Two examples to illustrate:

“It wasn’t suddenly.” Aru sipped her Americano. She bought it because it cost ¥499, and she loved prime numbers. They were unique. Unbreakable. “Have you seen the movie Pretty Woman?”

“Let me get this straight.” Ichi was the guy who had recently joined Aru’s car dealership. Also the guy who had recently confessed his love to her. “You suddenly decided to quit your job as an accountant—to pursue a career as a sex worker?”

Will the be distracting for the reader? What to do in cases like this? Put the action tags at the beginning of the dialogue? At the end?

  • I would put it after that line, but I don't have a specific reason, it just seems more right, and I have no idea what the policy on answering here is, so...
    – Mithical
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 18:35
  • The only drawback to the tags you have here is that the length of them creates a pause in the reader's mind between the two pieces of dialogue. If you intend for the person to be speaking continuously, without a few seconds between each sentence, then shorten your tags. Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 21:01
  • Long time no see, Alexandro. How's your novel coming along? I like the examples. I agree with Lauren (the inserts create a pause). I disagree with Daniel (the telling is fine here and fits the humorous style).
    – user5645
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 22:22
  • 1
    @what Yeah, long time. The novel got good reviews goodreads.com/book/show/27430688-animal-suicide. Thanks for the feedback you gave me back then.
    – wyc
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 1:24
  • Now that's great! So good luck with your next project :-) Glad you keep going.
    – user5645
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 5:57

1 Answer 1


It Depends

Will it be distracting for the reader?

Firstly, I can't not comment on the following: there are immense amounts of telling in this piece. I feel that the sense of 'bad' writing being created here isn't actually formed by the action tags, rather the telling.

She bought it because it cost ¥499, and she loved prime numbers.

That specifically, and all of your other action tags are telling me things. Each one tells me information that could be shown in a more interesting way. It seems boring and bad because you're just telling me the information in such a plain form. I won't write for you, instead I'll give you the golden advice:

  • Show. Don't tell.

I'll actually give a very primitive example of what showing could be like for the above quote:

Aru beamed at the price tag: ¥499. A prime number.

It's obvious that she beams at the price tag because of the prime number. Rather than telling the reader that she loves prime numbers, you're showing them.

The Action Tags

To be entirely honest, I think you can leave them where they are in the sentence. However, perhaps you could add some indication as to how they are speaking. Here's a thought:

“It wasn’t suddenly,” Aru spluttered outwards through a sip of her Americano.

I think it would be good to do something like this because it helps more easily lead into the action tags. In your work it felt a little abrupt. It is almost as if something is going on, and then a fatal error has occurred and you have randomly decided to give me information. It doesn't flow, and I think this could help it flow more easily.

I hope this helped.

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