NO, THIS ISN’T ABOUT ROMANCE NOVELS.
These are a bane to every writer I know. Is it okay to say he said? Is it okay to tell us they are asking? Do I have to not use a tag?
Yes and no.
Why both? Well, we have a few reasons and to most people none of them will make sense. If your thought isn’t a complete thought, you can tell us they are speaking.
“John, you shouldn’t be out here,” she said.
Seems pretty obvious there. But what about if we want to make the scene more active? Well, you don’t use said. And what about PoV? That doesn’t change things much either. Why don’t we take a look at a couple of examples using the same sentence from above?
“John, you shouldn’t be out here, ” I said.
First-person doesn’t change this at all. It’s still the same as it was before, we just changed our perspective. That’s simple enough. It’s what we are used to writing because it’s how we think as writers.
What we don’t think about as writers is how can we show it to our reader so they see it as the movie we want them to in their head as they read our words.
“John, you shouldn’t be out here,” I watched the snow falling from the grey sky in droves, barely able to see him standing six inches in front of me. We had been fighting, but I didn’t want him to storm out of the house into the storm outside. It wasn’t safe.
Put yourself in the readers shoes and tell me which one you honestly prefer. Do you want to see said, asked, huffed all the time? No. Neither do I. I want to read a story.
With the ever-growing popularity of audiobooks you can’t just gloss over said and asked anymore. Think about that the next time you start editing your work before you send it to your editor take a look at your tags. You might be surprised.