Attribution via Action

People who’ve worked with my in critique groups or in my trainings know about attribution via action because

  • I use it often in my own work and
  • I use it often when editing/critiquing someone’s work as it tightens scenes considerably.

Almost a year ago I wrote

The desire to have characters do something while talking is good, the execution is usually poor, and now we’re dealing with attribution via action which I’ll cover in another post.

in Toing and Froing and now, for various reasons, here’s that post.

Attribution via Action became increasingly important to me when writing my last novel, Tag. I noticed the actions I used for attribution purposes were stale, generic, didn’t apply to what happened in each scene.

I’ll defend myself with “It was a first, rough draft” which is true. I recognized the problem and made notes in the manuscript to fix it during rewrite, which I will because I tend towards anality about such things.

And still, it’s better not to have such issues in any draft, especially first drafts, as the more corrections necessary the more time taken not publishing and promoting the immediate project and all projects together.

So as I often do when I recognize a weakness in my own work, I gave myself exercises to improve my storycrafting and storytelling. In this case, use attribution via action specific to what I want the reader to experience when they read the sentence/paragraph/page/scene.

I’ve also learned from workshops and teaching that the term “attribution” isn’t in vogue any more.

Sigh.

So some definitions/explanations first.

Speech Tags
The reader has to know who’s communicating in a scene. Knowing who’s saying what is often more important that knowing what’s being said. This is done by identifying the speaker with what they’re speaking.

Words like said, talked, shared, spoke, … are now called “speech tags” and use to be called “attributions” but far be it for a writer to use a single, exact word when a weak, two word phrase can almost do the job not as well.

Said, talked, shared, spoke, … are fine words and they are weak because they lack emotional content until we use a adverb modifier such as said angrily, talked quietly, shared emphatically, spoke loudly, …

A thesaurus helps because said angrily becomes hissed, talked quietly becomes whispered, shared emphatically becomes emphasized, spoke loudly becomes shouted, … becomes … and so on.


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Mani He (part 3) now on Bewildering Stories Issue 949

Continuing the success of Mani He (part 1) and Mani He (part 2) in Bewildering Stories Issue 947 and Bewildering Stories issue 948 respectively, Mani He (part 3) appears today in Bewildering Stories issue 949.

And if that’s not enough links for you in one paragraph, wait, there’s more!

Mani He originally appeared in Magic 1995, Crumb Elbow Publishing’s Read ‘N Run Anthology 1996, and my self-published Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires in 2016.

It’s wonderful to know a work is so appreciated it’s anthologized again and again, and again and again.

 
Many writers contributed to Bewildering Stories Issue 949 and I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading them all.

Please be sure to comment.

It means a lot to us.

Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 17

Hello again.

Have I mentioned that I thought Tag was a medieval murder mystery?

Now I’m wondering if it’s more a medieval thriller or simply another one of my cross-genre shifting stories of which my regular readers say, “Your genre is Joseph.”

Continuing here with Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 17.

Previous chapters here


Tag – Part III The Body – Chapter 17

Tardiff gazed at the proclamation nicely framed upon his cottage wall. Someone told him the frame was “ornate.” “That is ornately carved,” they said.

He didn’t remember who said it. Probably one of the gentlemen who brought it to him. He remembered wanting to ask, “Who is Ornate?” and realized before making a fool of himself that “ornate” was how it was carved, the intricacy of the design, not who carved it.

The frame remained nicely carved after many years on his cottage wall, the vellum it framed not so. Baron Bassus made him UnderSheriff of Nant, a reward for faithful service in the Baron’s guard, but so little happened – and perhaps that was Bassus’s reasoning? Give the title to Tardiff the Fool because nothing happens there and no one cares if it does? – none called him UnderSheriff any more.

No, now it was Tardiff the Bellman. What had been patrolling the road and questioning travelers unknown to him became walking through Nant ringing the bell announcing the canonical hours of worship, making sure people were about their business and nobody else’s, and finally walking through every six hours, same bell in hand, to summon help if a fire burned unattended or a sheep or goat wandered from its flock.

Tardiff the Bellman. The job paid for his cottage, wood for his fire, food for his table, and the cup or two at the Red Fox now and again.

Ha.

Tardiff the Fool? All this for walking around ringing a bell?

Ha!

Oh, but let there be a body found and everyone runs to get Tardiff because he’ll know what to do.

Ha. Tardiff knew he was given this office because he knew how to keep his mouth shut when he overheard the Baron’s business, knew it’s better to have a full belly in the Baron’s guard than to be a body loosed through the Baron’s privies to the cesspit’s outside the castle walls.

Now Tardiff collects the Baron’s taxes and sends them once a year to Melia, to the Baron’s coffers, and with my regards, Lord Baron, all is well in Nant and its surrounds.

But a body?

Of an unknown girl? Not of the village?

Where did she come from?

What was she doing?

Why was she wearing Julia’s clothes?

Tardiff knew three words and he wrote them as precisely as he could, first making sure his ink flowed and his scroll rolled and unrolled without cracking. He wasted one whole scroll practicing the words until they looked as he remembered.

Satisfied, he put on his boots, hat, scarf, slung a wineskin over his shoulder and shoved a piece of pigrib rich with meat into his pocket.

It would be a day’s journey to Turo and back, the next town, to where he could pass his message on and be sure it reached the Baron’s hand.

It is how each year’s taxes went. It must be safe.

He stood inside his door and unrolled the scroll one more time to make sure his message was written clear.

“Lord Baron, Help.”

He’d attached the seal he used to send taxes so the Baron would know from whence it came.

He opened the door.

Father Baillot stood there.

Baillot glanced at the open scroll as Tardiff absently rolled it up.

“Father Baillot. Is there something you need? Whatever it is, can it wait? I have something I must do.”

Baillot stood silent, his dark eyes darting about under his saturno’s rim.

“Well?”

Baillot kept his eyes steady on Tardiff’s face. “I have business in Turo.”

Baillot smiled when Tardiff’s eyebrows rose.

“I’ll be gone…not long. Only a day.”

“Oh?”

“I was wondering…if you could watch my parishioners for me. While I’m away.”

Tardiff became magnanimous. He walked Baillot into the street without closing his door. “Of course, of course, Good Father. And perhaps there’s something you can do for me, as well. It will take you no time. You know the Sargeant there? Good, good, good. Perhaps you will hand this to him for me? Nothing to be concerned with. One of my regular messages to the Baron, to let him know all is well. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you, Good Father, thank you.”

Baillot set off towards Turo. Tardiff reached into his pocket, pulled out the pig’s rib, put it between his teeth, went inside his cottage and closed his door, satisfied his obligation to the Baron and the Baron’s taxes done.

***

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Fat and Sassy

The families return.

This middle fall visit thrilled us because…

Because we’re easy. Especially when it comes to The Wild. Show us Old Ones of any stripe or form and we’re there for them.

Probably faster than we would be for most Two-Leggers we know.

Sad, that.

Much like Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea fame, we’ve found interactions with our own species less than optimal and often less than minimal.

Not so with The Wild. I’ve walked among wolves and bears, been close to mountain cats, never a worry.

Smile incorrectly at a Two-Legger?

All hell breaks lose.

It would be great victim mentality if I thought the fault was mine.

But I’ve given up doing so.

 

Mani He (part 2) now on Bewildering Stories Issue 948

Continuing the success of Mani He (part 1) in Bewildering Stories Issue 947, Mani He (part 2) appears today in Bewildering Stories issue 948.

Mani He originally appeared in Magic 1995, Crumb Elbow Publishing’s Read ‘N Run Anthology 1996, and my self-published Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires in 2016.

It’s wonderful to know a work is so appreciated it’s anthologized again and again, and again and again.

 
Many writers contributed to Bewildering Stories Issue 948 and I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading them all.

Please be sure to comment.

It means a lot to us.