Showing posts from April, 2011

Said versus dialogue tags

Dialogue tags let your reader know who is speaking; they are a way of giving clarity to your dialogue, especially when you have several characters talking within a scene.    The tags are not essential in every line of speech – especially when you have only a couple of characters talking, but you can use them occasionally just to remind your reader who is speaking. The argument of said versus other dialogue tags has rumbled on for eons.   The one thing I have found with fiction writing is that some things are good in moderation, and constructing fiction is always subjective, so it is entirely up to the writer what he or she wants to use.   Said’ The most overused tag is ‘said’.   You might think there is good reason for that, after all, we’re taught this in English classes from an early age.   Its use, however, can sometimes grate on the nerves if you have nothing else in terms of dialogue tags to give to the reader. Despite many teachers and editors advising to do away with too ma

Common sentence errors and how to eliminate them

With an understanding of what makes good sentences, it will be easier to weed out the common errors that can creep into sentence structures. Everything from non-parallel sentences, fragments, ambiguity and hanging participles, misplaced commas and so on. Vigilance at the editing stage should eliminate all of these. Without changing these kinds of errors, your writing will remain terrible, clunky and stilted. Parallel sentences - In fiction writing, a parallel sentence means there is a balance of sentence structure. That means that similar words, phrases, or clauses should be the same in a list within a sentence and the way to join parallel structures is with the use of coordinating conjunctions such as "and" or "or." It probably sounds more complicated than it actually is.  The balance is lost when a mixture of gerunds (words with ‘ing’) and verb forms are put together. Take these examples: He liked to run, to keep fit, and swimming. He liked swimming and to

Part 3 – Sentences and dialogue

Creating the right rhythm for dialogue sentences is just as important as ordinary sentences within the narrative. How you break up speech, how you punctuate it, how you show the reader who is speaking, requires skill. Effective dialogue greatly depends on how you structure your sentences. They can end up becoming clunky or stilted without you even noticing, if you are not careful, but these things can be easily amended at editing stage. Dialogue Sentence Structures Speech tags show the reader who is speaking, but sometimes, new writers frequently add speech tags to dialogue which are not actually required. For example: Peter climbed out the car and put his sunglasses on. ‘Let’s check out our new house,’ he said . The problem here is the tag placement. By telling the reader at the beginning of the sentence that Peter climbed out the car, the reader knows who is talking. This means the ‘he said’ is not required. If you make it clear who is speaking, then you don't need to

Part 2 - How do you structure sentences?

Understanding how sentence structures work should help you build better sentences. But it’s not just about knowing the different types of sentences that can improve your writing – simple, complex and compound sentences -sometimes it is about how we ‘hear’ the sentences when we read them aloud, or when we read them at editing stage that we often find errors. Often when we look at our sentences, some may not look right. When we read them we might trip up, or stall, or they just don’t make sense – so something isn’t right. This instinct is correct most of the time– it doesn’t look right because invariably it isn’t. That’s why some sentences work better than others. As an example, let’s take a section of the above sentence and see which of the following sentences works better.  The first one is what I was originally going to write and the second one is the one I chose: Most of the time, this instinct is correct. This instinct is correct most of the time. While both sentences are p

Part 1 - Sentence Structure

Understanding sentences How do you know that writing a sentence in a different way is better than your original? Does it sound right, does it read better, does it make the point? More importantly, is it grammatically correct? We’re not born with the ability to tell the difference between good sentences and bad ones; it is something the writer learns, with practice, and over time, the writer begins to understand the concept of fitting the right words and ideas together. Sentences not only read better, but also sound better. Creating the right sentences with the right words is an art form and it is one of those important elements in fiction writing that give a writer a sense of style and voice. We write our sentences without thinking about the technical side of sentence construction, but to fully understand and appreciate sentence structure, writers have to understand the form of language and grammar - this is important when creating narrative.  There are several sentence patt