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As a child between about the ages of 6 and 12, I had clear career plans. I wanted to be an author.
It’s easy to see why: my parents were careful to instill a lifelong love of literature in all of their children. Books were better than any toy. Also, I had a lot of imagination. When I was supposed to be sleeping, I acted out nearly full casts of characters with my own storylines as a game I played with my sister.
I wanted very much to be a good writer and so I internalized whatever advice I heard. Somewhere, probably from a teacher, I got the impression that said was off limits. It would make one’s writing repetitive and uninteresting. So, I used everything but. I used exclaimed, inquired, queried, wondered, mentioned, noted, replied, etc. Then when I was about 12 or 13 and going through my “read all the famous books even if you don’t actually enjoy them” phase, I started paying attention and realized that good writers really don’t mix up their dialogue tags much at all. Said is standard. An occasional asked will appear, but even for questions, it is typical to find said. Oh.
This is easily explained. You don’t need to use a bunch of exciting speech verbs in order to write engaging dialogue. You can skip that by mixing up your dialogue with descriptions, and you can even leave off the tags a lot of the time by simply indenting for the next line in the conversation.
It is generally a good idea to learn the rules of your artistic trade before stomping on whichever ones you can and making your millions. But avoid internalizing rules that make no sense in the first place.Published in