Ten Things I Think about Your Dialogue Tags
"!@#$," he grated.
This is an RWA staple, and I'm still trying to weed it out of my books. So I don't mind seeing it once. Even twice I'll let it pass. But when you use "grate" as a dialogue tag in every single chapter, I'm definitely going to nickname your hero CheeseBoy.
"All you ever do is swear," she croaked.
If you kiss her, does she turn into a princess?
"Betty is a complete slut!" he declared.
Am I too stupid to realize this is a declarative sentence? Survey says: nope. P.S., the exclamation point is just annoying.
"I don't give a hoot about Betty or anyone else you sleep with," she retorted.
We stopped retorting back in the nineteenth century. Didn't you get the memo?
"I thought you loved me, and now you think I'd do something as dastardly as go to bed with Betty and let her have her wicked way with me from dusk until dawn?" he gasped.
According to Random House dictionary, a gasp is "a sudden, short intake of breath, as in shock or surprise." Yes, I checked. So unless your hero has lungs the size of garment bags . . .
"Unless you want the mage to invoke the curse of Chaos, open the gates to Hell, release the demon horde and destroy the world in fifteen minutes," he growled, "we have to have wild monkey sex on top of the Chrysler Building. In front of Betty."
I actually tried to growl this line. I gave myself laryngitis.
"Sebastian, how could you cheat on me with Betty, of all people, when you could have assuaged your needs with the floozy redhead down at the tavern who puts out for every rake with a shilling?" she yelped.
A yelp is shorter than a gasp, I think. Like a microgasp, only louder. I should really conduct a scientific study of this. Until then, please pair with briefer utterances.
"Betty says that the sixth shiek's sixth sheep's sick," he stuttered.
Speaking on behalf of all stutterers, no. Just no.
"You and Betty can go tiptoe through the tulip patch together for all I care," she hissed.
A hiss should only be used by snakes, steam irons or overheating radiators. Homo sapiens who have to employ it should be hissing sibilant fricative words (words with "s" or "z"). Otherwise they're lithping the hith.
"Why do you hate Betty so much?" he complained.
This is a question, not a complaint. Here's a complaint: "You're sleeping with my sister, my best friend, your ex, the Domino Pizza delivery girl and Betty," she complained. "I love you. Please stop it."