My third grader came home a few weeks ago with some English homework consisting of sentences with a verb and one or more qualifying adverbs. She was supposed to replace the weak verb and qualifiers with a stronger verb. Two of the sentences caught my attention. They both involved dialog. In one, the verb to be replaced was “said quietly”. Of course "whispered" was the correct word choice. The verb to be replaced in the other was “said excitedly” and that was replaced with “exclaimed.”
That got me thinking about dialog in writing. Dialog is an integral part of fiction writing because it gives the characters voice. That voice breaks the monotony of narration, highlights the personality of the characters, and tells what the characters are doing, feeling and thinking. More can be done with well placed dialog than with multiple paragraphs of descriptive narration. Unfortunately, too often the word used to describe what the characters are saying is that innocuous “said.” Oftentimes we use qualifiers and description of movement or position for example, “Oh No!” she said emphatically, placing her hands on her hips. However, a strong verb replacing the “said emphatically” could give a clearer mental picture of the person’s feeling and movement.
I went back over my WIP and I counted how many times on a page of dialog I used the word said. I was amazed at the frequency. There are so many more words available and yet I was stuck on the innocuous word said. I was limited.
I came to the conclusion that I need help. I would like a list of words that can be used instead of “said” to describe dialog, capture emotions and movement. Here is a short list of some words:
Exclaimed: said excitedly
Insisted: said forcefully
Whispered: said softly
Cooed: said soothingly
Inferred: said with implication
Intimated: said subtly
Shouted: said loudly
Cried: said loudly with passion
I know there are many more. So please add to the lists. Let’s see how much we can come up with. Be sure to include the meanings.