There is so much conflicting advice out there for when to use ‘said’ in dialogue. Should you use it? Shouldn’t you use it? Some people say never; others say always. It can become confusing and overwhelming. I say this, because I have been both confused and overwhelmed.
The aim of the game is to produce imaginative and flowing prose. This means you have to use all the tools at your disposal.
It is true, that ‘said’ should be used in the first instance. The thing about this little word is that is disappears. Think about this the next time you are reading dialogue. Do you really notice the ‘saids’? Your brain is most likely glossing over them, focussing on the dialogue and using them as an anchor to know who’s speaking.
So when do you use synonyms?
A great tip is to go through your manuscript, search for ‘said’ and see if there is an adverb following it. If there is, the likelihood is a synonym will be more dynamic. For example, if you’ve written, ‘she said quietly’ then, ‘she whispered’ is better effective. Or, ‘she said loudly’ becomes, ‘she shouted’.
Just to throw a spanner in the works: there is room in the writerly world for adverbs. I know that some people think they are the devil, but I love them. And when used carefully, can produce a great voice to your work. As I said earlier: use ALL the tools in your arsenal.
Here’s some synonyms to help you on your writerly way:
Happy Writing, Writerly Friends.x