Speech Tags and Action Tags: Part Two

Last week, we looked at the importance of having a great speech tag and action tag balance. Today, we’ll discover four tips that will help us achieve that balance.

Use Vivid Speech Tags

Using vivid speech tags such as pant, wheeze, mutter, hiss, spit, screech, rattle, gag, etc. help paint a picture in our reader’s head. Like I discussed last week, they can show instead of being “telly.” Click here to read a bit more about that.

Use Action Tags That Contribute

I mean, why would you focus on your character chewing gum in the midst of a life or death situation? When writing dialogue, pick action tags that contribute to the overall mood and goal of the scene. Don’t focus on your character fiddling with a pen unless it means something to the scene, such as your character feeling idleness, nervousness, or agitation.

Throw In Some Monologue

Because I write in first person, I love throwing monologue into my dialogue. It gives the reader a deeper understanding of what the character is feeling by showing them what’s going on in the character’s head. Take, for example, the snippet below:

“Hailey, truth or dare?” Jason shoves his hands in his pockets. 

I close my eyes. Not this again. I can’t afford to pick either. “Jason, I—”

“No.” His jaw clenches. “No. For once, let me talk.” He takes a step toward me. “Truth or dare?” 

I don’t think. Shaking like a windblown leaf, I whisper, “Truth.”

Jason doesn’t hesitate. “Do you love me?”

*whispers* Obviously, I’ve been reading The Language of Sparrows. =) But anyways, with Hailey’s monologue in the scene, her feelings deepened, and the scene grew even more serious than it would’ve been when void of monologue.

It’s Okay To Use Neither

All that said, it’s totally okay to use neither action tags nor speech tags, in instances such as arguments between characters or deep conversations, like Hailey and Jason’s. Let’s take a look at how that would pan out.

“Hailey, truth or dare?” 

I close my eyes. Not this again. I can’t afford to pick either. “Jason, I—”
“No.” His jaw clenches. “No. For once, let me talk.” He takes a step toward me. “Truth or dare?” 
I don’t think. Shaking like a windblown leaf, I whisper, “Truth.”
“Do you love me?”

Sometimes, using neither speech tags or action tags make a scene more dramatic and OH MY GOODNESS DID THAT JUST HAPPEN?!?!?

Wow. This is the end to my first blog series on Notebooks and Novels. HAVE I REALLY ONLY BEEN WRITING ON HERE FOR A MONTH?!?! *calms down* I hope this series has helped you write some fabulous dialogue. Let’s talk about it in the comments section, shall we?

Do you have any tips for writing dialogue? Everyone in the universe wants to hear them! What did you think of this short series of posts? Did anyone else watch allll the Hobbit movies this week? *wipes tears from eyes* SO GOOD. Let’s chat about all things Tolkien and writing!

7 thoughts on “Speech Tags and Action Tags: Part Two

  1. LOVED this post, Micaiah! You gave some awesome tips. I'm fairly bad at writing dialogue (*cringes*) so this post was helpful to me ;). THE HOBBIT. I didn't watch them this week – but all in all, I've watched them more times than I can count. It's SO GOOD. Do you like the movies or the book better? (have you read it?) ~ Savannah scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com


  2. Oooh, these are some really helpful tips, Michaiah! AND YES THE HOBBIT. I've watched them all before, and I just can't even… *gets hit with alllll the feels* THOSE MOVIES ARE PURE EPICNESS. Did you have a favorite out of all three of the movies?-Ariel


  3. Thanks, Savannah! =D I love writing dialogue, and I'm so glad this is helpful!OF THEY ARE AMAZING. That's a really hard question… I've read the book twice, but not recently, so I'm going to say the movies. They are full of epicness. =D


  4. This was so GOOD, Micaiah! I'm definitely going to be thinking about this while I write!And oh my word, I'm jealous! #HobbitFan I'm a purist for the books, but those movies were still just absolutely amazing. ❤ Did you read or watch The Hobbit first?And since you (kind-of) gave me permission to rant about Tolkien, I just started The Silmarrillion this week, and it's BEAUTIFUL!P.S. I saw a bumper sticker today that said "I was a Cubs fan, before it was cool". Made me think of you. 🙂


  5. Thank you, Hanna! =D #Hobbitfanwithyou I watched the first movie when it came out and was like omigoodness I have the book why haven't I read it yet?! Oh, I really need to read it! Have you read The Children of Hurin, or any other Tolkien writings?Aw, that's the best bumper sticker ever. =)


  6. I've read The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, and now part of The Silmarillion. And Unfinished Tales is gathering dust on my bookshelf until I find time for it. *insert guilty and apologetic glance at book*Have you read The Children of Hurin? I'm don't remember hearing about that one, though the name Hurin is familiar. . .


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