My fingers tremble as I write this. I'm almost afraid to open this debate. Do I dare?
But, fellow writers, do you know there's a move underfoot to teach young writers the importance of using dialogue tags other than SAID????
Okay, I know there are exceptions to every writing rule. But, especially for young readers, the dialogue tag "said" is mostly best. Not exclusively, perhaps. But mostly.
Characters hissing and pouting and grumpily saying their lines-- this so goes against my grain.
I have Darcy Pattison's book Novel Metamorphosis open in front of me this morning:
"The actual words of the character should already reflect tone, emotion attitude."
In other words, SAID is just fine. Perhaps if used exclusively, it would get boring. Mix it up maybe? But do not overdo the adverbs attached to your SAIDs either.
Pattison goes on: "Also, avoid adverbs and present participles."
ex: She said quaintly.
He said, gently scratching his nose.
(OK, I do that last one a lot, she types, reading along with the book. I'm working on it, but it doesn't bother me so much.)
Pattison goes on to say that these work occasionally but don't let them become a habit.
But I agree it's often better to "omit the action or use a separate sentence with the action more direct or more interesting."
And Anita Nolan, another very wise blogger/ editor, re: revising:
Look at the dialogue tags. Stick to "he/she said" for most tags. Use beats (actions) when possible to eliminate a tag. For example. instead of:
"Shut the window!" she yelled.
"Shut the window!" Her shrill voice ricocheted around the room.
"Shut the window!" She crossed the room and slammed it closed herself.
• Eliminate adverbs when possible. Search and destroy "-ly" words.
So, teachers, please. Do not over-emphasize the dialogue tags.
No to HISSED, especially. It's hard to hiss a simple declarative sentence with no ssss sounds in it.
I'm not even bothering to put up a link to this movement: "Said is Dead." But it's out there. Google it and you will get lesson plans, tips, serious attempts to rid the world of SAID. A writer friend tells me she's received letters from students, re-writing her award-winning novels using different verbs for said.
I envision the next generation of books for kids, written by these very same youngsters studying this movement. They are filled with dialogue that is hissed, spit, sighed, giggled, cried sadly, laughed loudly...