After I finished Lucifer's Odyssey, I tried to get several friends to read it. Often after giving out the first chapter (or even worse the whole thing), my friends would just not read any of it - at least that's what they claimed. I tried to pry them for info, and one of them finally told me "I would really you rather just use said or asked instead of using action words everywhere. It makes it hard to read."
So, I did some digging and found the post linked above. I also found this gem on Nathan's blog, and here's what I have tried to do in my book.
- Use said and asked as the main drive of dialog.
- Do not use non-tags for more than 3-4 lines of dialog. When I'm reading, nothing distracts me more than non-tagged dialog that extends beyond the page barrier, forcing me to try to read back a page to figure out who is saying what.
- Use actions, where appropriate, to break up usage of said/ask to enhance a scene - never to simply avoid said/asked.
- If the conversation is at normal volumes, never resort to words that you feel are normal volume but with emotion like scoff, blurt, etc. To me, this breaks up the dialog and forces me to concentrate on the action word.
The worst thing I feel I can do, as an author, is use action words out of context that confuse the reader. Before you ask, I have read this type of usage in many indie books. For some reason, authors tend to use shout or yelled just because they consider the characters in an excited state and this rarely translates well when I'm reading.
So, what do you guys and gals think of this method? How do you structure dialog? Have you ever read a piece of dialog that just blew your mind with how awesome it was? Do you remember why you felt it was such great dialogue?