Writer’s Sword

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Dialogue & Tags

Dialogue is meant to move the story along, provide a window into the personality and behavior of a character, as well as show how they develope. It shouldn’t bore the reader nor slow the plot.


1) Dialogue should be custom to a character. The reader should be able to figure out who is speaking without a tag.

Ex. A child would typically have a limited vocabulary and simplier thought/word process than that of an adult. A teen would usually use more slang.

2) Keep it short and sweet. People speaking doesn’t always need much detail.

3) Don’t go too far into clichès. Even if you think your plot isn’t, don’t cross the dialogue line.

Ex. “Why do I do this?” the villian cackled, “I do it because it was you who took everything from me! You and your kind pestered me, shoved me over the edge! Now, I will kill you, and get my revenge!”

Villian proceeds to get beat, something that wouldn’t happen if they had simply killed the one they spoke to.

-Dialogue Tags-

1) Don’t use the same tag over and over again. Find synoyms for the word you want to use.

Ex. Replace say/said with:

Yell(ed), cry(ied), scream(ed), snap(ped), call(ed) out, etc.

2) Show movement/interaction. Most people aren’t stiff and motionless as they speak; use hand gestures, body language, shoving, hitting, throwing, etc.

Ex. “You lied to me. You took my faith, and shattered it!” Damien said.

“I’m sorry...” she replied.


“You lied to me,” Damien seized her by the throat, slamming her against the wall, “You took my faith and shattered it!”

“I’m sorry...” her voice was strained, choked by the cold hand that held down her breath.

3) Tags aren’t always required. If there’s more that two speakers, it adds clarification, but if it’s only two, it’s much easier to see who says what with or without a tag. A dialogue tag shouldn’t get it the way, but instead who says what and possibly why or how.

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