Welcome to my blog, SCRIBBLING TO (IN)SANITY! First time here? I'm a romance writer who wants to believe most problems can be solved over coffee, a mixed drink or by anything covered in chocolate. I'm a believer in second chances and that it's always the right time to fall in love. As the saying goes, you're a guest in my house only once...then you're family. So I invite you to join the fun! I love comments but it's okay to lurk too - just know I'm glad you've found me and I hope you visit me again soon!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

He said, she said

What I'm reading: The Lawman by Lily Graison

 Latest on my iPod: Zac Brown Band

Oh, the dreaded dialogue tag.

"I'm going to the store," he said.

"Don't forget the cookies," she said.

So boring, right?

Sure you might be tempted to open your handy thesaurus and find a better, more exciting word to replace "said" - but should you?

It's so tempting when facing the same word over and over to think about getting creative. After all, as writers, isn't that what we strive to do? Aren't we told to keep the repetitive words to an absolute minimum?

Not so fast..."said" IS hands down your best choice for a dialogue tag (and you don't always need a tag anyway, but that's a whole blog post on it's own!)

Why? Because it's invisible.

My big blue thesaurus gives me plenty of options. It says I can exclaim, declare, or announce. I could also disclose, comment or utter. And if it fits your character and your dialogue, these words would all be perfectly correct. Too bad, being perfectly correct isn't always what works best in fiction.

Every time you search for a new, more interesting word to replace "said," you run the risk of pulling your reader from the story, you run the risk of that one word standing out in the middle of your sparkling dialogue. And if your reader pauses to think about your word choice - you've lost the momentum of the scene.

Your dialogue is what needs to shine, not your dialogue tag!

As a new writer, I admit this was a tough nut for me to crack (before I found critique partners, I honestly had no idea this was even an issue.) Once it was pointed out to me that not every bit of dialogue needs to end in something more creative than the last one - I took notice of the books I was reading. And low and behold, my favorite authors slipped in the word "said" all over the place. Wow, I'd never even noticed...which is exactly the point!

It's the one place in your story being boring is your best choice.

(Confession: I love to use uttered, muttered, yelled and shouted in my first draft for only my eyes to see, then I edit them all out before my lovely critique ladies ever see them!)

Have some thoughts on the word "said?" I'd love to hear them!


  1. I had to learn that lesson too. Now as a reader, it makes me stumble when there is anything other than "said." :)

  2. I agree. It was tough to learn as a writer, but now when I read something other than said, it better add value to the story or it can turn into a wallbanger real fast.

  3. Good post! Now if only people would just "get" it! I have a similar post in the works about going into deep POV. Hopefully I'll remember this one and send people to you to check this out. It's always good to meet a believer. :-) Even if you're a closet mutterer.


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