Buy books by AWers

If this site is helpful to you,
Please consider a voluntary subscription to defray ongoing expenses.


 

Welcome to the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler! Please read The Newbie Guide To Absolute Write

Results 1 to 19 of 19

Thread: Tags and Traits

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Posts
    2

    Tags and Traits

    Hi guys! Been a member a while but this is my first post. I have a question. I'm a little confused about character tags and character traits....what is the difference between the two? How would you demonstrate either?

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW cornflake's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    13,195
    Quote Originally Posted by JBStarr View Post
    Hi guys! Been a member a while but this is my first post. I have a question. I'm a little confused about character tags and character traits....what is the difference between the two? How would you demonstrate either?
    What's a character tag? Is that what you sew on them before they go to camp?

  3. #3
    RIP Prowl AW Moderator regdog's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Primus, let me be the person she saw me as
    Posts
    51,286
    Porting to Basic Writing Questions, please keep hands and feet inside the thread at all times.
    Last edited by regdog; 07-16-2017 at 04:37 PM.
    My Blog-Updated on 10/9/14 An Open Letter To Hasbro

    Stop by the Weekend Progress Report to brag about your weekly writing accomplishments

    Help find Tracey Cooeedownunder's sister is missing

    My amazing avatar is a commission by the talented Andrew Griffith

  4. #4
    Undistractable (on deadline) mccardey's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Australia.
    Posts
    10,709
    I googled.
    In the parlance of fiction writing, a character tag is a repetitive verbal device used to identify a character in the mind of the reader. More than a simple description, a character tag calls to mind aspects of the character's personality and uniqueness.Character Tags in Fiction - Daily Writing Tips

    because character tag was a new expression for me, too. But you can't confuse it with a character trait because
    Character traits are all the aspects of a person's behavior and attitudes that make up that person's personality. Everyone has character traits, both good and bad. Even characters in books have character traits. Character traits are often shown with descriptive adjectives, like patient, unfaithful, or jealous.Character Trait Examples - YourDictionary
    So I'm not really sure what the question is. Maybe OP is thinking of character tags and dialogue tags?
    Last edited by mccardey; 07-16-2017 at 04:52 PM.

  5. #5
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    14,450
    I'm also unsure as to what the OP's question is. 'Character traits' is self-explanatory and not confined to writing. No idea what a character tag is.
    Everything yields to treatment.

  6. #6
    Never Surrender AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    On a Pedestal
    Posts
    39,817
    I understand the question, so I get a cookie, right?

    While every important character has a whole slew of traits, like a real person, the character tag is a memory aid to help the reader keep straight who's who. So Antonio the slimy ladies' man addresses females as "Babe" constantly without getting called on it nearly as often as a real guy would, Mimi pushes up her glasses on her nose scene after scene even though any competent optician could make them fit, and Barniss grooms his wings during conversations when everybody knows leathery wings are pretty much self-cleaning. All these little tags just help the reader remember which character is who.

    Maryn,
    Get to work. Success isn't built on the power of your dreams.


    Brick by Brick, a ménage à trois novel
    Taming the Wilde, FemDom spotted--and striped--in the wild
    Men in Love, anthology about--hey, you're already there, aren't you?
    Maryn Says, an irregular blog almost never about writing
    The Occasional Tweet

  7. #7
    Come on you stranger, you legend, Devil Ledbetter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    you martyr and shine.
    Posts
    9,571
    Quote Originally Posted by Maryn View Post
    I understand the question, so I get a cookie, right?

    While every important character has a whole slew of traits, like a real person, the character tag is a memory aid to help the reader keep straight who's who. So Antonio the slimy ladies' man addresses females as "Babe" constantly without getting called on it nearly as often as a real guy would, Mimi pushes up her glasses on her nose scene after scene even though any competent optician could make them fit, and Barniss grooms his wings during conversations when everybody knows leathery wings are pretty much self-cleaning. All these little tags just help the reader remember which character is who.

    Maryn,
    I didn't know that was what it was called. I believe in awarding certain gestures or turns of phrases to one character to help differentiate. That said, I always keep in mind a certain novel I read where one character tugged at his earlobe in every single scene he appeared in. A grown man. Nervously tugging his ear like an anxious kindergartner. And in the one scene where he didn't, the author mentioned that he didn't. Argggghghghghghghghg.

    Do it, but please for the love of Mike don't overdo it.

    A tragicomic novel
    about Pearl Jam fans
    in Detroit.


    I Write | I Blog | My Dog

  8. #8
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    14,450
    Hmmmm.

    Have a jam tart, Maryn.

    I didn't know that either, but I can't help wondering if I'm any the better for knowing what it is.
    Everything yields to treatment.

  9. #9
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    United Kingdom
    Posts
    591
    Is this another Nynaeve-tugging-on-braid type thing?

    If only I could have reached through the pages of the book to set her hair on fire.
    After all, his name was Everett C. Marm, and he wasn't much to begin with, except a man who had no sense of time.

  10. #10
    Not as sweet as you think Aggy B.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Just north of the Deep South
    Posts
    11,078
    So, usually I try to use traits as much as possible to avoid tags. So, my MC might have a limp and put her leg up when she has a chance to sit, but she's also prone to hit people who threaten her, dedicated to the idea that she must find and save her father, etc.

    Or, she's constantly smoothing unruly hair into place, but also thinking about how the belief in destiny determines the future, striving to use words instead of her fists/gun, desperate to find a companion/desperate to keep her friends alive.

    Or, touching her gun for reassurance, but also not a prude, committed to revenge, recognizing that she is becoming the thing she's hunting.

    Tags are easily overdone. They are useful in specific situations, but work best in conjunction with a group of traits that distinguish the hearo (strengths and flaws) from supporting characters (who may have similar traits, but should probably not have identical traits.)
    _________
    A.G.C.

    OF LIPS AND TONGUE
    "Don't pick it up if you have important things to do today."
    "...the story itself is a masterpiece of horror, paranoia, love, and introduces a startling heroine that people should flock to."
    "If you like dark, unsettling, gorgeous Southern Gothic books with a taste of Southern Fried X-Files, this novella might be your cuppa."
    OF SHADE AND SOUL: Available now!

    OF FLESH AND BONE:
    Coming July 20

    A.G. Carpenter
    @Aggy_C

  11. #11
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    In the land of cheese and chocolate
    Posts
    10,264
    Quote Originally Posted by Maryn View Post
    All these little tags just help the reader remember which character is who.
    And they can get real old real fast.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    Is this another Nynaeve-tugging-on-braid type thing?

    If only I could have reached through the pages of the book to set her hair on fire.
    Get in line...

  12. #12
    Never Surrender AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    On a Pedestal
    Posts
    39,817
    Of course tags can get old. But used wisely, they can keep a reader going instead of sighing and closing the book because they can't remember who the hell Michelle is and what her relationship might be with Gwen--who might be the teacher or maybe the barista.
    Get to work. Success isn't built on the power of your dreams.


    Brick by Brick, a ménage à trois novel
    Taming the Wilde, FemDom spotted--and striped--in the wild
    Men in Love, anthology about--hey, you're already there, aren't you?
    Maryn Says, an irregular blog almost never about writing
    The Occasional Tweet

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW CJSimone's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Posts
    1,088
    Quote Originally Posted by Devil Ledbetter View Post
    Do it, but please for the love of Mike don't overdo it.
    Quote Originally Posted by BethS View Post
    And they can get real old real fast.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maryn View Post
    Of course tags can get old. But used wisely, they can keep a reader going instead of sighing and closing the book because they can't remember who the hell Michelle is and what her relationship might be with Gwen--who might be the teacher or maybe the barista.
    So I'm wondering what's overdoing the tags because that's something I could easily do. Like keep it to a few times in an entire novel?

  14. #14
    Come on you stranger, you legend, Devil Ledbetter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    you martyr and shine.
    Posts
    9,571
    I would, especially with gestures. I doubt there is a specific optimum number, but it would be related to the number of uses compared to the number of scenes that the "tagged" character is in, length of the novel, number of characters for the reader to keep track of, etc.

    In the example I gave about the character tugging his ear (from Real Life & Liars, an otherwise good novel), it was in a secondary character, the only son of the MC who had 3 or 4 grown kids who all had about equal weight in the story. The fact that he was the only son made him memorable enough within the cast, and he was well very drawn and consistent as a character. But he tugged his ear in every single scene he was in. Even if he was in only 4 scenes, that would have been too many ear tugs for him, IMO.

    So I'm going to squint at my thumb in the air and say keep it between 20% and 30% of the scenes the character appears in. I just made that up; please don't take it as any kind of rule.

    A tragicomic novel
    about Pearl Jam fans
    in Detroit.


    I Write | I Blog | My Dog

  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW CJSimone's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Posts
    1,088
    Quote Originally Posted by Devil Ledbetter View Post
    I would, especially with gestures. I doubt there is a specific optimum number, but it would be related to the number of uses compared to the number of scenes that the "tagged" character is in, length of the novel, number of characters for the reader to keep track of, etc.

    In the example I gave about the character tugging his ear (from Real Life & Liars, an otherwise good novel), it was in a secondary character, the only son of the MC who had 3 or 4 grown kids who all had about equal weight in the story. The fact that he was the only son made him memorable enough within the cast, and he was well very drawn and consistent as a character. But he tugged his ear in every single scene he was in. Even if he was in only 4 scenes, that would have been too many ear tugs for him, IMO.

    So I'm going to squint at my thumb in the air and say keep it between 20% and 30% of the scenes the character appears in. I just made that up; please don't take it as any kind of rule.
    Thanks, Devil Ledbetter, that helps (even if you're making some things up).

  16. #16
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Posts
    2
    Thanks everyone for the input! Sorry it took so long to get back to this, too!

  17. #17
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    In the land of cheese and chocolate
    Posts
    10,264
    Quote Originally Posted by CJSimone View Post
    So I'm wondering what's overdoing the tags because that's something I could easily do. Like keep it to a few times in an entire novel?
    IMO and fwiw--

    I think gesture tags are particularly easy to overdo, because if the character does it often enough that he can be identified by it, then it's become a personal tic, which are generally very annoying. And if it exists only to identify the character (as opposed to saying something meaningful about him), then it's nothing more than a crutch.

    For me, something distinctive about a character's appearance or speech patterns would work much better. If gestures are used, keep it minimal and make them mean something, even if it's not apparent what it means at first.
    Last edited by BethS; 07-21-2017 at 01:53 AM.

  18. #18
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    14,450
    Quote Originally Posted by BethS View Post
    IMO and fwiw--

    I think gesture tags are particularly easy to overdo, because if the character does it often enough that he can be identified by it, then it's become a personal tic, which are generally very annoying. And if it exists only to identify the character (as opposed to saying something meaningful about him), then it's nothing more than a crutch.

    For me, something distinctive about a character's appearance or speech patterns would work much better. If gestures are used, keep it minimal and make them mean something, even if it's not apparent what it means at first.
    I agree. Subtle speech patterns are easily recognised and registered without being intrusive.
    Everything yields to treatment.

  19. #19
    Hardened drinker divine-intestine's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    The Big Smoke
    Posts
    76
    If you want to see an exceptional character done well, look no further than Bella in Twilight . . .

















    (that was a joke, put your axe away)
    “I am impelled not to squeak like a grateful and apologetic mouse, but to roar like a lion out of pride in my profession."

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Custom Search