I find myself repeatedly saying "he/she hesitated" when I feel like there's something else I could say. I've been experimenting but with the character in question, all I can think of is, "he croaked" which isn't quite right. So, how would you describe someone who hesitates before speaking?


1 Answer 1


Here is a tip:

Don't tell the reader that the answer is 4, instead tell them the answer is 2+2

Don't tell the reader that a character is hestitating, instead find a way a round-about way of describing the hesitation.

Key-words would be, for example:

  • Fear
  • Uncertainty
  • Brief pause
  • Unwillingness

There's nothing wrong with being forthcoming with it either, it's a matter of trying to find a good balance of show and tell.

There's no pattern to follow when it comes to show and tell; it's up to you to figure out the balance for your story.

  • 1
    This is a good answer. Look for other ways to convey the uncertainty. In addition to the ideas above, you can use an occasional he/she stammered, "dialog." Or dig deeper than the hesitation--use immersion to imply the nerves. This was too like the grilling before the thesis committee, and he/she felt as unprepared now as then. "dialog." Or, Caught off-guard, he/she said, "dialog". Or simply fill in the space with beats (a few sentences) and then say, Finally, he/she broke the silence. "Dialog." Keep at it, and notice tricks in your reading and try them out.
    – SFWriter
    Commented Jul 22, 2022 at 15:53
  • @SFWriter I find 'stammer' is wildly overused by writers looking to get away from too many 'he said's. In practice there aren't many situations where people, who don't have a speech impediment, utter words falteringly or make involuntary stops and repetitions. It isn't a good synonym for voluntary hesitation.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 11:04

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