Just say the name

I’ve been reading a series of superhero novels where the main male character has four female associates, and all five of them often work together to vanquish the villains. During these scenes, the author continues to use descriptors as dialogue tags, and it’s really, really distracting. He refers to the women by their hair color, appearance, superpower, and relationship to him, but rarely by their names.

Look, I get it: you don’t want to be repetitive. But there are other ways to refer to multiple characters of the same sex while in a single scene, and that is by not using dialogue tags at all. Instead of just saying “my beautiful raven-haired girlfriend said”, why not say “Elizabeth crossed her legs and folded her hands on her knee.”? That would tell us who’s speaking as well as make the scene more active, which every talky scene needs.

Even in simple scenes — like the fishbowl discussion scene in the “Chips” episode of Letterkenny — every character moves as well as speaks, even though everyone is just sitting around having a discussion. I’m sure that, in these supervillain-killing discussions, the superheroes are moving around, even if it’s just a little bit.

If you feel like your dialogue is getting repetitive, try adding some movement, and while you’re at it, say the characters’ names. It’s much less distracting.

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