So I’m curious. How many ways can we change the word Said in a story. This made me grab my trusty thesaurus.
Commented, reacted, stated, ejaculated, shouted, expounded, verbalized, blurted, exclaimed…
Yeah, the list isn’t short, as you can see.
What made me start this search, you might ask? Truth is, I was beta reading someone else’s story and I noticed their dialogue tags. You know what I mean, right?
“By golly, why don’t you know these?” I said.
The words in bold italic are called a dialogue tag. This is what people use to say who’s speaking. Some people like to expand these by changing the word said to something else. Changing it to a full action works better than just changing the word said.
Yeah, let the professor get to the why. It takes a moment.
Said has become an invisible word in prose. People see it, but they drift over it without notice. The words and phrasing of the quote bring more of the explanation of how things are said rather than a single word.
“Watch Out!” he said.
Yes, I could make that he shouted. Out of context, just using that one line, I might need to change it for understanding. But if we had more of the story with it, the character’s action and vocalization would be better understood.
The boulder rolled off the top of the cliff toward the hikers below. He leaned over and cupped his hands to his mouth.
“Watch Out!” he said.
There, better. Now we see he’d be shouting, without need for the change of tag. Sure, we could. But do we really need to? This is the fun of the writing today. In the older writings, it might have been something else. Said he or shouted he. Aren’t you glad modern writing changed THAT rule? Of course, back then, people also expected an expanded and more verbose prose in their books. They wanted the five pages of description and the expanded tags. Modern readers don’t look for all that. They don’t feel they have the time. We write to appease our audience, even if it is only us.
Here becomes the other fun question of the day. Asked. You’ll notice when I did my question above, I used said. There are multiple schools of thought on asked. Some say if you use the question mark within the quotes, asked becomes redundant. Others say the two are linked. My rule: Whatever makes the story flow the clearest to the reader.
In fact, through all of this, that is probably the biggest thought to take away. Use what makes the story flow the clearest to the reader.