All my authors can attest to the fact I get a little delete happy when I see the word ‘said.’
I also go a little delete crazy when I see scoffed, asked, whispered, yelled or any other one word-add-name kind of tag. I don’t do it every time…
Just most of the time.
“I don’t want to go,” she said.
Seems like a perfectly good sentence, right? Why would I delete the said in that one?
Well, it shows me nothing of the scene. In a perfect world, when we’re storytelling, the reader gets this lovely movie going in their heads. They can get lost in that world to the point of getting annoyed at an interruption.
To keep the movie vivid, and leave the reader unable to put the book down, action tags can be substituted a majority of the times you would type the word ‘said.’
“I don’t want to go.” Daphne stomped her foot, her lip protruding in an obvious pout.
Her mother glanced at her watch. “We’re going. She’s your grandmother. If she says make an appearance at dinner, we go.” She tied up the loose ends of the garbage bag and hefted it.
“She’s old. Who cares what she thinks?”
The quaver in Daphne’s voice gave away more than her dramatics. Her mother stroked her hair before carrying the garbage to the back door. “You do. Shoes, now.”
Using action tags instead of said allows a storyteller to bring life to the setting, to the characters. You can show tells and/or important tidbits about the characters through the use of this peek into the world.
So, the next time you type the word ‘said’…hit delete four times and think about your scene, your characters.
Can you breathe more life into them by telling a story where no one said a thing?