Another installment from Unravelling Writing Advice series.
I find there’s a huge divide when it comes to using said/asked as a dialogue tag and when to use a synonym. I’ve read books that are extreme one way or the other and feel strongly that limiting to said is boring while overusing synonyms gets too much. I’m going to breakdown reasons for using or not using synonyms of “said”. They’re short lists, but I think they make the point.
Reasons for sticking to “said/asked”…
- It’s simple and easy to process who is saying what without distractions.
- With a good description of the character’s tone or expression, you don’t need another verb.
- You can easily avoid repetition of this verb with a quick beat or inner thought.
Reasons for using other verbs…
- It’s less repetitive and boring to use synonyms, especially with short and quick dialogue or a group of characters having an important conversation.
- It saves words on describing tone if you define the tone in a single verb or can add to a tone with a short action.
- You can attach a verb to a particular character and make it a trait.
So there you go, some reasons for and against using “said/asked” in dialogue tags. Honestly, the best way to avoid this conundrum is to write more beats, but again, that can be distracting to have lots of little actions purely to establish who’s speaking.
My best advice is to use moderate your tags and beats so nothing appears repetitive or overdone.