Writing Dialogue That Doesn’t Force Readers To Read It Twice

I’ve been told many times over that my dialogue is one of my standout strengths. I’ve learned a lot over the years. I’d like to help new authors avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made along the way.

For my fellow writers, this short video explains why using qualifying dialogue tags after our dialogue (such as “Hey!” he whispered. or “Stop it,” she growled.) actually pulls the reader out of the story.

The solution is to use beats or short descriptions to help pre-load the intended tone of the sentence that follows.

For example:

He spoke in a loud whisper. “Hey!” Putting a finger to his lips, he beckoned her to his hiding spot with his other hand.

She punched the metal locker, startling her friends. Her words sifted through clenched teeth. “Stop it.”

The point is that our meaning should be clear as we read the sentence rather than an unexpected twist that forces the reader to retconn the dialogue and re-read it correctly the second time around.

Hope that helps.


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