Dialogue: ‘said’ is invisible, and that’s cool

Who said what? You may feel the need to tag all dialogue with the speaker, but really it’s not necessary most of the time.

“Who’s there?” Jim asked questioningly.

“No one,” Bob stated defiantly.

“But I hear you, you answered me!” Jim exclaimed

“Nope, you are mistaken,” Bob rebuffed.

“I know what I am hearing, I’m not crazy,” Jim insisted.

“Are you sure? You’ve heard things before,” Bob reminded.

“I.. I have, it’s true,” Jim lamented. “But not this time!”

The above is pretty annoying, right? You only really need to have the first two dialogue tags to introduce the characters, then it’s obvious who is saying what.

“Who’s there?” Jim asked.

“No one,” said Bob.

“But I hear you, you answered me!”

“Nope, you are mistaken.”

“I know what I am hearing, I’m not crazy.”

“Are you sure? You’ve heard things before.”

“I.. I have, it’s true. But not this time!”

There, that’s much easier to read, and nothing was lost by changing it. You still know who is saying what, and you can get an idea of how they are saying it just by the words.

When you do need to tag your dialogue for clarity,  ‘said’ is pretty great. You may want to spice it up, but unless you really feel that the way something is being said is ambiguous, anything other than ‘said’ kind of distracts from the words, in my opinion. Your eyes just glaze over ‘said’ and your brain gathers the information of who’s talking without really registering it. It’s like a special power that ‘said’ has, and it’s pretty rad! I’d usually rather have that instead of drawing attention to the tag.

“You don’t need dialogue tags all the time,” said Jonas. “Often you are fine without any.”

vs

“You don’t need dialogue tags all the time,” Jonas advised. “Often you are fine without any.”

Do you see the difference? The first sentence you read through without pause. The second, you stop a bit to consider the tag and what it says about the sentence.

The invisibility of ‘said’ is not something you should discount!

 

 

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