"I shan't go overboard with speaker tags," she said, "I find them to be horribly dull!"Having just finished rereading Golding's Lord of the Flies, I am left to ponder the usage of speaker tags in fiction. In this book, lines of dialogue get their own paragraph and are often left without a tag of any kind. It is the preceding or following paragraph that give us a hint as to who spoke. Many people, authors and the like, have expressed a desire to minimize speaker tags in writing as a way to keep the story moving along or to limit the temptation to add unnecessary exposition to 's/he said.' Some people feel quite the opposite and demand a tag on almost every line of dialogue because losing track of who's speaking is more detrimental to your story than a moment of extraneous detail. Personally I hate not knowing who is talking though sometimes keeping it a bit obscure, such as in Golding's novel, can add to the setting of chaos. But don't let that be your only element of chaos either.
"Then don't!" He retorted.
"Oh, I certainly won't! And when I do use speaker tags, I'll keep it nice and simple and only use 'said' for the communicative verb."
Then there is the subject of what to use in your speaker tag. Most Fiction authors agree that 'said' is more than enough, yet, Venice Berry (a very successful author herself) informed my workshop class in Boston that 'said' is fine but can get a little boring after a while. She encouraged us to reach for other ways to express the verb. There was a time when I steered clear of 'said' figuring that it was what 'learning writers' used and not the mark of a matured author. I've been corrected.
What do I do when it comes to speaker tags? I use them generously and I often fall into the trap of adding exposition right along with it. And I primarily use 'said' but I am not afraid to change it up when I feel it better expresses how or why the character spoke in the first place. This is a topic of interest to me and may end up working its way into a critical analysis at some point during this semester. Just as a casual question: how do you - readers and fellow contributors - typically handle speaker tags? I'm not asking what you think is best or better or more professional or more likely to get you published. I'm just curious what works for you at this point in time. Everyone has a different style and sometimes it helps to know you're not completely alone in your craft choices.
Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © 2013