Make it clear who is talking, but not too clear
On December 4, 2020 | 0 Comments | Writing tips |

I recently read a novel that was heavy on dialogue without a ton of attribution (e.g. adding “she said”), which I like, because I don’t think a conversation needs that after every single sentence. However, the author of this book had a habit of going two or even three pages into a conversation without any attribution of the dialogue, so I found myself repeatedly losing track of who was speaking. I kept having to go back to the beginning of the conversation and use my finger to follow along, often saying the name of one character out loud every other statement until I reached the point where I got lost.

That is not something you want your readers to do.

I believe dialogue should have attribution, but not too much. The key is to find a balance. For example, here’s TOO MUCH attribution in a conversation between Joe and Simon:

 “I don’t think you should go to the party,” Joe said.

“Well you can’t stop me,” Simon said.

“I’m serious. Please consider staying home,” Joe said.

“I appreciate your concern, but I’m going,” Simon said.

Just then the bell rang, and Simon and Joe both looked at the door.

 

Following is the same conversation with less attribution:

“I don’t think you should go to the party,” Joe said.

“Well you can’t stop me,” Simon said.

“I’m serious. Please consider staying home.”

“I appreciate your concern, but I’m going.”

Just then the bell rang, and they both looked at the door.

 

Which conversation reads better to you? When I read the first one, I think, “Why is the author using so much attribution?” When I read the second one, I think about the story and only the story. That’s what you want your readers to experience.

-Maria

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