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talking among ourselves - helen-louise
talking among ourselves
I hate dialogue. I mean, it's important to have dialogue in a character-driven story, because some of the characters' traits only become apparent through speech; and speech allows you direct access to their thoughts. But I hate the need to put words around the dialogue, to explain who said what. I find myself having to revert to the thesaurus just to break the dreaded threesome of "said", "asked" and "replied".

So here is my attempt to be vaguely useful to other newbie writers: 37 synonyms for "said".

26 37 synonyms for "said":


spelled out



quoted !!!!




called / called out

Some of these only work in certain contexts, but contexts certainly exist within a piece of writing. The exclamation marks show how shocked I was to discover I'd forgotten the word and how many different dictionary attacks it took for me to find it again. ("Exclaimed!" will be my new pet, I think.)

Any other good ones? Feel free to contribute, that's the whole point of public journal entries :)

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polyfrog From: polyfrog Date: 6th April 2006 00:14 (UTC) (Link)
My current favorite is to break the language by inserting some other verb entirely in there:

"Oh no, you're not interrupting anything," he grimaced, "I was just showing her some new wrestling holds I'd learnt."
redbird From: redbird Date: 6th April 2006 00:24 (UTC) (Link)
Here's where I point out that most of those will call attention to themselves, and "said" doesn't. "Asked" or "shouted" (where valid) is unexceptional; "quoted" or "spluttered" take attention away from the actual words spoken. And "illustrated" and "aired" would stop me in my tracks.

It's normal English to say something like "Smith illustrated the point by mentioning his maiden aunt," but not to write
"It's like my aunt Tillie and her petunias," Smith illustrated. "Lee aired her grievance," again, is a reasonable usage, but I can't imagine dropping "Lee aired" or "aired Lee" into a sentence in place of "Lee said."
From: fluffymormegil Date: 6th April 2006 00:43 (UTC) (Link)

I have a habit of sometimes trying to put a bodily action, thought, or other such thing by the speaker in the same paragraph, something like:

Alex poured himself another cup of coffee and grinned at Matt. "Y'know, I really don't get what she sees in you."

"Gee. Thanks." Matt looked into the bottom of his cup. "Mind you, I don't get what she sees in you, either, so..."

(Deleted comment)
baratron From: baratron Date: 6th April 2006 20:15 (UTC) (Link)
epi_lj From: epi_lj Date: 6th April 2006 01:29 (UTC) (Link)
If those words bother you, why not just omit them? When I write, I don't use any of those. I insert description where necessary to clarify who's talking and then assume the reader can follow the conversational flow, which is usually the case.

I'm trying to find a non-embarrassing example and kind of failing because all the writing I have to-hand is stuff I wrote for NaNoWriMo, but I'll put this example in and hope you excuse the quality. See if it's reasonable to follow:

At long last, the moon high in the sky now, Cody seemed to grow silent.
Her voice barely a whisper, she touch his arm gently, trying to offer him sympathy. He turned his face away, and in the bright rays of moonlight she could see that his cheeks were covered with tears, wet as if he’d been out in the rain. She could hear the unevenness in his breathing. Gradually, he took something out of the pocket of his coat – a rolled up sheaf of paper, tied with a simple leather strip. Reaching behind him, he thrust it upon her.
“What is it?”
“Take it.”
She reached out and took it from him, and made to unroll it.
“Don’t. Just keep it. I don’t want it anymore. Those are my notes – the copies of the diagrams.”
Aja felt a chill run down her spine.
“You kept them?”
Cody nodded.
“Cody, tell me. You’ve had them all this time?”
He nodded again, silently.
“Have you read them?”
There was a pause, followed by another nod, smaller than the first.
Aja was unsure what to make of it, although if the priest Nelson had sent word that he did not think that Cody was in any danger and that, in fact, the Church, and she could scarcely believe it (but if it were not true, what of New Prudence?), had been responsible for the grave transgressions that had been alleged, she ought to put some faith in that. She yearned to believe it. Still, the analytical part of her mind could not simply let it go. Surely neither Nelson nor Frank had known that Cody had kept the manuscript, or that he’d read it in the meantime.
“Cody, you haven’t tried it yourself, have you?”
“To build it.”
“No! I swear by the Goddess that I wouldn’t do such a thing.”
“But you know how?”
“No. Although they were enough to banish me from my home, those notes contain very little of the text from which they came, and even having had the original, a great many different texts would have been required to attempt to even understand such a task.”
Aja breathed slightly easier. She reached out and put a hand on his shoulder.
She wanted to tell him that he wasn’t responsible, that it hadn’t been his fault, (...a whole bunch of continuous non-dialogue ensues from this point.)
nmg From: nmg Date: 6th April 2006 07:21 (UTC) (Link)
Read the Turkey City Lexicon, particularly the entry on Said Book-ism (conveniently the first entry). redbird is quite right; 'said' is a nigh-invisible word, and it really isn't necessary to resort to the thesaurus to find alternatives.
hiddenpaw From: hiddenpaw Date: 6th April 2006 07:49 (UTC) (Link)
I've noticed a few successful authors that in a two charater conversation keep the pace up by dropping this said/replyed/grumbled stuff as soon as the identity of the two charaters speaking has been established and letting the reader work out they are taking turns. I've tryed it myself in the past and it works quite well. You only really need to put in any kind of other comment when a charater pauses mid-speach.
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