Better Dead Than Said

Dialogue tags are a part of writing, they always will be, but my opinion on the matter seems to be in the minority, and I cannot understand why. To me, writing plays out very much like a movie, all the way down to the nuances of the face and the stressing of a character’s words. Everything I have read or opinions from people on the matter have come back with: stick with said. The consensus is that using any other type of dialogue tag is amateur writing. The “he said, she said,” method, in my mind, is boring writing and the author skimmed over using their brains to insert such a trivial word. Moreover, critics say that “said” almost disappears entirely and my question would be, “Then, why use it at all?” The first obvious answer is that you must show who is saying what, and I understand that but what if we approached other aspects of writing the same way?

What if you wrote a novel with all characters having brown hair and brown eyes? It would be rather one-dimensional and boring, would it not? What if all characters had the same personality? The same goals? Where would be the fun in reading that? Now, take that mentality and apply it to how they speak. What if they had the same dialect, the same inflections, would it not be terrible? The same can be said for the tags that go at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence. Christopher Walken is an actor who has a unique way of delivering his lines, what if you wrote a character based on him with only said? Does that cover how he talks? What if all the people in the movie spoofed Christopher Walken? It would be a boring movie, would it not?

To illustrate my point, I present this passage:

“Hey, you guys watch the news yesterday?” John asked.

“No,” Cara said.

“Me either,” Tony said.

“What was on?” Cara asked.

“It was about that new airplane that flys really fast,” John said. “It will cut international flights in half.”

“Sounds really interesting,” Tony said. “I might have to look it up.”

“I might be more inclined to take a trip now,” Cara said.

Other than being a really boring passage, the dialogue tags glare at me, and I have to assume how the person is talking. Do we know if they are excited, angry, or happy? And there are variations to how we say things like shouted, whispered, and murmured. Not every passage will have more than two people talking, but when you do, I find the repetition a turn off. And most times, you don’t need many dialogue tags in a conversation that’s easy to follow.

Let’s try that passage again but with different tags.

“Hey, you guys watch the news yesterday?” John asked.

“No,” Cara said.

“Me either,” Tony muttered.

“What was on?” Cara pressed.

“It was about that new airplane that flys really fast. It will cut international flights in half,” John exclaimed.

“Sounds really interesting,” Tony encouraged. “I might have to look it up.”

“I might be more inclined to take a trip now,” Cara commented.

Again, really terrible passage, but I think the new tags help to paint a better picture of how they conversed, but you be the judge. Do you like the “he said, she said,” method or do you like something more diverse? Is using different dialogue tags the mark of an amateur? Again, my opinion in the minority, but the “he said, she said” method feels very elementary or that I am reading a Twilight novel or the Twilight fanfic Fifty Shades of Grey. In the end, to each their own.

 If you enjoyed this content or you’re an avid, epic fantasy reader, check out my book, The Bearer of Secrets, on Amazon. It’s available on Kindle Unlimited, eBook, and print.

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