How do you feel about using substitutes for "said"--"declared," "snapped," "laughed," and the like? In school I was taught to avoid "said", but I have seen exactly the opposite advice in many places.
Current wisdom is to use as few substitutes as possible. Two reasons:
- first, 'said' is an invisible word. So is 'asked'. The reader's eye skates over both, their mind logs the attribution without having to think about it, so they aren't jerked out of the narrative, they don't have to actively process the word and remember what that it means. Snarled, exclaimed, shouted, screamed... they are not neutral words and they demand the reader's attention, when the writer should be wanting the reader to focus on the actual dialogue. Dialogue should flow. Neutral tags help it do that. 'Said' and 'asked' do the job without getting in the way.
- second, they are a way of telling, not showing, what's going on. Jane can snarl out a response to Mary, and the reader is being told that Jane is angry. We aren't being shown that she's angry by the way she's stiff, moving jerkily, speaking in short sharp sentences, snapping her fingers, tightening her jaw, pushing her jaw out. It's the lazy writer's cop out.
In writing, everything counts. I want my readers to focus on words that are important, on dialogue and action. Dialogue tags aren't what's important about a scene, and if they are, then I reckon I've failed.