I get tired of "he said", "she said", "they replied". Is there a better, but still reasonable way, to indicate dialogue?
I like to describe the how (explain intonation, body language) and the purpose of the dialogue, not just the fact of the speech being made.
"Your chest pains have not subsided, have they, Mr. Gittes?" Zimmerman squints at me across the desk.
"How did you guess?" I mumble, scanning his morose, concerned expression.
He arches his eyebrows, avoiding my question. "I assume you're experiencing... hallucinations?"
I turn to leave the office. "Well, would that be expected? Just from codeine?"
He shakes his head in response and releases an impatient sigh. He rises to his feet. “You can’t hide behind those sunglasses, Jake. We can all see you.” His eyes flick upwards, indicating the crowd of spectators in the gallery; we’re trapped inside a play by the Marquis de Sade. He begins to undress to jeers from the audience. Exit stage left.
From the Turkey City Lexicon:
An artificial verb used to avoid the word “said.” “Said” is one of the few invisible words in the English language and is almost impossible to overuse. It is much less distracting than “he retorted,” “she inquired,” “he ejaculated,” and other oddities. The term “said-book” comes from certain pamphlets, containing hundreds of purple-prose synonyms for the word “said,” which were sold to aspiring authors from tiny ads in American magazines of the pre-WWII era.
The answer is: you may be bored with it, but your reader doesn't care. If you must use something other than "said," use the simplest, most common word you can get away with. But mostly, use "said."
My personal preference: omit the "he said" / "she said" entirely. You will need it when there is the slightest possibility that who is speaking is unclear, but otherwise there is no need for it. If you wind up with a stretch of dialogue so long that it's easy to lose track of who is speaking, that's a sign that your dialogue needs to be cut down or broken up by action anyway.
But you have to do it carefully. One book that does it wrong is "And Another Thing" by Eoin Colfer, or at least my edition of it. I was confused about who was speaking on more than one occasion, because he (or his editor) didn't apply the following rules:
- If a character is the subject of some description (say, performing an action), and the character then speaks, then his line of dialogue goes in the same paragraph as the description. In such a case, no "he said" is needed because, if it were somebody else, there would be a paragraph break.
- If, however, you just finished describing what Joe does and then Jane speaks, Jane's line goes in a new paragraph and should include "she said" or "said Jane" for clarity.
Use something like:
He folded his arms and sat up straight. "And you suppose he had a different motive?"
Her eyes widened. "Really?"
I also like to use this style in an ongoing conversation:
"You're telling me that I'm fired," Jeremy muttered.
His brother, the current president of the company, shook his head. "No I'm not."
"Then why does it sound like it?"
"I'm only suggesting that you improve the way you work around here."
"I'm working just fine! I don't see you doing anything!"
"Then you're fired."
Jeremy stood up and walked toward the doorway. "I hated this job, anyway."