I’m about to be on the road for a while, taking my daughter on a college tour through the Southeast. I’ll try to post regularly from the road, but I won’t have as much time for longer posts. So, as kind of an experiment, I’m trying out something new today: Flash Writing Tips!
Flash Writing Tips are just what they sound like: Short tips that I can write quickly, and that you can read and put to use just as quickly.
Flash Tip Number One builds on the post I did a while back on said-bookisms. If you’re looking to improve your dialogue attribution, try this simple exercise (simple to explain, not so simple to execute): Write a scene between two characters, either characters from your work-in-progress, or characters you make up just for this exercise. And when you write the dialogue, do not use any phrase of direct attribution. No “she said” or “he asked” or anything else that explicitly tells the reader that “so and so just uttered these words.” Certainly do not use any said-bookisms (if you’ve forgotten just what those are, use the link above to refer back to the said-bookisms post). Instead use gestures, facial expressions, and other descriptive passages to convey who is doing the speaking. So that instead of saying this: “I wish we’d never met,” Cassie said angrily. You might try saying this: Cassie glared at him. “I wish we’d never met.”
The first uses direct attribution, and does too much telling rather showing. The second uses indirect attribution and is, in my opinion, far more evocative. Anyway, give this a try. It doesn’t have to be more than a page or two. But I bet that it will give you a new sense of you might spice up these kinds of scenes.