So, In my Belated Blogger Birthday post, I put some tips and tricks I have learned over the last year. I thought I might take a little bit and expand on them. Let's start with one that gets me beat up in critiquing groups.
Dialogue tags and punctuation.
First, the simple rule.
When you use a dialogue tag like, he said. it should look like this.
"I'm heading to the bar,” he said.
Comma inside of the quotes, not a period. In this case, the tag is an extension of the sentence. This seems pretty easy and straight forward right?
Now, let me complicate it a bit more. When the dialogue is followed with an action you would use the period.
"I'll see you later.” He winked.
Notice the difference? I still started with, he. But, because winking (in this example) is it's own seperate action, it is not a part of the sentence, so a period is used.
The waters further muddy when you try to get creative with your tags. These are called bookisms.
"What the hell are you talking about?" The audience screamed in confusion.
Notice the question mark in the quotes. The audience screaming is a separate action.
"I've never heard of this term before," came a meek voice from the crowd.
Notice the comma in the quote, just like using a "said" tag.
Now, bookisms and are generally looked down on when overused. In most cases, said, is all that is needed.
It's tempting to get cute and make every bit of dialogue sparkle, but most editors and agents frown on it. It makes the writing appear amateurish.
(this is where I get beat up all the time. I love to use those cutsy tags.)
The general consensus is that the dialogue should speak for its self. You should be able to glean the manner of the characters speech by the words used. Standard tags like, said or asked, are more or less, invisible to the reader and do not interrupt the flow of the story.
However, if you must break the rules. Here is a tip. Use bookisms sparingly and avoid using the dreaded -ly's if you plan on being creative.
"But, I want to use them," he said solemnly. <-- No!
"But, I want to use them," he moaned. <--Maybe
He stomped his foot. "But, I want to use them." <-- better
Now, because I am not always the best at explaining myself, I've found a great link that does a much better job explaining creative dialogue tagging aka Bookisms.