He said. She said.
What is a tag line? A tag line identifies who’s speaking in a story. (For our purposes we’re talking novels, novellas, short stories. Script writing identifies speakers differently.) Tag lines are really just a little reminder or clarifier because if you’re doing your job right each character will sound differently and the reader will know who’s speaking by the words and mannerisms you choose.
But sometimes we need a little he said, she said. And that’s all the tag line should be. I know you’ve read thousands of times things like, he replied, implored, intoned, asked, and on and on. You might think it gets boring using said over and over and you might be thinking the reader is tired of seeing it, but trust me that’s not the case.
The reader skims over your tag lines. “Said” is the most appropriate for that. Again, it’s just a little grounding in the scene it’s not a giant identifier or explanation. Whenever I’m reading and a writer chooses something other than said it throws me from the story. That might be the editor in me, but why not have a clean manuscript? Why not make your dialogue work hard for you? Don’t rely on the crutch of he intoned. He said it. Plain and simple. If you want your character to implore then show her begging or making a very serious emotional request. That would be a much better use of your words.
We’ll talk show vs tell next time.
Until then….any questions? I love hearing from you.