21 Following


Using tag lines to explain intent, behavior, and gesture in your fiction


Book by Anne Hart.


To write lively dialogue in your fiction, you can use tag lines to explain behavior and emotion. One way to explain one character's intent to another character as they are communicating is to write, "He laughed mockingly, clearly making an effort not to be patient." Or you can write the opposite, "He sighed, clearly making an effort to understand her pronunciation." Or he "clearly made an effort to be patient."

You need to explain what the character did physically to show how he made an effort to be patient. Ask what are his gestures and attitude as he makes an effort to be patient? What body language and/or behavior does the other person see to whom he's trying to communicate?

You might use words that aren't used daily in speech, words such as mollified, instead of the character's action while "trying to calm someone down" or to "hopefully make someone less angry." For example, the passenger mollified the driver by doing (insert the behavior/gesture).

If someone acts cheerful, you might say he is "buoyant." Then you ask how does the character display his buoyancy? Is he strangely buoyant or oddly buoyant or does he observe another person as a puzzle to be put together to fit easily into some category? Is the person a mystery or a does the person resign himself/herself to some solution that may or may not solve the problem? Ask yourself as you write does the solution at least get measurable results that readers can follow without the subplot being too complex or too easy to guess or solve from your clues, even if you're not writing a mystery?