Re: Dialogue Tags: Alternatives to "said"

#3

Lorendiac Wrote: Isn't this what a thesaurus is for
If you look up 'said' in a thesaurus, it'll mostly suggest neutral alternatives or not indicate the emotional connotation unless you click on it/ search for the synonym in a dictionary. Kolden has given a variety of dialogue tags that carry emotion, which some newer writers may struggle to find or understand at first. Just because it's a simple resource you don't need it doesn't mean someone else won't benefit from it.

Re: Dialogue Tags: Alternatives to "said"

#5
I think it'll be helpful to have a list of these compiled all together. Since there are a lot of new writers on RR, we might also want to add some additional advice here about their usage, so people know when and how to use them.

Off the top of my head:

1. As RT Kolden said, you don't always need a dialogue tag. You'll primarily use them to make it clear who is speaking. You don't need one of it's already clear (for example, when there are only two people talking, you only need them at the beginning of the dialogue, and then sprinkle them in every so often to remind readers about who is who). You'll also use them to add emotion, context, or action to a line (particularly words like shouted, exclaimed, whispered, whined, and so on).

2. Tags other than "said" can add emotion or context, but use them sparingly. Use "said" for most dialogue tags, because people's eyes skim over it so it doesn't distract from the story. If you use the others too much, they can get distracting. Also, if you use them too much, it lessens their emotional impact. (Personally, I tend to include "asked" along with "said" in this category.)

3. Don't forget about action beats, which are another way to add emotion, context, or action to a line.

Bob shook his head. "No, that won't do at all."

... we don't need a dialogue tag here because, first, we already know who's speaking (Bob), and second, a dialogue tag wouldn't add anything to what he's saying.

But, just like alternatives to "said", don't go overboard with your action beats. They, too, can distract from the story itself. Use them when the action itself is important. Or, less often, to provide an alternative to using a dialogue tag.

4. Using a stronger verb (such as a descriptive dialogue tag) is generally considered better than using a weaker verb (e.g., "said") in association with an adverb. That's not always the case (e.g., "said softly" doesn't mean the same thing as "murmured" or "whispered", so sometimes the adverb is necessary). Note that this adverb advice goes beyond just dialogue tags, to all adverbs in your story.

Re: Dialogue Tags: Alternatives to "said"

#8
Thanks for the great work. I have just one small request. Please, don't use neon greens and yellows in the posts, it is hard for light-theme users to read (I was peering into the screen guessing the tag-category).

Oh, and as an edit, I have an additional tag for the list - interjected. I know it might be more into the action beat category, but to me, it fits into the manner of speech (when a character jumps in the midst of the dialogue).

Re: Dialogue Tags: Alternatives to "said"

#11
FAHyatt Wrote: I agree that probably, problems with thinking up alternative dialog tags or even less impressive, adverbs, does not bode well for one's future as a novelist.  Of course the same applies to nouns, adjectives, prepositions etc, pretty much all the basic parts of language should come reasonably easily, I would guess.
Hyatt, you're a talented writer and you give some amazing advice in these forums, but on this, I staunchly disagree. This is like saying 'unless you can draw a perfect circle free-hand, it doesn't bode well for your future as an artist.' While Giotto was known for being able to do this, he didn't spring from the womb drawing perfect circles without a compass; he learned to do it through decades of studying and practising his skills as an artist.

Absolutely everyone will have a limited vocabulary when they're starting out, and even career-writers continue to expand their vocabulary the longer they practise. Just because writers need to look up synonyms it doesn't mean they have a rocky future ahead of them at all. "Pretty much all the basic parts of language should come reasonably easily" - We all learn at different speeds and start in different places (some of us aren't native English speakers) and that's absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. After all, how will you learn new words if you don't use a dictionary to look up unfamiliar words you find while reading or search for novel variations in a thesaurus while writing? 

If I've missed some context in your comment I apologise for coming at you so hard, but this is something I believe is damaging to tell writers of any skillset.

Re: Dialogue Tags: Alternatives to "said"

#12

JenifryConan Wrote: This is like saying 'unless you can draw a perfect circle free-hand, it doesn't bode well for your future as an artist.' While Giotto was known for being able to do this, he didn't spring from the womb drawing perfect circles without a compass; he learned to do it through decades of studying and practising his skills as an artist.
This I find particularly true for us non-native speakers. Writing in another language is always challenging and having the support of a dedicated list of tags to use makes the writing and learning process quicker. 

Re: Dialogue Tags: Alternatives to "said"

#14

IvyVeritas Wrote: 3. Don't forget about action beats, which are another way to add emotion, context, or action to a line.

Bob shook his head. "No, that won't do at all."

... we don't need a dialogue tag here because, first, we already know who's speaking (Bob), and second, a dialogue tag wouldn't add anything to what he's saying.

THIS!   that said... " I tend to way overuse these, i've noticed." He looked down and to the side as he commented on his usage of motions, obviously ashamed. 

Re: Dialogue Tags: Alternatives to "said"

#15

TheLeakingPen Wrote: that said... " I tend to way overuse these, i've noticed." He looked down and to the side as he commented on his usage of motions, obviously ashamed.

I've been reading the Witcher series and Andrzej Sapkowski will often use dialogue to say how the speaker or the other characters are reacting.

"You tend to overuse these, I've noticed. Why are you looking down? Am I being upstaged by a pebble on the ground, eh? Stop laughing, it's not funny."

"Well, it is an interesting pebble. Sorry, I'm laughing again. I just feel so awkward."

It's not a perfect solution by any means, and an over-reliance of this technique can leave you in a similar situation. But perhaps throwing one of these in every now and again could mix up your writing.

Re: Dialogue Tags: Alternatives to "said"

#16

JenifryConan Wrote:
TheLeakingPen Wrote: that said... " I tend to way overuse these, i've noticed." He looked down and to the side as he commented on his usage of motions, obviously ashamed.

I've been reading the Witcher series and Andrzej Sapkowski will often use dialogue to say how the speaker or the other characters are reacting.

"You tend to overuse these, I've noticed. Why are you looking down? Am I being upstaged by a pebble on the ground, eh? Stop laughing, it's not funny."

"Well, it is an interesting pebble. Sorry, I'm laughing again. I just feel so awkward."

It's not a perfect solution by any means, and an over-reliance of this technique can leave you in a similar situation. But perhaps throwing one of these in every now and again could mix up your writing.
ooo, i like that!  a bit overblown and dramatic perhaps, but also kinda shakespearean.  I'm going to have to try that for a few things. Thanks. 

Re: Dialogue Tags: Alternatives to "said"

#20

RT Wrote: Bad rep? That's definitely not true. It's an essential dialogue tag that's been used in fiction for centuries. Already quite normalized.
For the most part, 'said' is the preferred standard because it's invisible. However, the said is dead 'movement' is quite big, especially in certain education systems which is why many new writers think they have to avoid it. My English Lit and Lang classes all encouraged the avoidance of said because the syllabus considered it to be 'bland' compared to other dialogue tags.