Tags (like name tags) identify. A dialogue tag is group of words following quoted speech (e.g. ‘she said’), identifying who spoke and/or the way they spoke. Other words for ‘said’ can indicate:
- Volume (e.g. yelled, shouted, bellowed, screamed, whispered)
- Pitch or tone(e.g. shrieked, groaned, squeaked)
- Emotion (e.g. grumbled, snapped, sneered, begged)
The relation between these components of voice will also be important. It might be strange, for example, for a character to ‘sneer’ the text ‘I love you’, since the word ‘sneer’ connotes contempt which is as opposed to love.
Considering that you can find countless verbs that may take the place of ‘said,’ if you simply find a stronger, more emotive one and employ that?
Not always. Check out strategies for using dialogue tags such as for example said and its particular substitutes well:
1. Use all dialogue tags sparingly
The situation with dialogue tags is they draw awareness of the author’s hand. The more we read ‘he said’ and ‘she said’, the greater amount of we’re aware of the author creating the dialogue. We see the author attributing who said what – it lays their guiding hand bare. Compare these two versions associated with the conversation that is same
“I told you already,” I said, glaring.
“Well I was listening that is n’t was I!” he said.
“Apparently not,” he replied.
Now compare this to the following:
I glared at him. “I told you already.”
“Well I was listening that is n’t was I!”
For some, it is a matter of stylistic preference. Even so, it’s difficult to argue that the version that is first better than the next. Into the second, making glaring an action rather than tethering it to your dialogue gives us a stronger feeling of the characters as acting, fully embodied beings.
Given that it’s clear the glaring first-person ‘I’ may be the character speaking at first, we don’t need certainly to add ‘I said’. The strength of the exclamation mark when you look at the second character’s reply makes any dialogue tag showing emotion (e.g. ‘he snapped’) unnecessary. Since it’s on a new line, and responds to what the other said, we realize it’s an answer from context.
Similarly, within the first speaker’s retort, we don’t need a tag telling us his tone (that it’s curt, sarcastic, or hostile). The brevity, the fact it is only two words, conveys his tone and now we can infer the smoothness continues to be mad.
Using tags sparingly allows your reader the pleasure of imagining and inferring. Your reader gets to fill out the blank spaces, prompted more subtly because of the clues you leave (an exclamation mark or a pointed, cross phrase).
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2. Use ‘said’ sparingly, other words for said way more
The word ‘said’, like ‘asked’, gives no colour and personality to a character’s utterance. In conversation between characters, options for said can tell your reader:
- The average person mental or emotional states for the conversants
- The degree of conflict or ease when you look at the conversation
- What the partnership is a lot like between characters (for instance, if one character always snaps during the other this will show that the type is dominanting and maybe unkind to the other)
Here are dialogue words you need to use instead of ‘said’, categorised because of the form of emotion or scenario they convey:
Shouted, bellowed, yelled, snapped, cautioned, rebuked.
Consoled, comforted, reassured, admired, soothed.
Shouted, yelled, babbled, gushed, exclaimed.
Whispered, stuttered, stammered, gasped, urged, hissed, babbled, blurted.
Declared, insisted, maintained, commanded.
Sighed, murmured, gushed, laughed.
Cried, mumbled, sobbed, sighed, lamented.
Jabbed, sneered, rebuked, hissed, scolded, demanded, threatened, insinuated, spat, glowered.
Getting back together:
Apologised, relented, agreed, reassured, placated, assented.
Teased, joked, laughed, chuckled, chortled, sniggered, tittered, guffawed, giggled, roared.
Related, recounted, http://www.evolutionwriters.biz/ continued, emphasized, remembered, recalled, resumed, concluded.
Despite there being a great many other words for said, remember:
- Too many can make your dialogue start to feel like a compendium of emotive speech-verbs. Use colourful dialogue tags for emphasis. They’re the salt and spice in dialogue, not the meal that is whole
- Use dialogue that is emotive for emphasis. For instance if everything has been placid and a character suddenly gets a fright, here will be a good location for a shriek or a scream
One problem we often see in beginners’ dialogue is that every the emotion is crammed into the words themselves additionally the dialogue tags. Yet the characters feel a little like talking heads in jars. Your characters have bodies, so don’t be afraid to make use of them. Compare these examples:
“That’s not that which you said yesterday,” she said, her voice implying she was retreating, withdrawing.
“Well I hadn’t seriously considered it yet. The simple truth is given that I’ve had time I observe that maybe it’s not going to work out. But let’s not be hasty,” he said, clearly planning to control her retreat, too.
“That’s not what you said yesterday.” She hesitated, walked and turned into the window.
“Well I hadn’t seriously considered it yet.” He stepped closer. “The truth is now that’ I’ve had time I see that maybe it is not planning to work out. But let’s not be hasty.” He reached off to place a tactile hand regarding the small of her back.
Within the second example, the dialogue is interspersed with setting. How the characters build relationships the setting (the girl turning to handle the window, for example) reveals their emotions mid-dialogue. The movement and gesture conveys similar feelings to your first dialogue example. Yet there’s a clearer sense of proximity and distance, of two characters dancing around each words that are other’s thoughts and feelings.
Vary the real way you show who’s speaking in your dialogue. Use emotive other words for said to season characters’ conversations. Yet seasoning shouldn’t overpower substance. Utilize the content of what characters say, their movement, body language, pauses, and silences, to produce deeper, more layered exchanges.
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