Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Speechtags -- writing tip

We saw a manuscript recently where the author had gone to great lengths to find synonyms for "said." There was hardly a "said" in three whole chapters...

Characters exclaimed, or they erupted, or they fumed, or sobbed, or wailed, or cried, but nobody "said" anything. Readers skip right over said, but tend to pay more attention to the synonyms, so that, in reading, the manuscript begins to sound a little hysterical. At least he didn't go so far as that favorite of 19th century authors -- he ejaculated....

Avoiding repetition is good, but if you follow the dialogue with an action by the speaker, you get a good image, and the reader will assume that the character who moved is the one who spoke. No need for either a "said" or a synonym. Just be sure it's the same character who moves and keep the movement in the same paragraph -- that's not too hard to do.

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