Today’s guest blogger is Nancy Julien Kopp. Her blog, Writer Granny’s World features tips and treats about writing.
Her brilliant August 20, 2019 post (excerpt below) focused on how to use action with dialogue.
Fingers flying across keyboard, Marlene types, “On with the show, Nancy.”
How to show action when writing dialogue.
I see writers putting action after dialogue. That’s backwards.
Examples of action with dialogue.
A. “Stop that!” Sally slapped his hand from her arm.
B. Sally slapped his hand from her arm. “Stop that!”
C. “Stop that!” Sally said. Sally slapped his hand from her arm.
Which is the best? The worst?
I think B is best.
And C is the worst.
In B, we see the action, then hear the words that go with it.
In A, would Sally say the words, then slap his hand away?
Note from Marlene: This would be a “delayed reaction.” Sally says “Stop that.” THEN slaps his hand away. In real life, of course, it would happen at the same time.
Although it’s hard to show action and dialogue that happens simultaneously, I think B does that.
Back to Nancy’s post:
Your mind sees the action in Example B, then absorbs the words.
And C? Adding the tag is unnecessary as the action tells you who is speaking.
Another example but this time adding feeling (or thought) prior to the action and dialogue. It’s called the FAD Principle. Feeling-Action-Dialogue
“Susan knew Mary would take the biggest piece of cake. She stepped between her friend and the table full of cake slices. ‘I’ll take this one.’”
“Susan knew Mary would take the biggest piece of cake. (Feeling/thought) She stepped between her friend and the table full of cake slices. (Action) ‘I’ll take this one.’” (Dialogue)
The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing features the FAD principle: Action should be shown first.
It seems more logical that Susan would step in front of the table before she speaks.
Even if you don’t have the Feeling part in the dialogue, just the Action and Dialogue, put the action first, then the spoken words.
Why? For clarity.
Develop the habit of using the action prior to the dialogue. We aren’t always going to have the Feeling included, but if you do, remember FAD.