Today’s guest post is from Ryan Lanz, an avid blogger and author of The Idea Factory: 1,000 Story Ideas and Writing Prompts to Find Your Next Bestseller. For more on Ryan and his work you can check out his blog or find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.
Writers use dialogue tags constantly. In fact, we use them so often that readers all but gloss over them. They should be invisible. However, there are ways to misuse them and make them stand out.
In an effort to avoid that, let’s take a closer look at dialogue tags. Toward the end of “Tag Travesties” is something I sorely wish someone had told me before I started writing.
A couple of years ago I was working on a novel and having the hardest time with the main character. I felt him so strongly, but he wouldn’t talk to me. I could see him clear as day. I knew what kind of music he loved, the exact shade of his green eyes, the way he obsessively rolled his socks. But all I had were those types of details, the ones that could be gleaned through pure observation. He wouldn’t voluntarily share anything else with me—not his past, not his current motivations, and sure as hell not his plans for the future.
You think you know your main character so well. You know where she came from, where he went to school, the name of her chosen dagger, and why he never goes to bed before three in the morning. But if you think you know everything there is to know about your character, think again. To write really juicy, complex characters you’ve got to get in there and peel back their masks.