Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Boo, hiss, groan I say.

The hero and heroine have been captured by the villain. He’s taken them to a dungeon to torture them. 

“Tell me all your secrets or I’ll kill you,” hissed the villain, waving an enormous sword.
“Oh dear, my precious. I think we’re in trouble,” groaned the hero.
“Perhaps we should run away,” wailed the heroine. 

Now you say it all out aloud. Hiss the villain’s line, groan the hero’s line, and wail the heroine’s line.
You can’t do it can you? Apart from the fact the hero’s line is laughably unheroic, you can only hiss sibilants. If the villain had hissed “Yessss,” that might work. But he really ought to be yelling or threatening, or even “said” would do.
Save “groan” for the hero until after he’s been stabbed by the sword, and keep the words to something he really could groan. “Ow” for example.
Wailing is a little harder. Perhaps, “Let’s goooo.” 

Before you pull out a thesaurus and find sound effects for the critical moment of your book, practice saying the lines out loud. You may save yourself from having your reader laugh when she should be biting her nails with fear. 

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.


anny cook said...

Oh, dear. Timely reminder. Thanks!

Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

Let me know if you find some other dialogue tags that will make us all laugh!