All About Dialogue Tags

Dialogue tags are important and essential to use in every story we write. Are they always needed? No, but we do need them from time to time in order to know which characters are talking to each other or to themselves. So this post is all about dialogue tags.

All About Dialogue Tags | Creative Writing | Writing Tips | Writing Advice | RachelPoli.com

What is a dialogue tag?

A dialogue tag is a tag that goes before, in between, or after a piece of dialogue. It’s that little quip that says, “he said” or “Rachel cheered.”

How do you use dialogue tags?

Well, as I said they can go before or after the dialogue or in between it. Depending on where you put the tag, you need to make sure your punctuation is correct to go along with the dialogue. For example…

Rachel asked, “Where were you last night?”

“Why are you asking?” Chase replied.

“Well,” Rachel sighed, “you didn’t answer any of my phone calls.”

When do you use dialogue tags?

This is sort of like personal preference but also you need to read your manuscript and see what makes sense.

If there’s two characters speaking to each other and the banter is quick, one right after another, you can get away without using dialogue tags. Of course, use them in the beginning to make sure your readers know who is speaking.

“I didn’t know you were trying to call.” Chase said.

“Um, maybe you should check your phone then?” Rachel replied.

“What did you want, anyway?”

“It doesn’t matter now.”

If there’s a lot of detail and description in between the dialogue, a tag doesn’t hurt to remind your readers who’s speaking next. Also, if there are more than two characters speaking with one another, it’s a good idea to use tags so they knows who’s talking.

“What’s all the bickering about?” Chip asked.

“I think Chase is hiding something from me.” Rachel answered.

“It’s not just from you.” Chase replied.

“See?” Rachel exclaimed.

“Guys, please…” Chip sighed.

Overall, dialogue tags are a great way to convey the message to your readers about who is speaking and how they’re saying it. Though it’s not always needed and your readers can always infer based on what they already know.

Do you use dialogue tags a lot? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

Blog Signature | RachelPoli.comPatreon | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double JumpSign up for Rachel Poli's Newsletter and get a FREE 14-page Writing Tracker! | Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

Advertisements

Creating Characters: What’s Your Favorite Part?

Creating characters for your novels isn’t necessarily an easy task, but it’s important and it can be fun.

We talked a lot about characters this month. There’s a whole lot more to explore when it comes to characters, but I think we covered a decent amount. I’m sure there will be another month when I discuss characters again. (That means, yes. Yes, there will be another character-orientated month.)

So, I’m asking a simple question today. What’s your favorite part about creating characters?

creating-characters-favorite-part

A lot goes into bringing character to life and making them unique from other characters in your novel and other characters from other novels written by other people.

First, there’s the physical description. How long do you spend trying to decide whether or not your protagonist has brown, blonde, or purple hair? Did they get their green eyes from their mother or father? Or maybe from her great-great-aunt?

What kind of clothes do they wear? Do they always try to look presentable or do they just not care? Make-up? Jewelry?

How tall or short are they? Are they a twig or husky? Do they have a huge nose or teeny-tiny ears?

Then, there’s the personality. Are they self-conscious about that huge nose? Or do they not care what others think about them?

Are they nice to everyone or just their close friends? Are they pleasant to be around? Do they have any normal/weird habits or hobbies? What’s their favorite anything? Food, clothes, color, etc.

Third, you have their background story. What’s their family and home life like? Do they have any friends? A large group or just one best friend?

How did they get to where they are today? What kinds of decisions do they make?

Now here’s the important question: do you like to plan your characters out, like I just did above, or do you like free writing and see where they take you?

I think writing characters is so much fun because you can place them in certain worlds and situations that you can’t normally be part of. Your characters are a little piece of you and you live vicariously through them.

So, what’s your favorite part about creating your characters? Let me know in the comments below!

rachel poli sign off

Twitter | Bookstagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double Jump

newsletter-signature

Why Does Your Protagonist Matter?

Characters are the heart of your story and the protagonist is everything. The protagonist is the one who drives the story forward, who advances and overcomes the plot, who makes your readers fall in love and want more from you and your cast.

But how do you choose the “right” protagonist? How do you decide which character in your mind is capable of playing the lead role and capturing the hearts of your many readers?

Why does your protagonist matter to the story, to the readers, to you?

protagonist

Who is the protagonist?

The protagonist can be the hero or main character in your story. They’re the one who’s outcome matters most. There would be no story without them.

How do you choose your protagonist?

Do you have your plot laid out? Okay, now let your characters decide.

You can choose a character to be the center of the story, but the cast will ultimately choose themselves. Like I’ve explained many times before, I originally had George the protagonist of my mystery series. And, while he’s still one of the main characters, the female main character took over and decided to be the protagonist instead.

And the story is much better that way, I have to say.

You may not know your characters until halfway through the story, but the protagonist will present him/herself when the time is right. You’ll soon come to realize which character you’ve been favoring over the others and who makes the important decisions around the plot.

What makes an awesome protagonist awesome?

Their personality

All characters in a story much have unique personalities making the readers love or hate them. They all must have a goal in mind, but your protagonist must be the one that stands out the most, that matters most to the story.

Give your protagonist a strong goal and allow them to be passionate about it. Maybe they want to save the princess (or prince) from the tower because they were childhood friends and/or they want to marry. Maybe they don’t want to save them from the tower, but they have to anyway for certain reasons.

Their background

Protagonists are usually tragic in some way or another. Don’t info-dump to your readers about your protagonist’s second birthday party (well… unless something plot-driven happened on that day, but I’m sure you know what I mean).

However, give your readers a good insight to your protagonist’s life. Their childhood, growing up, what matters most to them in life, what doesn’t matter to them at all, etc. This helps develop their personality as well as their goals in life as they strive to be the spotlight of the story.

But, you must let it all happen naturally. They know what they want.

Their relationship with the antagonist

The antagonist is the “bad guy,” so to speak. There wouldn’t be much of a plot if it weren’t for the dynamic between the protagonist and antagonist.

Whatever the antagonist does should drive the protagonist forward (or backward) in some way or another. The antagonist is one of the reasons the protagonist is going on their journey. Maybe they know each other from the past, maybe they will get to know each other when all is said and done. Or, maybe it’s just a random encounter because something else happened.

Either way, allow the protagonist to know what he/she wants and how they want to accomplish those goals.

Their decisions

Speaking of accomplishing goals, your protagonist should be the one making all the heavy decisions. I’m not saying they can’t ask for help, but they’re the ones driving the plot forward.

If something goes wrong, what will your protagonist do? If the antagoinst does something your protagonist did or didn’t expect, what will he/she do? If there’s a fork in the road and they can’t read a map, what will they do?

Allowing your protagonist to make most of the decisions allows your readers to get to know him/her and get inside their head. It makes the readers say, “I would have done that, too,” or, “Why in the world did he decide to do that? That was a stupid, they’re going to get into trouble!”

It becomes known that the protagonist is in charge of the story and they become relatable to the readers as the protagonist takes his own life, and the life of the other characters, into his own hands.

Remember…

  • Give your protagonist a goal, something to strive for.
  • Give your protagonist tragedy
  • Put all the weight on your protagonist’s shoulders
  • Allow your protagonist and antagonist to have some sort of relationship
  • Let your readers connect with the protagonist emotionally

The more you do that, the more your readers will root for the protagonist to win in the end.

How do you create awesome protagonists? What’s your favorite trait of a good protagonist? Let me know in the comments below!

Did you enjoy this post? Check out the companion post, Antagonists Are People, Too

rachel poli sign off

Twitter | Bookstagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double Jump

newsletter-signature

How To Write Characters from the Opposite Gender

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that boys and girls are different. We’re different physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I’m a girl and have no idea what goes through the mind of a boy. Boys have no idea what girls go through. We pretend we understand the opposite gender, but we really have no clue.

With that being said, it’s much easier to write in the female point of view if you’re a female yourself.

how-to-write-characters-from-the-opposite-gender

When I first started writing my mystery series, George Florence, the main protagonist was George himself. It was all in first-person, but some things just weren’t clicking with the rest of the story.

I eventually changed the point of view to third-person with George still in charge, but even that didn’t work out. With the help of my writer’s group, I came to the conclusion that even though George calls the shots for the plot, his colleague, Lilah, wants to tell the story.

I ended up rewriting the whole story, still in third-person, but as Lilah. And it is the best decision I ever made.

Why is it the best decision, though? I think it’s because Lilah’s personality is similar to mine, in certain ways. That, and she’s a girl. I can relate to her more. It’s easier for me to write her thoughts on what’s going on.

That, and I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that George is a detective and Lilah and I are not…

How to choose which gender your protagonist should be.

It’s easy to choose your own gender because you have that extra knowledge, emotionally, mentally, and physically. But, is it really what’s best for your story?

I chose to write in George’s point of view because I thought that was best for the series. Who wouldn’t want to follow around a fired detective who then decides to become a private investigator in spite of everyone else?

No one, if you can’t get his personality right.

It turned out, gender aside, Lilah is the best fit for my novel because she’s more relatable.

But what if Lilah was the detective and George was the student? George would then be more relatable to myself and everyone else. Then I would have a male protagonist on my hands and how in the world do I write as a 20-something male?

How to write as the opposite gender.

I can’t exactly tell you how to write as the opposite gender, but I can’t tell you how to research the opposite gender. Does that work?

Yeah, let’s skip this one.

How to research the opposite gender.

It’s going to take you a while to write as the opposite gender. It will only get better with practice, but in the end, you’re still a girl, not a boy. Or you’re a boy, not a girl… Either way.

However, you can do the best you can and that’s all anyone really ever asks for.

Read

Read books written in the male point of view if you’re a girl and vice versa. Pay attention to how the author wrote their protagonist. You can learn a lot from seeing what other authors have done, to a certain point.

Talk to people

Ask a family member or friend of the opposite gender about what they would do in a certain situation. Or, just ask them how they felt when they were teenagers, when they first went to college, or any other major life event.

Follow (or don’t follow) stereotypes

When people think of a teenage girl, they think of her standing in front of the mirror for long periods of time checking her hair and fixing her make-up. They’re spending all their money at the mall on new clothes, purses, and the like. Some teenage girls are like that, yes, but not everyone.

For example, I wore jeans every single day, the only day I’ve ever worn make-up in my life was my sister’s wedding, and at the age of 23 I still don’t have a purse. I carry a backpack.

With that said, stereotypes are okay to a point. However, it all depends on one thing.

Personality.

If your teenage girl doesn’t want to wear make-up when all of your female friends are saying that’s all they cared about, then fine. Your character doesn’t have to wear make-up.

Remember, this is your character. You created him/her. You know what they want and what they don’t want. You know the basic outline of how they think and act.

So, research the opposite gender. It won’t hurt you. In the end, though, just do your best and let your character be him/herself.

How do you write as the opposite gender? Are most of your characters the same gender as you? Let me know in the comments below!

rachel poli sign off

Twitter | Bookstagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double Jump

newsletter-signature

How To Write Diverse Characters and Why You Should Include Them

We’re all human, big or small, white or black. We all occupy this earth, we’re all in this together.

So, what would make your novel any different?

A diverse character is a character just like any other. Don’t write them differently because it’s something new. Don’t view them as special because you’ve added them into the story.

Just include them.

how-to-diverse-characters

Why should you include diverse characters?

  • We all want to see ourselves in stories. We want to be one with the protagonist, go on an adventure, save the world, and just escape reality for a little while.
  • It’s important for everyone to feel included. Everyone should be represented, everyone’s voices should be heard.
  • It also gives people an open mind. They recognize there are others out there who are like them and who are not like them. They feel as though they are not alone.
  • Don’t be afraid to write these characters. You may offend some people, not intentionally, but remember that people view things differently. Just do your research and do your best.
  • And, I don’t mean to get political on my blog, but with the way the world is now, we all need to come together and act as one now more than ever.

How do you write a diverse character?

I’ll admit that most of my characters are white, but that’s because that’s what I know. I know the mannerisms, the accents, the culture, and background. So, how am I supposed to write as anyone else?

Research

There are so many resources on the internet. Tumblr is a huge one, as a matter of fact. Tumblr, Pinterest, and even just Googling things give you a tremendous amount of resources at the edge of your fingertips. From various voices and accents to describing skin color and other physical descriptions, various cultures, and religions, and so much more. Just know what you’re looking for and don’t be afraid to search for it.

Talk about it

I’m sure you all have friends that come from different backgrounds than you. Study their mannerisms, ask them about their culture. Don’t be afraid to want to know more, to understand more about them.

Read

You’ve all heard of books, right? Look up books that center a protagonist that’s similar to yours and learn how that author pulled it off. Brush up on your history, as well, depending on what time period you’re writing in.

Remember, it’s one thing to add in diverse characters, but it’s another thing to add them in and actually portray them correctly.

But wait, there’s more!

What is a diverse character, exactly? So far I’ve basically just mentioned skin color and the like. But there are so many other types of people out there.

Diverse characters can include various:

  • Races
  • Ethnicities
  • Classes
  • LGBTQ
  • Medical disabilities
  • Physical disabilities
  • Mental disabilities

And I’m sure there’s a lot more that I’m missing. (Seriously, if I’m missing anything, let me know and I’ll add it.)

Give your characters, give your novel, variety. The world is a mixing cup and we have to stir it up. (And that, my friends, is from a song we sing in my preschool classroom.)

Do you include diverse characters in your novels? How do you do it? Let me know in the comments below!

rachel poli sign off

Twitter | Bookstagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double Jump

newsletter-signature