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!