Tuesday, May 14, 2013

They Don't See "Said," They Said

The word is a bit like nails on slate. For all the research about the dialogue tag "said" being ignored by the brain, I must be one of the outliers on the grid of results. Not only do I notice "said," I have stabby feelings about the overuse of the word. By "overuse," I mean more than once per chapter. Mostly because it's a cop-out by the author. If the character can't possibly do something whilst speaking that allows for the identification of the speaker, they'd better be frozen in carbonite...and then they wouldn't really be speaking, so ... ya know... again, no really good reason to use "said" more than ...rarely.

That is not to say (see what I did there?) I don't love dialogue tags. I do. I particularly love them when the character who is speaking is out of the line of sight of the POV character (where actions cannot be observed, don'cha know).

More than two characters hashing it out in one conversation? Label that shit. One way or another. I don't want to guess who said that to whom. If it's a botox party and expressions are not physically possible, then bring on the tagging. I'd much rather endure an army of "said" than have to re-read snappy quips trying to figure out who's the genius, who's the ijit, and who's the referee.

When will I absolutely use dialogue tags? I'm a big fan of asides while characters are in a crowd, so there's muttering, mumbling, grumbling, growling (particularly for bestial characters).

I'm such a rebel, I'm not ashamed to throw in the occasional adverb into a dialogue tag when the words being spoken are in contrast to the emotion. Sarcasm, one of the harder things to communicate without incessant eye rolls and drolls. 

I admit, there are a few tags to which I have an unhealthy attachment; particularly when I cough up the first draft of a novel. In my current WiP, my protagonist snorted more than a truffle pig. There may have been a side-kick who drawled so much he ought to have seen a doctor about his lack of muscle control.

All-in-all, my go-to for speaker-identification is action amid dialogue. Second-string are the tags that convey emotion. Court of last resort ... "said."

So, dear reader, am I the only one who notices "said" or are a few of you keeping my outlying dot company?

image originally found here: http://theinspiredclassroom.blogspot.com/2011/10/no-more-said.html


  1. For me it stands out if used habitually. I find a story much more enjoyable when the author comes up with other ways to identify the speaker. How can you not be intrigued by the cackling wench, at least until you want to put a bullet through her head for cackling on every page. ; )
    (that one was for you KAK)

    1. ~pulls trigger~

      ~lash flutter~