Character tags are a good way to clearly identify your characters and make them come alive. There are many ways to do this. Do you remember Uriah Heep in Dickens’ David Copperfield? He was always rubbing his clammy hands and he kept trying to make himself ‘humble’ by using that word in every context. These tags made him come alive – we readers hated him
Tags can be:
- Tapping a pen on a table
- Pulling at one’s ear
- Clearing your throat (my wife claims that when I talking on the phone to an attractive woman, I clear my throat a lot. She’s wrong.)
- A shuffle walk
- The sound of a cane
- Chewing gum like it was a cow’s cud
- A harsh, annoying laugh
- An unusual odor, e.g. coco butter
- Constant eye blinking.
- Playing with hair
- Certain kinds of clothes
- Tugging at one’s ear
- Words – careful use of words, such as Dickens did
- Manner of speaking – stuttering, muttering, bombastic
- Habits – when I see someone rolling a smoke, I immediately wonder if they’ve done time.
- How one carries themselves – slouching etc.
Overuse of tags can irritate the reader. Best to establish the tag and then use it rarely to identify the character.
Watch out for tags in your writing. On first draft I always put in a lot of “now.” I have to go back and take them out.
Images courtesy of:
- ehow.com tag
- anvari.org homer