Although the most basic dialogue tag is boring, it is also the most accepted word by editors. After reading seven articles on the subject, I learned that editors (and consequently agents) agree that other synonyms of “said” distract the reader from the dialogue. Over use of words like screamed, shrieked, hissed, whispered, sighed, shouted, etc. is a sign of beginning writing. YIKES!!
I’m not going to re-write the articles, but here is my grand summary:
- Use words other than “said” sparingly – too often and it’s like eating sprinkles instead of a cookie.
- Don’t tag all the time. If the conversation is between two characters, a reader should be able to follow along without “he said” following every line.
- Mix action into dialogue to progress the story or develop a character.
- If you use an adverb after a tag, your dialouge is not strong enough. (i.e. she said, sadly)
- Use the right punctuation. Here’s a great article on that.
- Characters can’t actually talk while laughing, shrugging, sighing. (I don’t acutally agree with this point…haven’t you ever said something while laughing?)
Does anyone else have an issue with “said?”
I would debate the issue that characters can’t talk while shrugging, but that’s just me 🙂 If you choose your words wisely and have your characters actions portray their emotions, then yes, all those flowery tags are useless.
@Trisha: I shrug and talk, laugh and talk, sigha and talk. Why can’t I write that way?