In other words, dialogue tags. Dialogue tags are words that identify the speaker. Dialogue, at its best, is tricky; at its worst, nightmarish. But get it right and you have got one of your main ingredients of your novel nailed.
However, trying to write great dialogue that moves your story along and is not stilted is an art form. The last thing you need is your dialogue tag getting in the way. According to Writing Romance For Dummies by Leslie Wagner, “you speak dialogue, so any tag attached to it has to involve noise. Dialogue can’t be smiled, grinned or seethed or acted out.”
That is why I love the word “said” in all its simplicity. The beauty of those four letters is that they are unobtrusive and they get the job done: it allows the characters to say what they have to say and the readers to read it with out being distracted.
Did you ever notice that when you are reading dialogue, you don’t even notice the word “said”? Your mind tends to skip over it. The word “said” is the power behind the dialogue throne.
But burden your dialogue tags with clunky distractions and your ship is sunk before it has even left the port. Case in point: the current book I’m reading is The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larrson and with this blog post in mind, I paid great attention to the dialogue and noticed that there were many times that he didn’t even bother with the basics of “he said”, “she said”. It was that simple and despite the fact that there are no tags to identify the speaker, I was able to keep track and most of all, it moved the fantastic story along.
In saying all of this, rules are made to be broken and I think you can expound on your dialogue tag once in a awhile. It is kind of like putting salt in your soup: a little bit is fine, but too much ruins it.