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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Throughlines

a recurring character/setting/element anchoring the reader in the story that keeps the reader interested

I use throughlines in my own writing and mentioned them previously in Using One-Line Summaries to Write Better Stories and Writing Mentoring.

Recent conversations demonstrated confusion; some people thought a throughline is the same as a plot line, some thought a throughline was an expanded TOC (Table-of-Contents), some thought…

I appreciate the confusion.

I also appreciate Einstein’s “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

Therefore, I’m either about to explain throughlines to a six-year old or demonstrate I don’t understand it myself.

Let me know which I achieve.


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Tag…Again… (chapter 2)

Remember The Witch [[Tag/The Apple/The Seed??]] and Tag?

Remember my mentioning it was working itself into a novella or novel?

Remember my asking for title suggestions?

I’m working on turning it into a novella. Perhaps even a novellette. Maybe a novelina. It could still end up a novel and I doubt it at present. So far it’s a mystery of some kind (not the length, the story).

The anticeding event (discussed in The Witch [[Tag/The Apple/The Seed??]]) is now told in backstory. I’m much happier with the story’s doing this time around and also recognize it’s not finished yet. One thing throwing me is how short each chapter is (at least in this writing), basically a single scene and nothing more. This chapter is an example.

Read Tag Chapter 1

And, as always, happy to have your input.


Tag – Chapter 2

The witch’s hand climbed the lone black oak’s trunk like a strangely shaped, five-legged insect. Cartilage, sinews, and ligaments trailed from the wrist where Eric’s axe severed it from the witch’s arm. A moment earlier it held Julia tight as the witch pulled Julia into the oak’s dark bole, her den, but the sudden rain weakened her and Eric struck. The hand fell against the tree and it climbed towards the bole.


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Tag…Again… (chapter 1)

Remember The Witch [[Tag/The Apple/The Seed??]] and Tag?

Remember my mentioning it was working itself into a novella or novel?

Remember my asking for title suggestions?

I’m working on turning it into a novella. Perhaps even a novellette. Maybe a novelina. It could still end up a novel and I doubt it at present. So far it’s a mystery of some kind (not the length, the story).

The anticeding event (discussed in The Witch [[Tag/The Apple/The Seed??]]) is now told in backstory. I’m much happier with the story’s doing this time around and also recognize it’s not finished yet. One thing throwing me is how short each chapter is (at least in this writing), basically a single scene and nothing more.

We’ll see…

And, as always, happy to have your input.


Tag – Chapter 1

Father Patreo looked up from his small cottage’s workbench. Well-soled boots crunched dry earth as someone came up the lane to his cottage. Male. Heavy. Healthy heavy, not sickly heavy. Most visitors to his cottage came sickly. A horse clomped coming from the opposite direction closely followed by squeaking cart wheels.


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Them Doore Girls – Narration

Tim Curry invited me to take part in a Hallowe’en podcast with several other authors, each of us reading something we felt fit the season.

Hallowe’en is celebratory to me and mine, and I didn’t think that’s what Tim had in mind.

I have written horror, though.

No, not written horribly (okay, maybe, and I’m getting better (I hope)), and not quite of horrible things (although some of my work is dark, I’ll grant you), so that set me off on a search.

I came up with two things. The first, shared last week, is a concatenation of two chapters in The Shaman, each of which deals with a succubatic kind of creature, Ellewomen. That post is, strangely enough, entitled “The Ellewomen.”

This one, Them Doore Girls, is from a horror story first published in Haunts 1992 and again in my self-published Tales Told Round Celestial Campfires 2016.

FYI, the sound quality is wanting. I find it best through headphones.

Enjoy!


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