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Why should I build my own world for my fantasy novel?

Three fantasy heroes stride through the center of a busy town square, their latest bounty slung over the back of their horse and smug grins on their faces. Their pay would be good, but the meal they would share tonight would be better. This fantasy town is like ever fantasy town. You know the one I’m talking about. A hearty mix of orcs, dwarves, halflings, elves, and humans mill about a Germanic town with a tavern, a blacksmith and, of course, a castle. You can picture it, yes? Good. Because it’s for that exact reason why this fantasy world is terrible.

Why should I build my own world for my fantasy novel?
In order to avoid appropriating cultures, repeating the same things that fantasy authors that have come before you, and writing huge cliches, you need to develop your own fantasy world. This will not only make your book stand out, but you as an author will have a greater understanding of your world’s residents, economy, architecture, and government. Tolkien created what many consider to be the quintessential fantasy world, one with elves, dwarves, and orcs. While Tolkien’s work is great, other media, such as Dungeons and Dragons, pulled heavily from his work and now the classic “High Fantasy” world is dried up and overused. You as an author have the power to build an entire world from scratch, and you should. Not only will it give you more life to your book but you also have the opportunity to create a world that’s never existed before.
What should I include when I build my own fantasy world?
This is the first thing I build when I create my worlds. What kind of world is it? Is it an entire planet for a science fiction novel? Is it a continent whose outer seas are treacherous? Is it a single country? After you know where your story takes place, you can add biomes, landmarks, plants, animals, and other beasties to inhabit your naked, humanless world. If landmarks are recognizable, give them a story. There are plenty of mountains here in the West named after the explorers who discovered them, or after creatures they resemble. Is there a story there, and if so, what is it?
Ah, the fun part. Science Fiction worldbuilding can take forever at this stage, just because you can really go wild with how many aliens you have. You don’t have to have loads of fantasy races to have a killer fantasy world. Game of Thrones has humans, and only two fantasy races otherwise. Think about each race, their culture, language, food, values, religious systems, etc. This will help shape how you build their cities, what they export and import, and where they live. Have as many or as few races of intelligent creatures as you like.
Now your races get to have governments. Based on the values these races adhere to, how do they govern themselves? Are they an oligarchy, democracy, or monarchy? Are they ruled by a god-king? By asking these questions, you can build out entire kingdoms. Make sure you include details like their army size, what kinds of forces they have, what imports or exports they specialize in, and who their leaders are.
Cities, states, and borders:
Make your cities now! There are plenty of great map building websites online for Dungeons and Dragons players, but feel free to use them for your own projects. If your characters aren’t going to be traveling there during the story, don’t worry about fleshing them out too heavily. Focus on places you know you’re taking your readers and make it come to life. Think about the little hole in the wall restaurants, gambling dens, and brothels, as well as the grocery stores and Wal-Marts. Even boring places matter when it comes to major cities that your characters are going to be exploring.
This really deserves its own category and shouldn’t be lumped in with the races exclusively. Religion matters a lot to all sorts of different groups of people, so deeply consider what your races are and how religion shaped them. Science can be a form of religion, so don’t forget that!
What technology do the people of this world have access to and how do they use it? Technology also includes things like stone tools, so don’t just focus on laser guns and futuristic AI when considering this category. How far along are they in their tech? Do they have the basic tools necessary to make glass?

Magic System:
This is a HUGE one for me. Let’s pretend we’re looking over a manuscript from an author that has included yoga, chi, and chakras as their magic system. It’s totally fine to include inspiration from current cultures in your work, but let me explain what was wrong in this particular case.

The magic system that they created wasn’t inspired by yoga, chakras, and chi, it just was yoga, chakras, and chi. This is a problem for a couple of reasons. Firstly, yoga, chakras, and chi are not just an “exotic” system of beliefs that can be viewed as “mystical” simply because they aren’t western. Those three things aren’t viewed as magic in our world, so why would they be viewed as magic in another world? Another huge problem I found was that the author’s understanding of each practice was completely incorrect. It seemed they based their entire magic system off of what they learned from anime, yoga classes, and word of mouth. No actual research was done, which was offensive and demeaning to such complex, rich, and ancient practices.
There was no indication that the story was taking place in a world that was similar to our own Earth or even in the future on our own planet. This was a completely new world with different races, cities, and continents. If this is a brand new, naked world, the chances of them coming up with the exact same names and practices as related to yoga, chi, and chakras are incredibly unlikely.
Because the author did not do enough research, their magic system had no explanation of how it worked or what the practices actually meant.

When making a magic system, you need to make sure you know WHERE the magic comes from. I CANNOT stress this enough. Explaining your magic with a simple “Because Magic” is unoriginal, boring, and lacks forethought. Does your magic come from a supernatural god or an ore in the earth? Is it genetic or do you have to study it in order to learn?
Don’t appropriate other cultures that exist in our real, 2019 world. It’s not cool, it’s not original and if you don’t do research properly it’s offensive. If you want to base your magic system off of Haitian Voodoo, research it. There are plenty of Voodoo practitioners that would LOVE to teach you what their practices are about. Take the time to craft a magic system that makes sense.
If you want to do one better, make up your own magic system. You can take bits and pieces from cultures that we have today, but in the end, your magic system should be as original as possible while making sense.
While a little detail, calendars are the backbone of literally any civilization. If you really think about it, we base everything we do off of time and calendar schedules, and not every country on our lovely Earth follows the same calendar.
Celestial Bodies:
This can apply to both fantasy and science fiction worlds. Of course, if you are writing a novel in which your characters have interstellar travel, they, of course, can visit these bodies. If not, the bodies in your sky will help the denizens of your world tell time, the seasons, the weather, and also determine what your beautiful fantasy skies look like.
These are only a handful of things that you can include in your work. There are loads of good guides out there and, who knows, maybe I’ll go through and really break down each of these sections into their own individual guides eventually. Hopefully, this will give you all a launching off point for you to create your own worlds and avoid old, stale cliches. Worldbuilding is hard, takes time, and is one of the bigger parts of writing a fantasy or science fiction novel. If you have any questions about anything, please feel free to email me! I’d love to hear about the amazing worlds you’ve created and help you in any way I can. Cheers, and happy writing!

How do I write realistic kids?

You wanna know what’s the worst? When I see kids in film, games, or books that are terribly written. Sometimes they’re like weird little robots whose dialogue doesn’t fit the way that they should sound, or they’re too babyish. I get it. I don’t have kids, and I don’t plan on having kids, BUT if you’re going to write a novel about children or with children as the main characters, you BETTER know kids. Unless you’re writing a horror novel, your kids shouldn’t sound like adults in little bodies. As a writer of three successful Middle Grade books, let me give you some insight into how to make your kids not only seem realistic but shine.

How do I write realistic kids?
The best way to write kids is to spend time with kids. If you don’t have physical access to a kid in the age range you need, turn to the internet. By watching how kids interact with each other and with adults, you’ll pick up on their mannerisms, their speech patterns, and any slang that they use. Learning how people talk and act is best done with observation, so get to Youtube and watch some videos of some kids. Now, watching scripted shows of kids is probably not the best idea. If you can (even though it’s kinda creepy) find home videos of peoples’ kids in your age range. You’ll be grateful you did and your readers will thank you, too.
What should I remember when writing children?
Here are my tips for writing kids that hopefully will help you, along with your research.
Kids are REALLY smart.
Despite their age, even children as young as one are incredibly brilliant. Remember that they are problem solvers, are incredibly innovative, and often come up with solutions that adults completely miss. Do your self a favor and don’ dumb down your kids. Especially if you’re writing literature FOR kids, your audience will be reading it and go, “Huh? Why’s the kid in this book so dumb? Why do they sound like that?”
The internet is a great resource for researching teens.
In the era of Tik Tok and Youtube, if you need to research teens that’s the place to do it. Tik Tok and Youtube are loaded with memes that can give you insight into how teens talk and what they think is funny. If you don’t understand the meme, look it up. As much as it might suck, spend some time on their social media. You’ll learn a lot about how they communicate that way!
Learn Slang
This is prevalent if you’re writing a character in modern times that’s any younger than you are. If you’re writing a teen in the year 2019 and you don’t know what basic, dope, gucci, and yeet mean, you better get on it. Overusing these slang pieces can be absolutely detrimental to your writing, so use it sparingly and use it appropriately. Don’t have your teen saying “Gucci, bruh,” every fifteen seconds.
Don’t be afraid of adult subject matter.
Especially when writing for YA, include adult subject matter. Young Adults are very well aware of things like porn, swearing, sex, and a whole slew of other stuff. But taboo things aside, kids as young as ten understand domestic abuse, what it means to go to court, and other complex subjects that many parents avoid talking to their kids about. They’re smart enough to understand what the subject matters are, so don’t be afraid of having your kids be aware of a bigger, darker, scarier world.

What are some tips for specific ages of children?
I spend a brief period of time as a rock wall instructor and got hands-on training working with kids aged four to fourteen. This was a great range of kids and allowed me to observe all of them as they naturally were, having fun, being scared, and hanging out with their friends. Here’s what I observed:
Ages 1 – 5:
Kids this age are SMART COOKIES. They learn incredibly fast and can get themselves into all sorts of trouble. They’re problem solvers and will do anything to get what they want. Sometimes they’re hilarious and have tantrums over absolutely nothing. At these ages, they’re very easily startled. If they’re in a group and one kid starts crying, they’ll all start crying for no reason. Also, kids these ages tend to be incredibly weird. We’re talking staring at you while you pee weird, having a tantrum over an invisible hot dog weird. kids this age need constant supervision because they fear nothing. I had a four-year-old student (actually, she was three, but we bent the rules because her mom was a climber), who loved to have her mother harness her up and pull her up to the top of the 30 foot wall. No fear. She’d beg for it over and over. It was her favorite thing EVER. Toddlers, man.
Ages 5 – 8:
Ah, the days of glorious childhood. At this stage, you see girls start to mature faster than boys. The gap begins. A lot of kids at this age are just happy to be kids. They love video games, reading, playing with their friends, and being outside. This age (closer to seven and eight) is when gossip starts to happen. It’s not a lot of gossip, but kids are starting to learn how to spread rumors and be cruel. The “Girls Only” and “Boys Only” clubs start to happen and the gender gap becomes wider. Some kids take note of this, others don’t. They also start to have some rational fears at this stage. They’re not necessarily going to look both ways when crossing the street, but they’re DEFINITELY going to be afraid of a 30-foot rock wall. The kids that are brave are incredibly brave, and the kids that aren’t.
Ages 8 – 12:
This is my favorite age of kid. These kids are wise beyond their years, are witty, funny, caring, compassionate, and incredibly smart. The girls in this age group are much more mature than the boys in most cases. There generally is a solitary intellectual boy in the group who doesn’t understand the humor behind fart noises and saying swear words and finds it incredibly immature. Girls don’t want to hang out with boys at this time because they’re just TOO immature. Boys in this age category tend to want to be the best at everything. They want to run the fastest, have the quickest time on certain routes and are incredibly athletic. They have boundless energy and need to be entertained. Kids in this group are just getting started on Youtube, love video games and memes, and are also introduced to social media at this time.
Ages 12 – 15:
MIDDLE SCHOOL WAS SO WEIRD. It’s weird. Girls in this category are still more mature than boys and many don’t co-mingle. Kids at aged 14 to 15 are decently mature if raised right, and want to be treated as adults. They demand respect and can throw a fit if they don’t get it. These kids have about a million questions and will either get the answers via parents or via Youtube, whichever is willing to give the answers to them. This age is a popular protagonist age in Japan because it’s such an important time in a child’s life where they are still whole-heartedly a kid but are also transitioning into adulthood.
Ages 16 – 18:
This is the last group of kids in the Children’s Lit category. These kids are practically adults (centuries ago they would be considered adults) and should be treated as such. They’re intellectuals, have almost solidified their own beliefs, and are dating, having sex (probably), or experimenting with drugs and alcohol. This doesn’t apply to all kids, but that’s the general rule. Friends they make at this stage in life may end up being friends forever. Boys are still not as mature here and won’t catch up until well into college.
With these guidelines, hopefully writing kids into your works of fiction will be easier. Spend time with children and ask yourself WHY you want to write children’s lit if you don’t like kids. Sure, YA is profitable right now, but if you don’t know them and don’t know how to write for them, maybe you should reconsider what you’re writing. If you have any additional questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll help the best I can!

Why should I include adult themes in my children’s books?

Now, don’t get any crazy ideas. Before we jump too far into this article, I would like to make note that “adult themes” in this context DOES NOT MEAN sexual themes. As a forewarning, you should probably NEVER include sexual themes in any books intended for kids younger than 12. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking a lot about the children’s lit that I particularly enjoy and that has lasting, relevant lessons for kids. I greatly admire the Middle Grade authors who don’t shy away from themes that seem “too dark,” and talk to kids about the real world they live in.

Why should I include adult themes in my children’s books?
Middle Grade readers are incredibly smart and are also growing and learning, trying to process the world around them. By including formative themes like divorce, death, ethical dilemmas, abuse, and other “dark” themes, you can help kids learn through fiction how to cope with those things. Oftentimes, we want to protect our children from the big scary world outside, but it is sometimes better to warn them that these things exist and help them, through fiction, figure out how to tackle them. If a protagonist of the same age is going through similar troubles, this can help adults impart wisdom to the younger generation without a boring lecture.
What kind of themes can I include?
Death: Any kind of death is a great topic to cover, whether it be the death of a pet or the death of a loved one. With this lesson, I think it’s important to stress that the protagonist cannot bring back their loved one from the dead. You want to make sure the protagonist has healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with the death and grief, and that if there is a character who is not dealing with it well, that a lesson can be taught there, too. Make sure that the protagonist at this age does not witness the death, or if they do that it is not gruesome. You don’t want to scar the kids, folks.
Prison: Many young kids have relatives that are in prison. It can be enlightening and comforting to some kids if they see that a protagonist that they like also is dealing with the same things. You can be as realistic here as you want. In my books, Braidy’s parents are pretty open (not totally open) with Braidy about what is going on in his household. I wanted to encourage good parenting and transparency with the kids in that book, but not all parents are like that.
Bullying and Violence: Kids are terrible, so it makes sense that a lot of Middle Grade books are about bullying. If you’ve never been bullied (you lucky dog), do research. Make sure to really bring up great ways to deal with bullies and enforce a good support network.
Mental Illness: Kids suffer from it, too. Also, a lot of kids deal with adults who suffer from mental illness. Make it real, depict it how it actually is, and help kids learn how to be compassionate and loving toward people with mental illness, and toward themselves.
Race: If you’re going to write about race, make sure you have a sensitivity editor on deck who is of the group you’re writing about. If you’re not black and you’re writing a black character, having a sensitivity editor can be key. Avoid the common pitfalls of a lot of authors by assuming you know EVERYTHING about the culture you’re writing. It is important that kids of the Middle Grade age learn how to be tolerant and accepting of other races, as well as what to do when they see someone being bullied because of race.
LGBT+: This is a controversial topic for a lot of people, but I’m of the belief that if we want to raise the most loving kids possible, we’re going to teach them about different sexual orientations and gender identities. Some kids are dealing with these kinds of things themselves and would love to have a trans or queer role model to look up to. Neil Patrick Harris does a great job of this kind of inclusion in his work The Magic Misfits, and the goal is to make the representation as normal as possible to prevent kids from feeling alienated.
Religion: Again, another unfortunately relevant topic. I remember an episode of The Proud Family where Penny switched houses with a Muslim student for a day. It was incredibly enlightening and tolerant and wonderful. I wish more media talked about religion because it would prevent religions other than Christianity from being stigmatized in the US. At some point in your reader’s life, they WILL meet someone of a religion that is different from them. If they’re prepared to have intelligent discussions about it, they can learn a lot!
Protesting: A lot of young students are protesting a lot of things right now: teacher’s wages, climate change, and gun violence. This is something that is present in youth’s lives today and may be relevant to include in your work.
Remember, even if you’re not directly writing a book about a kid getting bullied, there are plenty of ways that you can incorporate these lessons and themes into a more fantastical setting. J.K. Rowling talked about eugenics and nationalism by introducing the concept of Muggles, “Mudbloods,” and “Pure Bloods” in Harry Potter. In my Braidy von Althuis books, I include themes like depression, grief, loss, prison, death, bullying, disability, and much, much more. The world is a very colorful place and kids are going to get exposed to these themes one way or another, so I try as best as I can to have my protagonist come from a loving family who can help guide them through these icky situations.

When can I introduce these themes?
The first and most important thing to remember when writing realistic themes into children’s literature is that you really should only begin to include these themes in books that fall into the Middle Grade range. Any kids younger may be a little too young to really comprehend the themes, so even though you can include them and include them gently, it may not be the best time to talk about them. The Middle Grade range is the perfect age to start to introduce these themes. If you’re worried that these kids are still too young, think about everything our youth today has to deal with. School shootings, divorce, abuse… all of these things are a bit too real for most kids, so including them in your work is not going to show them something they don’t know.
That being said, one of the more important things to remember is to ALWAYS have a happy ending. The main goal of including these kinds of themes is to help kids understand the world around them, not depress them. You should always have the hero or heroine be able to solve the very scary real-world problem that they’re dealing with. This will teach your readers that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that if they’re clever enough they can make it through anything.
How can I research writing these issues for kids?
In my personal opinion, the best way to find out is to just TALK TO KIDS. Find a kid that is the same age as your protagonist (or as close as you can get) and ask them about these issues. Many 10 – 12-year-olds are on social media and know all about Parkland, gay pride, and race. Be sure to get permission from their parents first! You’d be surprised what kids know. That’s why I love writing for them!
I love writing these kinds of stories for kids. I was a huge fan of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events because he treated the Beaudelaires like rational adults. If you give kids the respect of remembering that they’re incredibly smart, you can write great kid’s lit. Kids are so compassionate, wise, and wonderful, and it breaks my heart when they have to go through terrible things. The only thing we can do as older folks is impart the knowledge the best way I think we can, which is through storytelling.
Which authors do you think handle tough children’s subjects the best? Neil Gaiman and Neil Patrick Harris are my favorites so far! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and happy writing!

How do I use a thesaurus when writing?

I’m working on my book and I bust out my thesaurus… again. If I’m editing and I don’t have the thesaurus tab open in my browser, send help. I’m probably dead. I used to not use a thesaurus all that much, but now that I’m exploring my style and prefer more fantastical, dreamy prose the thesaurus has become my best friend. Am I the type of person that will be buried with dozens of thesauruses? Probably not. Am I the type of person who automatically defaults to a thesaurus to make my work dreamy, lovely to read, and sometimes above other people’s reading levels? Yes. Yes, I am.

How do I use a thesaurus when writing?
A thesaurus is your best friend when you need to spice up your writing, add complexity, and intensify mood. You don’t need a physical thesaurus, but an internet thesaurus is absolutely necessary. I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but Microsoft Word’s Thesaurus is TERRIBLE. There are many, many better words than what Microsoft Office can give you. Using a thesaurus is particularly important if you need to up the reading level of your manuscript to make it more interesting to read for adult audiences. Not only will you be expanding your own vocabulary, but also your readers’. Who knows! You just might learn something.
What is a thesaurus good for?
This should be a pretty straight forward answer, but a thesaurus is like a dictionary for synonyms. For example, if I wanted to replace the word cold with something more interesting to use in my work, I can use a thesaurus to find words with the same definition. The options the thesaurus might give me could be bleak, icy, or wintry. You can even find more obscure synonyms like two-dog night, inclement, or frore. Some of these are going to be too high for most reading levels, but the more popular ones are great for spicing up your work. If you find yourself using the same nouns over and over, a thesaurus can be useful to break up your manuscript.
This will also help prevent you from using the wrong word. If you want a zesty word to replace the word fight but accidentally use the word quarry instead of quarrel, that can get awkward. People without a thesaurus make the mistake present in the “bone apple teeth” meme. Granted, when you don’t know how something is spelled in another language it can be hard to write it on paper. “Florida Ceiling” is another example I’ve seen. Someone was asking about “Florida ceiling” windows and their friend had to explain that it was instead “floor to ceiling” windows. Having a thesaurus (and a dictionary, for that matter) will help prevent homonyms or words that sound similar to the one you’re looking for from slipping into your manuscript.

When do I need to use a thesaurus?
I use a thesaurus when I’ve noticed I’ve used a word two or more times in a couple of paragraphs. When editing something that I wrote today, I noticed I used the word “reeling” more than I should’ve. One quick jaunt over to the thesaurus helped me find “teeter,” which was perfect for what I was using. There are two ways to find excess words in your manuscript. The first is to read your manuscript out loud. Once you do so, you’ll quickly realize that there are repeated words. The secondary way to do it is by using software like ProWritingAid. It is designed to help you find repeated words and sentence starts, so you’ll know when you’ve written a word too many times. Once you’ve spotted them in your manuscript, it’s time to root them out and change them.
BE CAREFUL when using a thesaurus and make sure that you’re using words that accurately fit the context of your manuscript. In my “reeling” example, my character has just lost a lot of blood and is dizzy. I wouldn’t want to use the word “swinging” because that makes the character sound drunk. “Twirling” is similar. It just doesn’t fit my context. Check the definitions of your words and understand their connotations before substituting them into your work. You’ll be glad you did and your editor won’t be confused when they read your work.
What can different word choice do for my manuscript?
When swapping out words, word choice can be used to help depict certain moods in your work. When using the word “cold,” each synonym has a different tone when applied to the context. “Nippy” is less cold than “frigid,” and “brisk” is way less cold than “below zero.” Based on the genre that you’re writing and how you apply your words, you can change the entire feel of your work.
Take some time and get familiar with different synonyms for your favorite words. As the venerable Mark Twain once said, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very.’ Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” Think about this when you’re working on your own work, and make sure to keep an eye on how many words you’re repeating. Get rid of that boring vocabulary, bust open your thesaurus, and happy writing!

How do I use dialogue tags?

When I comb through my second drafts, I look specifically for my dialogue tag use. It’s something that’s really easy to overlook but changes the way your writing sounds DRASTICALLY. When I first started writing, my use of dialogue tags was very minimal, but that’s changed. My old usage of dialogue tags was confusing and left out a lot of information. I’ve found that it’s a balance… somewhere in between not saying he said, she said, they said, he said over and over and not including any of that information at all. It’s hard! So… pardon me while I eat a piece of cake and walk you through what I’ve learned.

How do I use dialogue tags?
Grab a thesaurus, use creative dialogue tags, get rid of your adverbs, and use tags only when necessary. Dialogue tags are your best friend, but can easily become redundant. By using “said” over and over in your work, you may rely on adverbs too much to make your writing interesting. If you’re not using dialogue tags at all, your work can become confusing for your readers because they won’t know who’s talking. If you use them too much, you’re at the risk of bogging your reader down. It’s a fine line to walk, but I’ve prepared some tips to help you get the best use out of your dialogue tags, as well as included a list of some great words to use instead of “said.”
What is a dialogue tag?
Dialogue tags are phrases that go after dialogue to indicate who is speaking and how they said what they said. “Dialogue tags will really help you improve your writing,” Braidy said. In this case, “Braidy said” is the dialogue tag! By using this phrase, we know who’s speaking and how it was said.
Any verb that involves speaking can be used as a dialogue tag like grunted, shouted, cried, etc. You can also use dialogue tags in any order, such as “Braidy said” or “said Braidy.” Depending on your style, you’ll find yourself using one over the other. I personally never use “said Braidy” though it works well in some children’s literature.
Any synonym for said works depending on what you need to get across in the sentence, and they’re pretty versatile. I love dialogue tags and feel like they’re something that’s overlooked in a lot of writing! If you can polish your dialogue tags, you can really make your conversations shine.
When should I use a dialogue tag?
My rule of thumb is that dialogue tags should be only used when indicating that a new character is speaking. For example, let’s say we have three characters in a room arguing. We’ll put Liz, Boris, and Rolo, three siblings from my Braidy von Althuis books, in a room and have them fight about who’s going to the grocery store. Liz and Rolo are the most vocal in the argument, and Boris only steps in when necessary. I imagine the conversation would go a little something like this…
“I am not going to the grocery store, Rolo,” Liz spat. “It’s your turn to go this week. I went last week.”
“Awe, c’mon, Liz!” Rolo pleaded. “I have a date with Susan Suthersby tonight and I–”
“You should’ve thought about that when you made the date night plans. You knew you had chores to do.”
“I’ll pay you to do them. How’s twenty bucks?”
“Rolo you’re such an idiot,” Liz said. “You think you can just buy me? I’ve been working all day.”
“I’m not an idiot!” Rolo retorted. “I just have better things to do than sit around the house and play maid.”
“Would you two stop it?” Boris interjected. “If you two don’t can it I’ll walk to the grocery store.”
As you can see from my example, you can get rid of dialogue tags if the same characters are having a back and forth. This only works, however, when there are two characters speaking. As soon as a third person enters the conversations, use tags to differentiate them. If you have two characters and one of them switches tone, change the dialogue tag.
“Boris, you know you can’t go to the store,” Liz scolded.
“I’ll do what I please.”
“You and Rolo are going to be the death of me,” Liz huffed.
Even then, in this particular example, I think this is personally too many dialogue tags. How many you use is up to you, but I like to give my readers a visual break so the dialogue flows quickly and smoothly. Dialogue tags break up the flow of the dialogue and effectively act as a speed bump for the reader. If you remove the tags, the dialogue hits the reader rapid fire and if you add the tags they are forced to slow down.

Dramatic dialogue tag placement can also benefit your novel greatly. In my example above, I have a lot of dialogue tags in the middle of the dialogue itself. If there are large blocks of dialogue, you can use tags to break it up a little bit.
“Look, do you have any idea how hard I’ve worked to get a date with Su? There were like fifteen other guys in line ahead of me and I had to fight all of ‘em to get her to go to the movies with me,” Rolo said. “Jimmy Anderson nearly broke my teeth trying to get a swing at me and Tony Parks purposefully sabotaged notes I was leaving her. I need to go on this date.”
You can also use dialogue tags in the middle to be dramatic.
“I,” Liz replied, “could literally care less.”
The last way to use dialogue tags is to literally not use them at all. You can use description instead. As long as the description uses the name of the character that’s speaking and an action, you’re good to go!
“You never let me do what I want!” Rolo slammed the refrigerator door open. “Look! We have plenty of food!”
Use dialogue tags this way to really spice up your writing!
Why should I use a variety of dialogue tags?
Using said over and over can get incredibly boring and you can lose your readers that way. You start to use adverbs to describe how your characters sound. “I don’t want to go to the grocery store,” Rolo said madly. That sounds silly, doesn’t it? “I don’t want to go to the grocery store,” Rolo whined. Much better. By getting rid of the sticky adverbs and replacing said with a much stronger word will make your writing sparkle.
Now, said is still going to be your best friend. There are a lot of instances in which said is actually the best option. It gets the job done and is quick and easy to read. If you’re not careful, your dialogue will sound terrible and overdone. My favorite example of terrible dialogue tags comes from the ever infamous Harry Potter fanfiction My Immortal. You can find this terrible example in Chapter 6.
“My name’s Harry Potter, although most people call me Vampire these days.” he grumbled.
“Why?” I exclaimed.
“Because I love the taste of human blood.” he giggled.
“Well, I am a vampire.” I confessed.
“Really?” he whimpered.
“Yeah.” I roared.
*vomits into a trashcan*
So, not only are there a bunch of problems going on here grammatically, there are WAY too many dialogue tags. Said in this instance would be JUST fine.
Dialogue Tag Examples




Hopefully, all of these examples will give you all a soundboard to use. Be sure when picking the dialogue tags that you pick ones that fit your dialogue best. Whimpered is not the same as sobbed. Imagine someone saying your lines out loud and what they would sound like. Then, pick the dialogue tag that best suits the situation!
What are your favorite dialogue tags to use and who do you think uses them best? Good luck, thanks for reading, and happy writing!