Some authors always use dialogue tags, some use them only when necessary, and some never use them. Granted, I can often deduce who is talking by what they say, or I can simply alternate voices back and forth on every line when only two people are involved, but not always. Sometimes (as in the case of these authors), the same character will speak twice in a row, in different paragraphs. I don’t realize this until I am hopelessly confused and have to go back and reread the text several times and play detective to figure out what the hell is going on. Sometimes, more than two characters speak and from what they say it is not always clear who said it. This especially occurs at the beginnings of books, when the characters are still new to me and I don’t know much about them. Attributes must be repeated or related to other attributes for them to sink in. Some authors don’t use dialogue tags, but at least mention some behavior or description of the speaker in the same paragraph. I’ve done this on occasion, but sometimes I want it known what one character does and what another character says (both responses to something else) and it seems awkward to have a string of several one-sentence paragraphs when they could just as easily be grouped together. Numerous times in many books I have to reread sections of dialogue to figure them out, and in some books I never make sense of it. It makes understanding the plot very difficult.
I’ve noticed all these phenomena and yet my reading comprehension is better than average. Sometimes I miss hints, but I notice that most people miss more than I do. For this reason, I continually remind the readers that the main character in most of my writings (Nathaniel) is not human, but a small, feathered dinosaur. For this same reason, I almost always use dialogue tags. Some people appreciate this. I have been told that too much description and narration can bog down a story, while dialogue keeps the action moving quickly. I have been told in the past to use synonyms for “says,” such as responds, replies, asks, snorts, laughs, and commands to liven up the text and give richer information that way instead of through direct description. It is simply not enough to explain to the reader whether a statement is a command or not to merely say that the character raised his voice. One must also know the pitch and the exact rate of change in volume over time for each word uttered to know commanding from pleading and facial expression descriptions might not apply for creatures without faces. Through years of practice, I have perfected this style of always using dialogue tags, receiving only positive feedback (about the style, anyway – negative feedback about other things).
Strangely, I recently encountered some who do not appreciate this and I have now been told by many of those in the business of writing and publishing that this style is cumbersome and nauseous. I have even been told that it is “wrong” to do it this way. So now I don’t know what to think. Is the reason that some authors write crappily that they were taught the readers would be turned off otherwise?
I have been told that my writing reads more like an animated television series than a novel. Since I always play the action out in my mind as I read the work of others, I was never aware of the difference. I’m still not sure I understand it even now. I have neither the time nor funding – or frankly, the patience – to create video. Writing is a more natural medium for me and I love the artistic elements of the challenge of using mere text to represent things such as the motion of three-dimension objects. I think of it as an Olympic sport where I am graded on gracefulness. This is in fact one of the reasons I like to read; I appreciate the artistic skill of others as they capture a story in mere words. I expect that one day I will license others to make videos of my work, but the writing must come first or else there will be nothing to make a video of.
For now, the dialogue tags are here to stay, but what do you think?