|Say what now?|
The great sage and eminent junkie Stephen King and I agree... don't do this.
Grated, Growled, Muttered, and Mumbled
A pattern I've noted in a lot of books is that authors will replace said with other words that are more indicative of how a character is talking. Grizzled police detectives will growl questions at suspects, and uncertain students will stammer or mumble when they talk. And there's nothing inherently wrong with this, just as there's nothing inherently wrong with using an adverb every now and again. Like I said in Blithely Digging Your Grave With Adverbs, though, when the numbers pile up it becomes a problem.
|Much like zombies, now that I'm thinking about it.|
When you're writing dialogue, it should be clear in the words you're choosing, and how the sentences are constructed, how a person sounds. For example, you shouldn't need to tell us that the lug who just took a kick to the nuts is groaning his dialogue; the reader should be able to infer that. If you've mentioned that the hitman with a scar across his throat from where someone tried to kill him has a rough, gravelly voice, you don't need to say that he "grated" out every word of his dialogue.
As with adverbs, you should save these for special occasions. When you first introduce a character, use something other than "said" to give us a sense of their voice, if you really want to. Or if something has happened that changes a character's voice (like how someone weak with hunger and thirst might only be able to whisper), mention it once to give the audience a clear image of what they should be hearing.
But don't use your substitute every time a character speaks. Seriously, it's habit forming, and the last thing we need is another novel out there with a manly ex-soldier who grumbles and snarls everything, or a teenage lead who spends the entire book muttering and mumbling instead of actually speaking to the other members of the cast.
That's it for this week's writing tips. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you'd like to help keep The Literary Mercenary up and running, consider stopping by my Patreon page. All I ask is $1 a month to keep content coming right to your screen. Also, if you want to make sure you stay on top of all my posts, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter too.