What He Said/She Said About Attributive Clauses

June 21, 2008 at 9:19 am | Posted in Writing Craft | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

I’ll be the first to admit that when I was a newbie writer, I was guilty of using (read: overusing) busy attributives, and I had a bad case of the wrylies. When I look back at some of my early prose, it’s completely embarrassing.

You know your dialogue is infected with wrylies if your novel has attributives like these:

The handcuffs clicked around his meaty wrists. “I am not a criminal!” he shouted loudly.

Sara ran around the room waving the lotto ticket. “I won! I’m rich! I’m rich!” she shrieked excitedly.

“Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom,” the toddler jabbered incessantly.

“I got fired on Friday, so I guess that means I’m not busy on Monday,” she commented wryly.

Focus on the “wrylies” in the sentences above—the use of adverbs explains how the dialogue should be interpreted or how it was uttered.

And there are attributives that use a variety of verbs to convey the speaker’s emotion or physical action:

“Your place or mine?” he chuckled.
“You wish,” she snorted.
“No one will find out,” he smiled.
“I’ll tell your wife,” she warned.
“You’re cute when you’re angry,” he winked.

Busy attributives try to pack too much into a sentence:

“He divorced me. And now I’m falling apart,” sniffed the attractive blonde as she wiped tears from her clear blue eyes, knowing she would never find another man like the rich doctor she married two years after leaving the leper colony where she grew up.

Take all the dialogue samples above as examples of how NOT to write your character’s attributives. “Keep it simple,” she said.

Using the “simple said” is the best way to make your attributives invisible to your readers. It won’t distract them from the flow of your story. And if you craft your narrative and dialogue well, you won’t need to be showy in your attributives.

Trust your readers to pick up on the nuances and tone in the interaction and dialogue between your characters. Don’t hit them over the head with overwritten attributives.

Advertisements

2 Comments »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. I’m just surprised writers who go crazy with dialogue tags don’t realize they aren’t written like that in published books. Though the tendency to “wryly” the dialogue to death seems to be a newbie rite of passage…

  2. I agree with Keep it Simple. The “simple said” is something I learned in journalism school. Good thing I can use it in other writing arenas.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: