even now might be using them to insulate the attic.


  1. What a great post! I'm going to try your method because I struggle with using the same tag lines. Not necessarily "he said, she said" but still as brief - "he laughed" "she smirked" "eyes filled with tears" etc.

    Can't wait to try your method!!


  2. Ahaaaa! I LOVE it, even the first one. Made me want to laugh out loud! *grin*

    The tags I particularly love are snarled and hissed. I know they're BAD but sometimes I use them anyway. Heeheee!

    I love dialogue but don't use it as much as I used to. Maybe I should get back to that. :-)

    Please enter me!!!
    jessica_nelson7590 atyahoodot com

  3. Dialogue you ask? Did you have to?

    Well, naturally I tend to have difficulty with my character's dialogue because I've discovered I tend to be heavy on the narrative. Not a good thing for your story's pace. So, I've tried to come up with a self-desiciplined way to write dialogue...I write dialogue without letting myself write anything else until I have an entire scene of dialogue and nothing else.

    Then I layer back in the tags, body language, setting, and hooks.(Sounds like what you've described as your process, huh?)

    This way works for me because it makes me think of the dialogue first . And my story's pace. And my character's goals in making their actions take them where I want them to go. I always have a clear picture of the setting and the character movements as I write because I'm very visual so this method tends to work for me too.

    Your book sounds wonderful. I would love to read it.


    ROF, LOL!!!!!

    Wait, I've got a stitch in my side, you worthless drunk.

    Can't type... Can barely breathe...

    Which would save the planet a lot of Ruthy dress downs in the future...

    Coffee. Need coffee..... Going to get some.

  5. Sounds awesome! I cannot wait for all these books to come out. [=

  6. Hi Mary!

    Dialogue comes pretty easy for me and I seldom use tag lines. Instead I use a sentence of action or emotion to emphasis their words.

    Great examples!

    RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

  7. Oh my stars, see??? I was laughing so hard that I sent that post TWICE... An apoplectic fit, no doubt.

    Mary, what a hoot. And it only makes me wish I COULD WIN, but I can't.

    He said? She said?

    Whassup wi' dat? Do people still use that? Ever?

    My problem is repetitive actions. Inclining heads, quivering chins and thrust-up eyebrows appear with surprising frequency.

    I stay away from simple past-tense tags, then when I DO use them, they have stronger effect.

    Instead of "he laughed" I might use something like:

    The laughter following his cutting remark never reached his eyes, and oh...

    Those eyes.

    Caustic. Cold. Calculating. Right until the six-week-old pup dove tail-tucked between his legs, the cat's hiss enough to send a quarter-sized spot of wetness to the polished hardwood floor. He glared at the cat, scooped up the pup and used his very own hankie to blot the tiny pee-spot, then shoved the cloth, pee and all, into his pants pocket as if puppy pee was nothing to be concerned about.

    At that moment, his hands said more than his eyes, a rarity in a man like him.

    Now the problem with THAT is that while I'm busily writing 60K books, I have to be careful where I wax poetic.

    Because we all know I TALK TOO MUCH.

    Pancake breakfast today. With either cheese topping (think crepes), fresh strawberries (yes, you may have both) fresh whipped cream (yum) real NY maple syrup and a fruit plate to the side.

    Coffee. Flavored is to your left, regular in the mega-pot to your right. Creamers, flavor shots and whipped cream as you wish.

  8. Well, I can't think of a tag in particular that irritates me but it is disconcerting when the author uses the same tags over and over through the chapters. Seriously, I have seen it happen.

    Since I have been on a winning streak with your books, I will keep myself out of this one which means I must run over to Amazon and place an order!

    Oh, and Ruth, I am in the middle of Waiting Out The Storm, where not a bad tag is to be found.

    Happy Monday all!

  9. Mary, thanks for the tag lesson.

    Do you usually fill out each scene like this before you move forward, or write multiple scenes and then flesh them out?

  10. You are too much fun, Mary. (And may I say here and now how much I LOVE the covers of your books? AND your fab sense of humor!!)


    The MC touch - a treat to read through your thought processes here. Big help! As is typical of Seekerville, I learn something every time.

    Since May on the Way is from a dog's POV, it's a bit easier to get away with "She snarled" and "He growled" but I am still working on voice so the tags are not necessary.

    I just tried "highlight all examples of the word/phrase" on the Edit tab, under "Find" and counted 147 "said's" out of 36,473 words. (Wow was that eye-opening - great tool! Now I can look for words that might catch in the reader's mind to see if I've over done it - Like "jaw" or whatever. Cool!)

    You're making me think about how I write the scenes though. I'm a panster, and going to try the Snowflake method (I think) on book 2 and see how that goes. Might not be easier on the front end, but the rewrites surely will be. I hope. Maybe. Any words of wisdom there?

    I try to avoid adverbs too. nyuk nyuk nyuk

    Congratulations on your rousing successes and yes, I'd love to read Doctors in Petticoats!!

    may at maythek9spy dot com

    PS - Congratulations to Hannah, Project Journal, on her high school graduation! WTG!

  11. Ruthy, only you would have the guts to speak of puppy pee, and offer us food in the same comment!


  12. I love it! Your dialogue is one of the best parts of your books. It always makes me laugh.

    What makes me nuts as a reader is when they don't have the identifying tags and one person speaks twice in a row. Sometimes I have to reread it to figure out which character is speaking.

    This isn't dialogue, but the use of certain descriptors makes me a little weary. Like coffee is frequently called "the strong brew" or "the bitter brew". Isn't there another word besides brew?

    And "he deepened the kiss" is a phrase that is way overused. I know it's a non-offensive way to express what's going on, but it seems like it's every author's favorite phrase.

    Not that it stops me from reading!

    I would LOVE to have a signed copy of this book.

  13. Mary, I can't tell you how excited I am that you have another book coming out so soon! she gushed like the enthusiastic fan she was.

    I put in the "he said" and "she said" tags in the the first draft but then later I usually think of something else to put in to show who's speaking and to give it more flavor.

    I'm in the middle of Wildflower Bride right now. It's so good! Your books are always so good, Mary! she continued to gush, knowing she was a shameless suck-up but not caring a whit, because if she overdoes it, she knows Ruthy will make fun of her and she will have gotten her due punishment and can go on her merry way.

    Thank goodness for Ruthy.

  14. Oh, my first draft was FULL of "he said, she said," and I couldn't believe it when I took them out and filled them in with action and better descriptions of what was going on. It really DID make it so much longer. In fact, it literally paved the way for entire new scenes, which was very helpful!

    LOVED your blog post. I will be thinking of her clobbering the poor man with the bloody stump of his arm all I look forward to getting my hands on the book and reading the WHOLE story!


  15. Good morning all,

    I think blogger is having a fit this morning - it seems to be posting everyone's comments multiple times. I believe Julie's appeared 4 times! LOL.

    I'm with you on this subject, Mary. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE dialogue! It's my favorite to read and write. I usually write the dialogue first and then go back and figure out what the characters are doing while they're talking.

    Thanks for the helpful examples. Your heroine gave me my morning chuckle. Reminds me of a friend of mine who's an ER nurse!

    Great coffee for a Monday morning.


    sbmason (at) sympatico (dot) ca

  16. Hi, my name is Tina...

    and I'm a recovering adjective addict. Unfortunately I have been oft tempted for quite, sometime.


    I have Constantly been working through the steps by The Grace if the Almighty alone, though I still stumble unintentionally, at it any given moment.

    I trust the Maker of my imagination to work mightily in my someone defunct brain to keep me from using such adjectives so hastily in my endeavor to write a story that masterfully piqued the reading public interested and has them excitedly reaching for more of my books to devour. Well, they would reach for them if I could write a fast as our course leader today.

    Thank you for graceously allowing me to share. Please enter my name in the drawing I will try no to be disheartened and act in anyway irrationally if I am not chosen. With that being said I hopefully post my information

  17. Mary, I am a die-hard dialogue lover.I write it first like you do and have to go back and make the rest of the scene come alive. I'm also an auditory learner, so I wonder if that has something to do with why I write it first. Then again, maybe it's because the characters talk so much in my head. :)

    Loved reading the progression of your scene development. This book sounds like just what the doctor ordered.

  18. Mary -- I LOVE your examples. I was already hooked with your first one and then it just kept getting better. Now I HAVE to read it. So many good books are coming out this summer!!!!!

    As to tags -- honestly, I'm beginning to believe that if I hold out long enough the tags all you published authors are avoiding today may be the cutting edge of creative when I see a book of mine in print. :-)

    I do like reading action between dialogue instead of he said/ she said. I learned that here on seekerville and have noticed how it really keeps the story moving. But I don't mind adverbs and adjectives a raised eyebrows and growling etc. It all enhances the story for me, the reader. As long as something isn't overdone and the plot is good and I'm in love with the hero and adore the heroine I'll take dialogue any way you want to dish it out!

  19. Hi Mary,
    I write dialogue first. They talk. I type fast. And my dialogue probably gets the least changes as I edit.

    Thanks for another installment of your writing tips. Great examples! I enjoy working on tags.
    Let me know if you find out what happened to Julie, okay? time warp, a key is stuck? an alternate universe?

  20. I really liked this post, great information. When I started writing I was told that I should use such endings as "she screamed" "he muttered" stuff like that and I became very proud of the fact that I hardly ever used SAID. Um, NOT! I had to go back through and cut the telling and put in dialogue tags. I don't think I overuse "said", but that remains to be seen. Usually in dialogue I read I can follow it pretty well, but I like an occasional attribution thrown in. Constant saids and adverbs are wearing though.

    Thanks for the post and a chance to win and oh BTW, I did buy one of your books once. So don't dispare, the giving away does reap it's benefits. :)

    Email in profile.

  21. I love this post--and the dialogue made me grin. I DO struggle with dialogue here and there and often use a "he said" "she mumbled" when I could add so much more to the book by inserting some action with more description.

    This post is so timely as I'm editing my story right now. Thanks. And, by the way, your book sounds wonderful :)

  22. Great post Mary, and something I'm dealing with right now. I'm in the process of adding all the tag lines to pages of dialogue, and wondering why I didn't include more while writing the first draft. One of my issues with tag lines is coming up with new and varied ones, so he isn't constantly glowering and she isn't always standing with her hands on her hips. :o)

    Thanks for the tips!


  23. Only for the Connealy-meister does Blogger go upside down, inside out, repetitive stupid....

    Connealy, what button didja push, darlin'???? Let me help...

    And that's not food, get that pig swill away from this blog right now.

    You don't invite honored guests like these in for a chat and feed them bacteria-laden pizza crusts with moldy coffee.

    Oh, yuck.

    Didja run out of carrot cake? With cream cheese frosting? And like, it's PRETEND, MARY so you could PRETEND TO WHIP ONE UP FOR OUR FRIENDS....

    Oh, sigh....

  24. I often write scenes, or parts of them, like that too. Dialogue is so often the core of the scene, propelling the action, so I like to have that down nice and solid, along with the most important stage business or action. But this made me laugh:

    "One other point to make, notice how much LONGER it gets. If you're trying to write a 100,000 word book that's a good thing."

    For me it's a bad thing. My novels blow past that 100K mark without me breaking much of a sweat. So once I get to that last stage you illustrated, I have another one, cutting back again.

    And I'm also working on tighter plotting and being ruthless about anything that is not absolutely essential to the story. My natural novel length seems to be about 150K. It takes work to squeeze my stories into a size 6-skinny corset, when they are a nicely rounded 14!

  25. Dare I echo Julie?

    Again, and again, and again???

    But I have to agree--I love, LOVE, LOVE this scene--and your whole post, in fact! What fun!

    I realized while reading this that it's sort of what I do. The deeper I immerse myself into my scene and characters, the more I start "hearing" their conversations, and it gets sort of like taking dictation.

    Then usually after several lines I go back and start working in the beats and tags. That helps the scene come to life even more, and even suggests new actions or possibly the next major scene.

    Oh, I just LOVE the writing process!!!

    When it's working properly, of course.

  26. I loved this post! That woman sounds like quite a character.
    I absolutely cannot stand when a book has too much he said/she said. It's soooooo annoying.
    Just from reading that one scene, this book sounds like something I'd like to read.

  27. Great examples, Mary! Thanks! I love "her smile shrank like woolen underwear in boiling water." Priceless.

  28. Julie,

    I love love love your post.

    The sentiments say so much more than I dared to write.

  29. Hi Mary, I am a reader so I can't say I notice tag lines that much, maybe its just me! You have to use the he said or she said quiet often to write the story but I guess it could be over done if you were not careful! Thanks for the tips!


  30. Interesting post. Some authors can definitely overdo the adjectives. The story can drag out too long and then I lose interest.

  31. Mary,

    Thank you so much for this post! That is a great example! Very funny! :)

    And what a good point about showing more about the characters AND making the story longer. I think I probably need to add more dialogue to what I write. I think I usually have more inner thoughts, and I need to have the characters interact more. And not just "he said" and "she said," like you said. ;)

    Thanks for a chance to win your book! I got Wildflower Bride for my birthday, and I can't wait to delve deeper into it soon! :)

    Have a great day!



  32. GREAT post! AWESOME scene!!! FANTASTIC dialogue!!!!! :)

    I never use "he said" "she said". Instead, I use the character's actions to cue their dialogue.


  33. lol mary--you crack me up!
    i love the "insulating the attic" true :)

    writing is WAY too much work for me...cause i woulda though the first draft was good...of course round three was great so i guess that's why they pay you the big bucks :)

    as i reader i suppose i hate pointless talk or when you don't know who is saying what

  34. as a reader I need 'he/she' said to see who is speaking; but I do agree that it can become too much of a good thing if used often in a paragraph or even a page or two.

    I don't notice them very much as others have said.

    I like your example.

    The book cover could be where I live on the Sask. prairies, lol.

  35. Great tips here.

    I try to resist my impulse to use other tags than 'said' all the time. I want to say blurted, whispered, etc.

    I'm saving all these editing tips because I'm getting very near that stage with my WIP.

    Thanks again.


    P.S. Looks like you all survived without the coffee this morning. How about a cup now? The pot's on.

  36. This post was great! I loved seeing how the diagloge evolved from the first run-through to the last.


  37. I'm loving the image of Julie just sitting there, hitting 'post comment' again and again.

    Staying calm all the while.

    Of course.


    No, maybe ROF, LOL would better describe my current actions.

    Hey, while Mary's tweaking your work for you, settle in for a glass of sweet tea, Southern style, fresh lemon and real sugar.

    In a glass jar.

    It don't get no better'n that.

  38. Thanks so much for the example Mary!

    I mostly write the dialogue sections without much tags or beats first and then go back and layer in the senses to develop the setting and characters even more. So I loved reading your example to see how you did it.

    And Mary you are really funny! Thanks for the laughs.

    EvaMariaHamilton at gmail dot com

  39. This post was terrible. Not because the lesson was terrible but because now I'm going to have to re-write so much of my book its scary!


    Oh, well. I guess I'd better get to it. Hopefully, however, I'll win the contest. Then I'll have an excuse to stop re-writing! When my husband asks why I'm sitting around, I can just say: "I'm reading Mary's new book! Want me to read it to you?" Then we'll sit on the couch and laugh until our sides ache and neither of us will accomplish much of anything.

    natashasiegrist at hotmail dot com

  40. How hospitalable (error intended cause that's where I'll be if I drink that brew you're passing off as coffee.) you are Miss Mare, I'm gonna dunk you in that river myself...

    Removing mold doesn't remove the flavor. I know this from when my mama tried it with french toast and cheese. Nothing, let me be perfectly clear nothing, removes the foul flavor.

    Thank heaven I'm not a big coffee drinker.

  41. Oh Mary, Mary sweet sweet Mary,

    Forget what I said about the river... I could no more put such a wonderful lady and author ta boot in the river.

    Then, alas, I wouldn't get to read your wonderful stories, or share your wit on the computer.

    Is that nice enough yet. Cause I'm getting all trembly

  42. I love insane men.

    They're.... adventuresome.

  43. Oh, and I dumped the coffee when Mary wasn't looking.

    It's really fresh now.

    She's such a dweeb.

  44. Oh dear, Mary.
    I'm kind of nervous to admit this again, but Ruthy will AMEN it - real loud, all the way from NY.

    I have a tendency to make my poor characters spin, jerk, twist.
    The whole "she spun around' kind of thing.
    Ruthy said it was like she had some horrible neurological problem or something like that ;-)
    can that be a character flaw?

    "through clenched teeth' drives me batty, though I still find it in my ms.
    And my characters have a tendency to smile too much. Horrible thing to admit for an optimist.

  45. Is Julie having some repetitive behaviors going on here? LOL. Her post happened like...12 times or something.
    Yeah, blogger has been crazy all day.

  46. LOL, what a fun scene! I love writing dialogue, except I've found sometimes I tend to overdo the tags, especially in scenes that need a quick snap of ping-pong words between the characters.

    forgravebooks (at) gmail (dot) com

  47. Hey Mary,
    I enjoyed your post:) I would really love to have you over on my blog sometime as a guest if you get the chance.



  48. Okay, fine, the coffee's gone. But that officially makes that horrid oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico Ruthy's fault.

    It's just the way it is. I don't make the rules.

    Julie is valiently trying to deal with a spastic Blogger. They have medication for that, but Julie is trying a homeopathic cure, first.

    OTC walnut oil. I'm very afraid for her.

    Sarah when you're trying to do a quick, snappy back and forth you need to consider every word of tags and beats very carefully. Unless they're very minimal, or very fast paced themselves, it can GRIND THE ACTION TO A HALT.

    Please refer to my earlier post on that.

  49. I am now drinking Diet Coke. I found it in a 2 liter bottle in my refrigerator with the lid off.

    It's a little flat but so what? It still tastes something like fine.

  50. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Blogger has let me leave TWO COMMENTS without dumping me.

    It is FIXED.

    It's ALIVE!!!

    Picture Dr. Frankenstein here, lightning. Wild hair, God-complex.
    That's me...except for the God-complex, I don't have that.

    The hair though, oh yeah baby.

  51. Mary said, with eyes flashing sinisterly, and smile radiating pure bad dude syndrome --- Picture Dr. Frankenstein here, lightning. Wild hair, God-complex.
    That's me...except for the God-complex, I don't have that.

    The hair though, oh yeah baby.

    Tina says-- Mare, Picturing you that way, has left me, well ... I'm scared now.

  52. I can't wait to read this book!!!

  53. This is awesome! I hate, hate, hate, dialogue! Okay, I dislike the word hate, too, but I'm trying to get my point across.

    The overuse of he said-she said drives me nuts. When I'm nervous I have a tendency to stutter, so reading all of those he saids-she saids makes me feel like I'm stuttering. Takes me clear back to grade school, not a good thing.

    Same goes with adjectives. I have a phobia where adjectives are concerned. It is a very rare occurrence to find one in my writing.

    We homeschool, and one of the books we read was Rifles for Watie. Excellent book on the Civil War, it covers Kansas volunteers as well as the split amongst the Cherokees and other tribes over North and South. Anyway, that book is filled with adjectives-very distracting. Still it was a good book.

    I don't think I'm eligible for any prizes since I just won something, but just in case here is my email.
    reneelynnscott at gmail dot com

    I love your heroine, she sounds like my kind of gal. And, boy howdy, I bet she's in for time of it.

  54. I like to think I've made as big a mess for both Beth and Mandy as any human can endure.

    It's always my goal.

    You're welcome.

  55. Hi Mary, I loved reading your examples and seeing how you write the dialogue first and then add the tags and extra descriptions that add so much to the scene.

    I've learned how to avoid using he said and she said too often, but I find my characters doing a lot of gazing or having their breath caught in their throat. I liked your unique examples.

    This sounds like a fun story!
    carrie (at) turansky (dot) com

  56. I want to win a copy. Me! Me! Me! *raises hand and jumps up and down* Did I mention, if I win, I'll feature it on my blog.
    My problem is I love dialogue so much, I try to let it tell the whole story. I always have to add tags, descriptions, and interior monologue during edits or I end up with talking heads.

  57. Ah, Tamera, that is exactly me. I have to add it later too. And change it. Add it, then go back and make it more unique, fresher.

    "It is a never ending process, which must end at last with the coming of winter. She can only hope she worked hard enough before the snow of deadlines blizzarded down on her head." She said with the diligance of an ant in the heart of grasshopper country.

  58. OMGOsh!!! Mary, I seriously needed a spew alert there at the end! :)

    And now I'm really scared. Because my first drafts are mostly dialogue just like yours. Our brains must work alike.

    Scary indeed.


  59. LoL--I LOVED this post!! =] =]

    Dialogue is my favorite part of writing! Love it! And I go about it like you do, in layers and passes. If I had to choose I'd say I like to use action beats better than tags, but I get rather repetitive. =[

  60. Always forget to leave my email. Oh well, Mary, you know I'll buy it even if I don't win it. but winning would be awful nice.


  61. Who needs blogger problems when she has to come back and type things she forgot. BLAH!

    I write dialogue first too. I have scenes written way in advance of just dialogue. Ideas come to me at the conversational level. :-)

  62. Well nuts. I was so worried Blogger would eat my comment I forgot my addy. LoL patterly atgmaildotcom

    But hey, I've gone back read the other parts of this series. ;-) Thanks, Mary! =]

  63. GREAT post Mary! I love dialogue too. It's my favorite part of writing a book! I probably need to add more dialogue tags, but I don't do the "he said" "she said" thing. It just never came naturally to my writing, and that's a good thing! I DO like a good adverb, but once I realized we aren't supposed to use them, I rarely sneak them in.

    It's the "sense" details that I forget and have to go back and add in.

  64. For all you commenters on my repetitive comments (Ahem ... Ruthy, Mary, PEPPER ...)

    If nothing else the same comment repeated 12 times shows my persistence, diligence and love for Mary.

    Nuff said, I'm done.


  65. She's got you all fooled.

    Oh my stars.

    Did she not see the recall on flat diet Coke? That the carbonation, once gone, allows caustic chemical build-up which in turn hardens arteries beyond repair?

    Ah, well.

    If nothing else, Mary handles pain WELL.


    Pepper, I meant all that in my most HELPFUL way, darling.

    of course.

    And I haven't hardly insulted you in weeks. And I like your new pic THIS much.

    And Patty's just adorable.

    And Beth and Mandy want Mary to know they LOVE, LOVE, LOVE being in Connealy books.

    That's all I'm sayin'.

  66. Y'all are so funny, especially Pepper. I'm always forgetting, and I can't blame that on Blogger.

  67. What an awesome post. It reminded me of 'layering' during the winter months. :)

    One thing that bothers me as a reader is when an author uses "she said" or "he said" when it is obvious who is talking.

    I have always been good with dialogue but it's the glue to hold the dialogue together that I tend to have problems with.

    I have yet to read any of your books yet Mary but plan to in the very near future. I hear such wonderful things about your work.

    I would love to win a copy of any of your books. Thank you for the opportunity.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  68. Aww Ruthy,
    I know you only insult the ones you love. ;-)
    And with such wit, how can I not beg for more.
    Really. ;-)

    You made my night saying that I'm funny. What a sweet thing to say. I've always just thought it was plain weirdness, but funny sounds a whole lot better.

    I'm off to schedule clients for summer clinic - anybody want to trade lives for about a day?

  69. Great stuff, Mary! I printed your blog off and plan to use it in the future. Thanks for sharing your secrets.

  70. Today's winner will be announced on the weekend edition.

  71. I love the way you compared the three. I will print this post and use it for reference. I get caught up in her voice, her skirts, she walked over and she.....that kind of stuff, and then I read it back and say no-no. Thanks for your advice. It was great!

  72. "Mary, This post was so helpful to see how you fleshed out your characters in steps," Sandra cooed in awe. "Great example and I can hardly wait until Doctor in Petticoats comes out." she jumped up ran to the computer to find the date.

  73. Sally's next, coming in October with Wrangler in Petticoats, then Mandy's story (I spend two books just getting her into the most trouble imaginable) is book #3 Sharpshooter in Petticoats.

    Truly Mary, you ARE hilarious. Can't wait! (ok - I have to wait but you know what I mean.)

    and Pepper, I thought you were funny too (not as funny as Mary though, hey we're sucking up to her today right?) but I didn't get back here in time to say it first.


  74. Mary, I loved your post. I don't like a lot of he said, she said as it can be very confusing to me. I loved the way your example shows how the diagloge evolved from the first run-through to the last. I like the last the best. I liked her telling him she was going to rip off his arm and beat him with it. lol. So funny, I could just see it.
    I need to read all your books as this one sounds hilarious and I do enjoy reading books that make me laugh.
    Thanks for the tips from a want to be writer.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

  75. The books I have read so far by Mary Connealy have been very entertaining and good! This one sounds interesting as well.

    I like reading dialog if it's not five pages of one conversation with no activity. I don't mind "he said" and "she said" sometimes, but it helps if it is accompanied by action in the scene.

    For example one might say, "........," she said while tipping her coffee mug to her lips to catch the final swallow.

    I like to know what the people are doing. Are they sitting? If they are sitting on a couch I like them to shift around, trace patterns in the upholstery, something to break up the endless pages of dialog.

    The phrases I don't understand are "his eyes slid shut" and his brows flew to his hairline". How, may I ask, does any man accomplish either of these fetes? Make you dialog tangible, but not confusing.


  76. I'm so excited about this book! :D

    I remember struggling with dialog tags in my Creative Writing class. My teacher insisted that we use the correct word for dialog tags. For example, he said that you cannot laugh a sentence; therefore you cannot use "'Oh, wow!' he laughed." That drives me CRAZY! I think that if the dialog tag describes what the situation calls for, then use it! :D

  77. I am able to write with dialogue, and I am able to correctly use quotation marks. My difficulty is not being vary identifying the speaker. The "he said", "she said" gets boring really fast. I need to include variation to make my work better.

    I would love to win this book! Thank you!

  78. Ahh! Dialogue is not my strong suit. I try to give characters a voice of their own, but it comes out all the same.

    Please enter me in the contest. :-)

  79. I usually only really notice dialogue tags while reading if they are repetitive or they are unusual, otherwise they are just part of a flowing story. 'He said' 'she said' can get confusing when there are multiple he's and/or she's. When writing anything I tend to overuse certain favorite words that apparently get stuck in my head. Can't think of any particular words or phrases right now though.


  80. I am only a reader and not a writer but was so amazed at how you changed your first dialog which I thought was fun to read and it only got better and better. It was fun to see how writers change an idea to really draw the picture for the reader. Your descriptions are entertaining! Thanks for the insight into how you write

  81. as a reader, i dislike 'he said'/ 'she said.'

    great posting.

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com