Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/newsletters/action/archives/id/11713
Short Stories: December 28, 2022 Issue [#11713]

 This week: And the beat goes on...
  Edited by: Lilli ☕️ 🧿
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Table of Contents

1. About this Newsletter
2. A Word from our Sponsor
3. Letter from the Editor
4. Editor's Picks
5. A Word from Writing.Com
6. Ask & Answer
7. Removal instructions

About This Newsletter

A dialogue tag, also known as an attribution, is a small phrase either before, after, or in the middle of actual dialogue that indicates the speaker. Dialogue tags are words or phrases that can be used to describe speech.

Action beats are short descriptions that come before, between, or just after dialogue.

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Letter from the editor

Whatever type of fiction you write, you’ll almost certainly need to include some dialogue. Including dialogue in your story can bring your characters to life.

Setting out dialogue correctly, though, can be tricky — and even some experienced writers make mistakes. While the exact layout of your words, and the difference between using a comma and a period, may seem fairly academic, correctly set dialogue makes your reader’s life easier and can definitely draw your readers into the story.; connecting them to your characters.

I recently read an article that was written by an editor that stated when a character performs an action at the same time as speaking, the action should be a separate sentence.

For example:

"I just don't want to go shopping!" Karen huffed dramatically.

"Fine. Then stay home." Susan shrugged.

In these examples, Karen huffed dramatically and Susan shrugged are not really 'dialogue tags' because they show action from the character. They are called 'action beats'. (The above examples are action beats.)

Let's look at the same sentences, but with dialogue tags:

"I just don't want to go shopping," Karen said.

"Fine. Then stay home." Susan replied.

Now, I'd never claim to be an expert when it comes to dialogue, but using action beats seems to add a lot more to the story and the character's overall disposition at that moment. Action beats enrich characters' voices by telling us about their emotions, their movements, and their intentions while they're speaking.

Action beats can be mood indicators, as well. In real life, we express what we’re feeling or sensing, for example, sadness, pain, and frustration, with our bodies as much as our voices. Emotions manifest physically.

In fiction, complementary action beats can enrich the reader’s understanding of character emotions but without clumsy dialogue tags or adverbial modifiers that might distract from the dialogue.

Let's look at more examples...

"See these?" She dangled the earrings inches from my nose and then tossed them over the fence. "If you want them; go get them."

I think you get the idea. So, let's move on to the proper way to format action beats in your story.

*Exclaim* Before the dialogue
The action beat ends with a full point. An opening speech mark follows. The first word of the dialogue takes a capital letter.

*Bullet* He jabbed at the chintz curtain. "This is the problem. My gran thought this was modern."

*Exclaim* After the dialogue
The dialogue finishes with a full point followed by a closing speech mark. The first word of the action beat takes a capital letter.

*Bullet* "This is the problem. My gran thought this was modern." He jabbed at the chintz curtain.

*Exclaim* Within the dialogue
You have several choices about how to handle this depending on where the beat goes and what punctuation style you choose.

*Bullet* mid-sentence:
“This,” he jabbed at the chintz curtain, “is the problem. My gran thought this was modern."

*Bullet* Between complete sentences
In this case, the beat interrupts the dialogue between sentences. This is how it works:

"This is the problem." He jabbed at the chintz curtain. "My gran thought this was modern."

In Summary
Using action beats enriches the emotionality of your characters’ speech and adds interest to your writing. Think about how they can anchor the dialogue in a physical space, and whether they’ll provide an alternative to a speech tag so we know who’s saying what. However, watch out for oft-repeated phrases that turn beats from pop to pattern.

Editor's Picks

Cornelius Searches for Help  (13+)
Cornelius has a problem that he can't fix.
#2282945 by Maddie Seven Leaf Clover-Stone

 Invalid Item 
This item number is not valid.
#2286849 by Not Available.

Opening the Jar of Tomato Sauce  (E)
Short story about accepting help... and opening a jar of tomato sauce.
#2286722 by Eliza West

This came to me after I saw the news.
#2280053 by Penelope Moonbeam

Here are a few resources:

Kiya's Big Book of Writing Guidelines  (E)
For all tips and guidelines to help improve your writing skills.
#1299892 by iKïyå§ama

36 Amateur Writers' Mistakes   (13+)
Aspects of story craft to work on if you want to pro-publish or to sell if self-published
#2245630 by A E Willcox

Grammarama  (13+)
A library featuring commonly committed errors of the English language.
#890221 by Davy Sharkraken

*Quill* Don't forget about "The Quills!

Nominations for the 2022 award year are being accepted until January 10, 2023.

Quill Nomination Form 2023  (E)
Nominate someone for a Quill!
#2145930 by Lilli ☕️ 🧿

Submit an item for consideration in this newsletter!

Word from Writing.Com

Have an opinion on what you've read here today? Then send the Editor feedback! Find an item that you think would be perfect for showcasing here? Submit it for consideration in the newsletter!

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Ask & Answer

Responses from "Say That Again...:

Thank you for reading and taking the time to reply. I am grateful for your support, comments, and suggestions.

Annette wrote:
The list of words to replace "said" is very useful. Personally, I enjoy it when I read something in which the writer gives spoken words a little extra oomph with the speech tag.

There is the school of "it should always be: said" because it doesn't slow down the reading. That type of thinking treats fiction writing like drafting a business contract that has to describe things without any emotion.

Damon Nomad wrote:
Excellent advice, one of my review steps after a complete first draft is to go back through and look for more active verbs and character behavior. It helps bring the story alive, for example...he sat down. Well okay, the reader understands. When you read, he plopped down or he sunk into the chair, you can communicate some emotion and make for a more enjoyable read This is especially important for short stories.

John wrote:
I really enjoyed this newsletter. The Letter from the Editor was great and very helpful. I made a printout of the helpful words so I would have them handy while I wrote. Thank you. John

brom21 wrote:
Whenever my mom reads my stories, she finds my choice of words to be too hard to comprehend. She is not much of a reader and she does not write so it is understandable. But for us writing/reading connoisseurs, it is advantageous to use a variety of words that best articulate our intentions. I love using a rich palate of vocabulary to express myself. It's been my passion since junior high school. Thanks for the NL!

buddhangela's Brave & Crazy wrote:
I love this S. King quote you began the newsletter with: “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” I read a book this past weekend (one of Steven's) and after I finished it, I realized that there had been no physical description of the characters that didn't have something to do with the plot – and I didn't notice. My mind supplied images of the main characters throughout the story based on each character's personality, and it was seamless. So yes, give your readers' imagination some credit. We don't need to describe every detail for them – where's the fun in that?

Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈 wrote:
I agree with you about using a variety of words and not over-using common words like "said." However, there's always Elmore Leonard's third rule of writing: "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue."

There's also his fourth rule: "Never use an adverb to modify the verb 'said'…he admonished gravely."

I tend to be adverb-phobic, so I like the second one better. Taken together, I think his advice is to keep your writing direct and simple rather than providing absolute rules. I think this helpful newsletter does the same thing. Thanks for an interesting and helpful newsletter!

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