Monday, January 26, 2015

R.U.E. Your Dialogue

Ana resists the urge to explain:

                                        R.U.E.      Resist the urge to explain.

When an emotion is mentioned outside of dialogue, chances are it is an explanation of one sort or another.      Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

Which sentence allows the reader to feel the emotion?
"I can't believe it," she said in astonishment.
She stumbled back until she could grip something solid. "I can't believe it."

I have been reviewing my WIP chapters for my tendency to explain the emotions I am trying to show. It is a bad habit, but one that can be purged.

One way I've discovered to eliminate it is to eliminate as many dialogue tags as possible. Show the character cringing or beaming or shrugging.

Another is to delete -ly adverbs. "Ly adverbs almost always catch the writer in the act of explaining dialogue--smuggling emotions into speaker attributions that belong in the dialogue itself."

Adverbs that modify the verb said are an exception. "He said softly." is much different than "She said grimly."  But these should be used sparingly.

A strong verb is better. "He threw the ball hard." vs "He hurled the ball."


  1. That technique definitely makes your writing stronger, Ana.

  2. You're so right. I always search for "ly" words when editing. I use them far too frequently too. But by waiting until the editing process to find stronger verbs I find I'm not losing the flow of the story.

  3. One of my editing checks is to get rid of unnecessary speech tags - but there's always a danger of making the whole thing too 'busy' if there are too many actions (or indeed, too many synonyms for 'said'). I've trained myself not to use adverbs after 'said' - but I still have to go through and search for unnecessary adverbs, and try to find a stronger verb!

  4. I love the R.U.E. acronym!

    I've learning to use action to show my character's emotion.

    I still contend, though, that sometimes 'she/he said' is all you need as a tag.

  5. Show don't tell was something drummed into me when I first began to write and it's always stuck with me.