Silencing the Distractions: Kill Your Distracting Dialog Tags in Your Horror Novel

As I sit here in the dark, scribbling away at my horror novel, I can't help but feel a sense of unease. I know that the story I'm writing will be chilling, blood-curdling even. But there's something that's been bothering me, something that's been lurking at the edge of my consciousness, like a shadow that won't go away. It's distracting dialog tags.

You see, when you're writing a horror novel, you want your readers to be immersed in the story, to be hanging on every word, and to feel like they're right there with your characters, experiencing all the terror and suspense. But distracting dialog tags can ruin all of that.

What are distracting dialog tags? They're those little phrases that come after a character speaks. You know the ones, like "he said," "she replied," "they whispered." These tags can be distracting if they draw too much attention to themselves, pulling the reader out of the story and making them aware that they're reading a book.

Here are ten examples of distracting dialog tags:

  1. "I hate spiders," she shuddered.
  2. "Get out!" he shouted angrily.
  3. "I'm not scared," he lied.
  4. "I'll never go in there," she declared boldly.
  5. "I'm sorry," he apologized.
  6. "I can't believe it," she exclaimed loudly.
  7. "I don't know," he shrugged.
  8. "I love you," she gushed.
  9. "It's not fair," he whined.
  10. "I don't care," she sneered.

So, how can we fix these distracting tags? Here are some alternatives:

  1. She shuddered. "I hate spiders." 
  2. "Get out!" he shouted.
  3. "I'm not scared," he said.
  4. "I'll never go in there," she said.
  5. "I'm sorry." 
  6. Her voice rose. "I can't believe it!" 
  7. "I don't know," he said.
  8. "I love you," she whispered.
  9. "It's not fair!"
  10. "I don't care," she said.

But how do we avoid distracting dialog tags altogether? Here are some tips:

  1. Use said as your default dialog tag.
  2. Only use other tags if they add something to the scene, such as indicating tone or volume and do this sparingly.
  3. Use action beats to show who is speaking, rather than relying on tags.
  4. Vary your sentence structure so that you're not always using "he said" or "she said."
  5. Read your dialog out loud to see how it flows.

here are some examples of how to avoid using dialog tags altogether:

  1. Use Action Beats: Instead of using a dialog tag, you can use an action beat to indicate who is speaking. For example:

Sarah slammed the door. "I can't believe you did that!"

  1. Use Descriptive Dialogue: You can also describe how the character is speaking to convey tone and emotion. For example:

John's voice was low and menacing. "You better watch your back."

  1. Use Physical Gestures: You can use physical gestures to show who is speaking. For example:

He crossed his arms. "I'm not going to do it."

  1. Use Thought Tags: You can also use thought tags to show who is speaking without using a dialog tag. For example:

She rolled her eyes. (I can't believe he said that.)

  1. Use Punctuation: You can use punctuation to convey tone and emotion. For example:

"You're really going to do that?" Jane said.

By using these techniques, you can avoid using distracting dialog tags and keep your readers immersed in your horror story. And who knows, maybe your readers will be so engrossed in your story they won't notice the tags at all.

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