Maybe it’s my journalism background, but I’m a Nazi when it comes to attributions or dialogue tags. Oh, one slips in every now and then, but I try to kill it before it can slither its way into a final draft. In Suzanne’s School of Writing, no tag is best, “said” is second-best, “moaned” and “purred” and “wheedled”? Not so much.
But you know what? I don’t think readers care. As writers it’s drilled into us to avoid adverbs, limit adjectives, simplify our dialogue tags. Maybe editors care, or maybe they don’t.
A page at random from a recent mega-selling YA phenom:
“I couldn’t sleep,” I confessed…”Neither could I,” he teased…”Not a chance,” he chuckled…”You’re right,” he decided…”Porridge,” chirped a voice from the mist…
From another NYTimes bestseller, a random page contains:
“Not from a tree,” the spy hissed…”It’s the only place,” he objected…”They dug a tunnel,” he spat…”I can’t get inside,” he whined.
Of course, toss the kind of money at me these books received and I’ll pen florid attributions till the cows come home. Never mind which cows. Does anyone else cringe at these things?