Thanks to my friend and critique partner, Claudia Finseth, I was recently reminded of the excellent book Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. Claudia pointed out the advice on dialogue and it made me go back and look at the dialogue in the books I’ve written. Browne and King recommend that almost all speaker attributions use “said”, rather than a more descriptive verb which calls attention to itself (he grimaced, she screeched). To quote, “Said . . . isn’t even read the way other verbs are read. It is, and should be, an almost purely mechanical device . . .”
However, a long string of he said, she saids can be avoided. I found a lot of my speaker attributions were unnecessary. It was clear who was talking. So I took them out. And sometimes a bit of action, a beat, can take the place of said. “He shrugged.” “She left the table.”
Thanks for the reminder, Claudia.