Someone came into my first critique group, before I'd been published, someone who HAD been published. She critiqued one of my chapters and pointed out all the flowery dialog tags I used. Here I thought I was showing mood and personality by choosing something other than said, which, to my "learning the craft level" brain was stronger. She taught me that "said" is an invisible dialog tag. While I found it repetitive and unimaginative, she pointed out the more descriptive tags I was using were 1) not necessarily referential to speech, and 2) called attention to themselves. As a newbie, I was stunned. Her comments went against everything I'd been taught. Everything I'd learned. Except she had something I didn't. A book contract. A professional editor. So while my initial response was "who are you, and where do you come off telling me blah blah blah..." I stepped back and considered my position compared to hers. I was still learning the craft. She'd learned enough to get a book contract. So I calmed down, remembered that critique groups are there to help you get better and that constructive criticism helps you grow. Asked her some pointed questions. Funny, she quickly realized she'd aligned herself with a bunch of neophytes and left the group in short order. She needed a group with more experience that would see beyond the things we were still learning.
She was right, of course. I still find myself wanting to slip into more colorful dialog tags from time to time, and my more experienced critique group lets me know every time I use one. Those dialog tags do have a place in the prose sometimes, but for the most part, they should be limited to "said" or "asked" or a similar form of speech. These words are, in fact, invisible, where as something like "she avowed" tends to stand out. It draws attention to itself.
|Touched by the Sun|
So writing lesson for the day. If said or asked isn't strong enough to portray feeling or emotion, use an action beat instead.
He spun on a heel to face her, pointing an accusing finger. "Why are you stalking me?"instead of
"Why are you stalking me?" he bellowed.