1

For example, I'm rewriting a sex scene and my current dialogue and subsequent dialogue tag is:

Almost reluctantly, he said, “Okay, I'll pull out now.”

"Hinted" is a bit too straightforward, and I was hoping to find a similar word that is a tad more subtle.

I also don't want to keep the modification of said. It's a personal preference in my writing style not to do that.

Also, I don't think body language would help here and I don't want to omit a tag, as it's very important to the scene for the reader to know he doesn't want to do that.

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    I'm having a hard time making sense of your question, Margaret. What do you mean by "hinted"? Are you suggesting "Almost reluctantly, he hinted..."? What isn't straightforward at all and it doesn't even mean anything in this context. That being said, the question, as stated, is off topic, because you're asking for help revising your work. Can you make it more general and just use your work as an example? – Cyn Apr 25 at 4:40
  • Whose viewpoint are you in, or is it omniscient? – DPT Apr 25 at 23:26
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I'm not sure what "hinted" means.

Nevertheless, to get rid of "he said" tags and "-ly" adverbs, preface the actual dialogue (in quotes) with a description of what he is doing (that gets rid of "reluctantly") and then have the dialogue immediately follow; it will be attributed to the person automatically.

If it is obvious who is speaking (which is usually, in a two-person conversation) you don't need the attribution either.

Examples:

Pete threw another little stick on the fire. "Then I guess I'm not that kind of guy."

Angela looked up, but with her eyes closed. "Can you please for once just say what you mean?"

For your example, during sex:

He looked hesitant. "Okay, I'll pull out now."
Michelle waited, but he didn't move, apparently waiting for her to tell him he didn't have to. She didn't say anything. Finally he did pull out, and rolled off her, a relief.
She sighed. "Thank you." She wasn't sure why she said that, it felt odd. She just meant it felt good to not be suffocated anymore.
"Are you mad at me?"
"No, but when I say get off, you know, get off. I need to breathe."
He nodded beside her. "Sorry. I just didn't want it to end."

This is a form of "show, don't tell". It will also help you avoid walls of dialogue; by interjecting visual action into the conversation. Remember, except on talk shows or newscasts, perhaps in formal meetings, people are not just talking heads, IRL they are more or less constantly doing something while they are talking, or feeling something, or thinking about more than the words coming out of mouths. When one person says something, it triggers memories in others, visual memories, traumatic memories, funny memories, etc.

Because of this their responses are often not exactly on point with what was said or asked. They might ask a question the other person is not expecting. Or they don't get the point, or they bring up something else. Those kinds of things bring realism to your dialogue.

Writing this way can take more words, but don't worry about that. Readers don't mind reading. And body language and actions can convey more subtle states of mind than adverbs or single words.

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+1 Amadeus, great answer.

OP, your comments of:

"Hinted" is a bit too straightforward, and I was hoping to find a similar word that is a tad more subtle.

I also don't want to keep the modification of said. It's a personal preference in my writing style not to do that.

Also, I don't think body language would help here and I don't want to omit a tag, as it's very important to the scene for the reader to know he doesn't want to do that.

It sounds as though you wish to brainstorm other tags for 'he said, reluctantly,' that feel similar to 'he hinted,' (which you say is too on-the-nose.)

Obviously we can't know what feels right to you, and Amadeus gave a great answer that will lengthen the passage in question. If you want brisk, you have options. Here are a few. It's hard to know what the scene is, exactly. Play with dialog, tag, action, and narrative.

"All right, I'll pull out," he said, because that was the quickest way to satisfy her.

He hesitated, then said, “Okay, I'll pull out.”

It was as though her request was somehow more than he could handle. “Okay, I'll pull out," he said at last.

He said, in a stuttering mess, “Okay, I'll pull out now.”

He murmured, “Okay. If it's important to you, I'll pull out.”

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