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You know, "said" is a good word. I said, you said, he said, she said, they said, we said. Everyone's saying something. Say it with me now: SAID.
Yes, it's perhaps the most well known dialogue tag of all, and with good reason. It's easy. It's unassuming. You don't even know it's there, which is why you should always use it. I cringe when characters cajole, guffaw, postulate, declare, interrogate or exclaim. Those types of words jar the reader and take away from the story. Trust me. "Said" is better.
Whenever someone mails me to ask what I think of their story, and their characters declare, chortle or inquire, I want to beat them with a stick. This is my biggest writing peeve.
The biggest offender of this I have seen is Truth of Dare, a Kindred: The Embraced story by Va Wilcox and Kat Denton. I admire these people for keeping alive the spirit of one of the few original television shows we see anymore, but they seem to be afraid of "said."
"Don't be pompous, Daedalus," Morgaine teased.
There's nothing wrong with varying it occasionally, but fancy dialogue tags shouldn't be needed if you get the point across with the description. Even more impressive is when "said" isn't needed at all and we can tell the character's mood by his actions.
Joe flopped down in the chair. "I'm exhausted."
It's hard to find an example of a story that does it right because it's only noticeable when it's done wrong. But a good example of doing it right comes from Sammy's Once a Thief story "Love Thy Enemy," available at Caeru's Lair:
Not surprisingly, Victor rewarded him with just a short snort before he turned his attention back to his drink. "Yeah, right."
- bitch to Jane