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Old 10-05-2012, 02:05 AM   #9
Pulpmeister
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If you want to see how dialogue tags should not be done, try reading some vintage E Phillips Oppenheim. He used a staggering number of different dialogue tags, which once you noticed them became very very obtrusive indeed, and very annoying.

In piece I wrote on Oppenheim's The Colossus of Arcadia in "A Century of Sensational Fiction" I noted:

"Oppy doubtless wrote his novels with a well-thumbed Roget’s Thesaurus open beside him. His characters seldom "said" anything. They declared, assured, acknowledged, begged, insisted, and exclaimed; they pointed out, observed, pleaded, remarked, admitted, reflected and whispered; they directed, scoffed, murmured, inquired, muttered, enjoined and complained; and they laughed, cried, offered and sighed. And that is a mere sample of dialogue tags culled from just ten pages chosen at random."

Oh, and for some reason I omitted to mention "acquiesced", one of Oppy's favourites, probably because it wasn't used on the ten pages I collected the tags from.

Another trap for young players is the wrong use of the exclamation point. Some writers use it to suggest that the character is simply being firm or emphatic.

"My dear fellow, I could not agree more!" is NOT an exclamation. "Oh shit!" definitely is. Georgette Heyer's otherwise splendid Regency romances are marred by prodigious overuse of the exclamation point. The worst example is in a late novel "A Lady of Quality" where said lady and a gentleman are holding a discussion in a hotel lobby in Regency Bath, and almost every line of the conversation ends in an exclamation point.
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