Dialogue question for y’all

How does everyone feel about dialogue tags?

Do you use only said, asked, replied, continued, and added, or do you branch out into whispered, muttered, and murmured? I like all of those, and I try to limit the groans and moans to their, ahem, appropriate places, just like yell and scream. It’s very hard, imo, to yell or scream an entire sentence, just like it is to moan or groan one, but one can certainly say, “Yes,” or “No,” using the above tags.

I personally don’t like barnyard tags like roared, grunted or yowled. I think I’ve only used roar once and it was for a, “No.” I laughed at a book one time that had a character whinny. I also don’t care for non-speaking tags like, “Do what you will,” she laughed. I prefer to make the laugh separate, just like grinned or smiled. I can’t picture someone smiling or nodding words, and laughing while talking is also difficult.

Or do you try to do away with tags altogether, making the actions identify the speaker? Alice waved a hand and laughed. “Do what you will.” I want to know your opinions. ^_^

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6 thoughts on “Dialogue question for y’all

  1. I’ve never minded reading dialog tags. However, so many people advocate limiting them to “said,” or showing who’s speaking by the action, that I try to avoid them in my own writing.

    I recently read a novel that rarely inserted a tag, and it was a burden to keep track of the characters. The novel was very complex, with multiple viewpoints, and I think it would have been easier to follow with a few more dialog tags.

  2. I use actions fairly often to identify the speaker. When I do use a tag, it’s most often a simple one like “said,” “asked,” or “answered.” Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I do notice when other writers use a lot of “said-bookisms.” Personally, I think if the dialogue is written well enough, the reader should be able to figure out the tone from the words. I’m most likely to use a said-bookism or adverb to describe speech if the tone contradicts the words. Does that make sense?

    • Sandra, I also like it when you can figure out the tone from the words, and I get what you’re saying about contradictions. Like, “I’ll kill you!” he whispered. Such a thing might usually be a shout, but you were going for a harsh whisper.

  3. I like to eliminate as much as I can through the use of action surrounding the speaker–this method can make for tighter writing all around. Also, I am not fond of your “barnyard” tags either.

    However, I am not opposed to using anything that flows well and doesn’t distract the reader.

    In one chapter book, my grumpy king does “grump” a few times. But for some reason it seems to work.

    I hope more people weigh in, as it is always nice to find out how others feel.

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