“More dialogue tags,” said the beta reader.

My friend Ralph—we met in New York at the pitch conference—wrote me a funny thing today. He’s been reviewing a science fiction manuscript for me and noticed that I don’t always do a great job delineating which character is delivering which line.

Ralph’s a bit of an overachiever, I think, because he dedicated some precious early morning caffeine (and even more precious creativity) to illustrate his point. The ‘tags’ are in red.


“You are killing me with the lack of dialogue tags!” the beta reader said, wondering if he should get another cup of coffee.

 “My writing flows so much better without them!” the award-winning author replied.

 “I like it, at times…” The reader trailed off.

“’Yes?” the author asked.

 “Well maybe it is just me, but I get lost a little. You take the turns a little fast, and dialogue tags are like my seatbelt. I know it may not be the perfect analogy, mister author, but I’m begging you to buckle me in!”

“It is ok, simple reader.  I know you are trying to keep up,” the author acquiesced, realizing the well-meaning boy would never be up to the challenge of real literature. Then again, if he was willing to put down a few dollars on the author’s next novel for the price of a few dialogue tags…


Thanks for the lesson, Ralph. This is purely hypothetical, right?  I mean, the “author” isn’t usually so patronizing, is he?

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