I host a pretty thread over on Wattpad.com called: ‘Teen Writers- Need Writing Help? The Teacher Is In’, where users, mostly teenagers, are invited to ask me any writing related question. I never pretend to know everything, and Lord knows I don’t, but I do the best I can to shell out some advice. Some of the users are brand-spankin’ new to writing, while others have been doing it forever. I thought it’d be a great idea to share some of the questions I’ve received, and some of the “advice” I’ve given.
Here’s one on the word “said”:
My two cents?
Obviously I think it’s fine to use the word ‘said every now and then, but using any one word too much, regardless of what that word is, can easily make your writing sound repetitious. And what a shame that would be, especially when there are so many other wonderful words out there to use! You can find some great examples of how to spice up your dialogue tags here: Alternatives For ‘Said’.
Of course, like everything, there’s a flip side here. Please, oh please, don’t pull of the thesaurus and look up every synonym for ‘said’ and shove them in after your carefully crafted dialogue. Trust me; that is going to be just as annoying to read as when you were using ‘said’ all the time! Plus, odds are it’ll take away from the dialogue you’ve written, and pull your readers out of the story– which is absolutely the last thing you want to do!
Here’s what I mean:
“What?” gasped Tricia.
“You heard what I said!” Claire screamed.
“B-but I didn’t–” Tricia stammered.
“You knew exactly what was going on this whole time!” Claire huffed. “You knew about both of them!”
See what happened there? All those crazy dialogue tags got in the way of the actual dialogue.
You can also let the action speak for the character.
Here’s an example:
Noah smiled and brushed Avery’s hair of the back of her neck. “You look beautiful tonight.”
“Look!” Jennifer elbowed me in the side and pointed at the front door. “It’s Krista!”
“Run!” I took off before the word completely left my mouth, tearing down the pavement, and ignoring the burn in my calves.
Really though, the key is to strike a nice balance. Use the word ‘said’, but be mindful of how often you’re using it, and don’t be afraid to switch your dialogue tags up a little. The last thing you want to do is let a little old word like ‘said’ get the better of you!
Good Luck and in case you want a cheat sheet, here’s a quick one for you: