One Writer’s Journey

December 10, 2014

He Said, She Said: Tagging your dialogue

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:28 am
Tags: , ,

saidYesterday, I read a review of a short story.  The main problem that the reviewer had with the story is that the author tried too hard.  Instead of using said, her characters teased, argued and replied.

I understand why an author would choose one of these words, but it isn’t necessary.  Said is seemless.  Said is non-threatening.  Add the character’s name — Melody said or Ryan said — and the reader knows exactly who is talking.  And, truly, that is the whole point of said.

Nope.  That’s it.  Said just keeps the reader on track.

And, no, you don’t need to use a better word so that the reader knows HOW the character said something or what else is happening.  NOt convinced?  Think about this. Argued implies raised voices and drama but well-written dialogue will get the arguement and the drama across. If you have to say “argued Melody,” work on your dialogue instead.

Still, said can feel monotonous and it really isn’t always necessary especially if you only have two people who  are talking.

“Where is Peter?” Melody said.

“He wasn’t in class,” Ryan said, “but he didn’t text anyone.”

“I hope nothing else has happened,” Melody said.  

“Exactly,” Ryan said.

See.  Boring and not necessary because you can take some of those out and still know whose saying what.

“Where is Peter?” Melody said.

“He wasn’t in class,” Ryan said, “but he didn’t text anyone.”

“I hope nothing else has happened.”  

“Exactly.” 

Still seems a little ho hum doesn’t it?  You don’t need the he said she said tags but it doesn’t entirely get their worrry across.  Add some beats of action to do that.  They make it even easier to leave out he said she said.

“Where is Peter?” Melody looked around the crowded cafeteria.

“He wasn’t in class,” Ryan pulled out his phone and shook his head, “but he didn’t text anyone.”

“I hope nothing else has happened.”  

“Exactly.” Ryan slipped his keys out of his pocket.

If you can’t stand to leave it at he said she said, slip in some beats of action and choose actions that will help set the mood.  It may not be as easy as having your characters whisper, shout and exclaim but it will make for a much better story.

–SueBE

 

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