By Denise Belinda McDonald 

He said

she said he grimaced

she lamented

. . . . laughed, cried, yelled, whispered, questioned, replied, asked, answered, snorted, choked, groaned, moaned, etc, etc, etc . . . .When I started writing, I used all the various tags for said and asked. Now I tend not to use them at all. You hope that each character’s voice is distinct enough so the moment they speak, the reader knows that’s your heroine. Or the crotchety neighbor. Wizened Grandmother. Studly hero. Their voice carries you past the he said, she said.

Body business is great instead of tags when you have an intense scene that moves so quickly as to not have time for the reader to pick up on nuances. Or even put in introspection from the POV character as they say one thing that is not like them at all but think and mean another to lend to their voice.

As writers, I think we tend to be harder on writing works than readers. Readers, in my opinion, can ease into the story, get lost in the words far quicker than a writer. Writers will look for plot holes or purple prose. Not to say that readers can’t detect craft issues, but they will pick up a book for entertainment. Me, I pick it up for contrast and comparison. For the craft of the writing. I do enjoy books still, but not like I did as years before when it was nothing more than a story to me.

Back to tags . . . I have read books where every line of dialogue is followed by a tag. I got to a point where I skimmed over tags and found the writer relied too heavily on them and I had to go back a re-read to see who the hell was talking. The writer (and I am not saying anyone specific as there are many to whom this may apply and many it doesn’t) uses tags as a way not to delve too deep into characterization as they don’t have to make each character stand on their own, they tell you who is talking (which ekes into show, don’t tell – and that is a whole ‘nother gripe of mine).

I will admit though, writers are the harshest critics and we tend to have one or two things that we can pull our self up on the soap box about and inhale deeply before we let it rip, so take what I say with a grain of salt.