Speaker tags. There are many pieces of advice out there when it comes to those tags and writing. For a while, the advice was don’t use “said” all the time. He said, she said, they said. The trick, the advice said, was to use other verbs so that the reader can get more information, such as emotion, volume, and let’s be honest, “said” is used so much a little variety would be good, right?
Well, then comes in other advice. “Said” is solid, and because we as readers (and writers) are so familiar with it, we just skip over it when we’re reading. It’s… like a white wall. Which means I should probably keep an eye on mine since I love to plaster posters all over my walls.
Words are a funny thing when it comes to writing though.
- “Of course,” he smiled.
- “Of course,” he said, smiling.
The first one is a little strange since you can’t smile words. (I already hear couples saying that they can hear the words their partner is smiling/laughing/etc. – I’ll get to that later). The second one is biologically correct; he said the words while smiling.
If you search around the internet enough, you’ll find pretty pictures and lists of words that you can say instead of “said.” Some of these are good finds, while others are a little… harder to use as a tag.
- crooned – laughed – lied – interrupted – pleaded – etc.
- crooned (tag) is to sing or speak in a gentle manner (perfect for saying words)
- laughed (not tag) – to show emotion with a chuckle or vocal sound (which means you’re not able to say words)
- interrupted (tag) – to break in upon an action, especially with questions/remarks (which means that the person is speaking)
- pleaded (tag) – to argue for a claim, entreat or appeal earnestly (which means that the person will be saying words!)
Let’s go back to the smiling words. The sentence could change a little, making it clear that words were said and actions were had.
- “Of course,” he said. Smiling.
- “Of course.” He smiled.
Another trick would be to make it what the recipient of the smile is inferring.
- I saw his smile, and it promised forever.
- “Of course,” his smile said to me; after twenty years of being together, every gesture was a word.
The good thing about using “said” though is that it doesn’t attract attention, and because of that, it’s always “safe” to use. (Think about if every tag was something new. That would be strange enough to the reader that it would jar them out of the story, and that’s the opposite of what writers what to do.)
Hopefully this helps, and may your writing go well!
And for anyone looking for them, here are the quiz Answers for 11/26 — 1. True. 2. False. 3. True. 4. True. 5. False