Let's talk about Dialogue Attributes. You can also call them Identifiers, or speech tags. That’s the He said, She said of a line of dialog.

True, we use ‘She said.’ all the time. Sometimes we get bold and write ‘Suddenly she said,’ or ‘she said with a grin.’ Or even ‘She said loudly’ or ‘She smirked’.

But the best way to use these Dialogue Attributes is not telling the reader how it was said, or even who said it.

  • It was said suddenly
  • It was said with a grin
  • It was said loudly
  • It was smirked – we’ll get to this error in another lesson.

Good storytelling shows how it sounded as she said it. It paints a picture of what is behind the words being spoken. Think about the dialog like this:

“I hate this place,” she growled.

But how did it sound as she said it. (Remember about using stronger verbs.) At the least ask yourself: What does a growl sound like?

Can you go farther?

Action While Speaking

“I hate this place.” Her fingers thump like a jack hammer on the sticky bar.


Description By Metaphor Of Her Voice, Or Of What Was Said

“I hate this place.” Her voice a captive; resigned to the chains.


“I hate this place,” she said. The first bead of a rosary, an old prayer she’ll recite the long night through.

How can a tired (because we expect it) verb like growled compare with setting a scene in any of the other ways?

Try ramping up your storytelling, by going farther than speech tags, and move into characeter tags.

See here for an entire lesson on ‘Character Tags’. http://www.bridgetostory.com/classes/lessons/lesson/7/the-special-case-of-dialogue-and-senses