Is it a “thing” now to treat dialogue tags as interchangeable with characters’ actions (punctuating them the same way, etc.), and if so, when did this happen? Why did it happen? Whom do I need to thwap upside the head with a metaphorical cyber-fish to make it stop?
Something like this: “Hi,” he walked into the room, grinning like a fool, “You look like you’re about ready to quit,” he looked around at the rest of the people gathered with me, “this is against the rules, bringing friends to help, you know that, why are you trying to cheat?”
I’ve been reading a sci-fi novel that’s interesting in terms of plot and characters and setting, and the writing is reasonably good for the most part, but this one problem has become more and more frequent as I read further (as if the early chapters were edited more diligently than the later ones), and it is getting on my last nerve. If the writing wasn’t generally done well, I’d chalk it up to the author being unskilled in the grammar-and-punctuation department, but when this particular type of wonky punctuation happens again and again and again, and it’s the only frequently recurring glitch in the writing, I have to assume it was done by choice… And I want it to stop.
It’s like hearing someone speak when all their pronunciations and inflections are off; the words mean something, but it’s more work than it ought to be to figure out what that meaning is.
Admit it: you’d worry if I didn’t go on at least a small rant about editing-related issues from time to time. 🙂 It has been two full weeks since the previous one, so I figured there was another due.
Just because I feel like sharing it, here’s another fragment of dialogue from a story I’ve been trying to write lately. If there are any plot spoilers, they are small enough not to matter. Besides, “that novel” won’t be published at least until after The Madness Engine, and possibly not until after Project Brimstone, too; the concept of both “up” and “sideways” being metaphorical directions characters may travel won’t be a surprise to our readers by then.
“Hardly,” he said, and sighed. “I’m better off being a nobody, though. Not worth bothering with, just the sidekick, no need to kill or interrogate me, I know nothing. Well, okay, I know where Jon lives –“
“You’ve been there. You don’t know how to get there. Big difference.”
“Someone could pry that information out of my cold, dead brain…”
“You read too much science fiction.”
“Says the man who just spent half a year on another planet — in another universe.”
The first speaker in this snippet, he should enjoy being a nobody while he can. (Dramatic irony is fun — for authors and readers, anyway. I’m sure characters hate it.) This part of the story is an interlude between one narrowly averted apocalypse and another, and he’s going to be right in the middle of things in the aftermath of the next one.
I’ve noticed that when writing first drafts/notes, I tend to focus on either dialogue or narration rather than mixing the two. The earlier part of this scene was almost all narration; after a few (long) paragraphs, I switched to dialogue with minimal tags/actions and no description at all. (This is because I, non-linear-thinking person that I am, just write what I have, when I have it, and sometimes all I hear is the characters talking, while at other times I see the locations and the actions of the characters more.)
Questions for fellow writers: Do you do this, too? Or do you try to include a mix of both dialogue and narration even in first drafts?