On Tuesday we talked about non-said dialogue tags.

Today, it’s the dialogue tags that go on and on.  Action descriptors.  Yes, we need to make sure our characters aren’t just talking bobble heads.

But at the same time, the dialogue needs to pop on its own.

Here’s an example from A Rose by Any Other Name.

Setup: Emilia is at a dinner party as a test run for her alter ego.  Someone has asked her when her book comes out.

“Next month,” she replied, affecting a mild southern accent when she did so.

See? It’s distracting. Is it necessary? Maybe. A few rounds of revisions and a beta or two would be needed to help determine that.

But how do we determine when it’s absolutely necessary? Should we just let the reader imagine what’s happening based on the scene that surrounds it? Here’s another example.

They reached Battery Park a lot faster than Emilia had anticipated. She could see the bench where she was to meet the reporter and thought that perhaps she’d been beaten to the meeting. As she turned to exit the car, Archer stopped her.

“I’m busy tonight but are you free for dinner tomorrow? I’d like to see you again,” he said. Her heart pounded a little harder and a little faster before she could work up the nerve to respond.

“Dinner would be lovely,” she said. “I’m staying at the Des Artistes Hotel.”

“Pick you up at 8, then?”

“Sure. See you tomorrow.” With that, Emilia exited the car and hurried to the park bench where she could see the Times reporter waiting.

So, this time the scene is set up before and after the dialogue, but not necessarily attached to it directly. She turns to exit the car then she exits. Does the conversation need more in between? I think we could all pretty well imagine how it would look. The awkwardness of turning, contorting, etc. to reach a good position for talking before exiting.

But does it need the descriptors like that or is the scene enough?

These are all subjective judgments, but ones we need to consider.

Personally, I think the conversation is fine for where it is, being a first (and only) draft.