In November 2016, I did a post about the above topic wherein I mentioned a particular problem I had noticed in my writing:
More recently, there are three problems that have stood out: leading into dialogue without using a speaking verb (He nodded, “I agree.”)
I have been working at cleaning up old stories, as well as not continuing that bad habit. Somewhere along the line, it occurred to me that often adding a speaking verb wasn’t needed. Instead it worked better to fix the punctuation.
Using the above example, here is my progression:
original: He nodded, “I agree.”
better: He nodded, saying, “I agree.”
probably even better still: He nodded. “I agree.”
Sticking ‘saying’ in there was sort of awkward and really not at all necessary. In correcting the comma to a period, the sentence worked fine and said the same thing but more cleanly.
That is not to say that you should remove all speaking verbs and alter your punctuation accordingly. Consider something like this:
“I don’t have a choice,” he snapped. “Not everyone has the luxury of a choice.”
versus this: “I don’t have a choice. Not everyone has the luxury of a choice.”
The latter sentence can work, and you may prefer it, but if I show you nothing else you may not realize his state of mind. The latter sentence could suggest resolution to the way things are or he might be simply stating fact in an unemotional way. But the first sentence gives a clue with the word ‘snapped’. He’s disgruntled, possibly even angry and bitter, about that lack of choice. In that case, the speaking verb used helps to signal the reader to what he is feeling/thinking about his situation.
My first example wherein I removed the speaking verb altogether didn’t require that signal. He agreed, both through words and body language (the nod) that he is in agreement with something that has been said. Even without a speaking verb, that is perfectly clear to the reader.
What about you? What ongoing issues keep cropping up in your writing? Are you looking for ways to correct them, and then maybe even to improve upon the correction?
FYI, if you’re wondering, yes, I did finish the story I mentioned last week that I was working on.