One of the most frustrating challenges a new writer faces is the passage creating a conversation between at least two people. How can you resolve the he said/ she said interchange in order to identify who is saying what and how they are saying it?

Here’s what I often see in a stretch of written dialogue:

  • “blah, blah,” he said.
  • “blah, blah,“ she replied.
  • “blah, blah,” he reiterated.
  • “blah, blah.” she interjected.
  • “blah, blah,” he queried.
  • “blah, blah,” she protested.

Amateurish. In a misguided effort to avoid “repeating oneself,” the writer comes up with a variety of these identifying verbs, some of which don’t even accurately relate to the dialogue.

In fact, if you have carefully established your characters, running dialogue should not need the he said/she said clarification. For years, Elmore Leonard, with whom I worked on GLITZ, before becoming best-selling author Elmore Leonard wrote original paperback westerns that filled a small but decidedly limited space on

spinner racks in high traffic areas. His book sales were nominal, but he generated more than adequate income from subsequent movie sales, for he had the gift of telling his story using tight, crisp dialogue. His novels served, in fact, as script blueprints for future movies.

Read Elmore Leonard, and you’ll see few references to who is speaking. His characters’ voices let the reader eavesdrop on what’s said. Many of the most successful authors rarely label dialogue. They don’t have to. The conversational exchanges between their characters speak for themselves.