I tend to mix my tags quite a bit when I use them. I try to use as few as I think I can get away with. I do tend to use 'Coral said, "This is how I usually do dialog tags."' more than any other style, but I think that's just how it comes out in my head.
Aside from personal preference, I don't think it matters much which you go with. I've never seen any 'said she' tags that I can remember, but that doesn't mean they aren't used. Does it sound a little old fashioned to me? Sure, but maybe that's a voice you would purposefully want to cultivate at some point.
I'm in the "Frank said" fold simply because the speech tag should not be drawing attention to itself; the speaker should. When we read we (most of us) skim right over the speech tag. It's simply a device to let us know who's speaking if we haven't already deduced it from the dialogue.
Think of it this way:
"Can you hear me now?" SAID frank. "Can you hear me now?" FRANK said.
It's a small detail in the scheme of things and, yes, the inverse structure can be used to break up cadence now and again, but for my money "said Frank" is just so yesterday ;-)
That said, "said Frank" does tend to give a piece something of an archaic or fabulist feel. It can be useful for setting a mood in that sense. Like most tools, it should be used intentionally, not simply because it's the first tool you found in the toolbox.
I would think it only matters if it's noticeable. If you are doing more than just tagging the dialogue, or building up something prior for the way you want the dialogue read, I'd go with the "Frank said." However, if it's just a tag breaking up a bit of banter of identifying and arguer or something, "said Fred," is fine for me.
Now, if there is not a proper name, to me, it reads like a pirate is telling the story:
We was being tossed about the ship when a chest lid opened and a girl sprang out. "Suprise," said she, and we were at that.
The captain was not the least shaken. "Argh, can't take her anywhere," said he.
Here's what I posted elsewhere on the subject. (Someone quoted Self-Editing for Fiction Writers there, too.)
quote: Well, to me "said he/she/I" sounds somewhat archaic, but if it's not a pronoun following "said," then I don't have that problem.
I just went through one of my stories looking at each instance of "said" as a dialog tag. The vast majority were "--- said." The two instances of "said ---" were both in cases where the tag interrupted the dialogue.
I then went and looked at every time I interrupted the dialogue with a tag, and here's what I found:
"Oh," she said. "There is ..." "But sir," said Vanadia, "We've ..." "Well, sir," she said, "I know ..." "... for you," she said. "I have ..." "... and gentlemen," said the announcer, "please give ..."
If the interrupting tag used a pronoun, I used "--- said," otherwise I used "said ---."
Of course, that was just one of my stories, so I picked another, and this is what I found.
There were no instances of "said [pronoun]."
When the tag interrupted dialogue but did not use a pronoun, five times I used "said ---," and twice I used "--- said."
When the tag was before the dialogue, it was always "--- said."
When the tag followed dialogue, four times I used "said ---," and once I used "--- said."
So it looks like my general instinct is to keep "said" next to the dialogue unless I'm using a pronoun, and when the tag interrupts the dialogue, to use "said ---."
IMHO, the book is wrong unless it is only talking about the use of tags with pronouns.
Thanks all. I knew that 'said' is invisible, but I guess some are more invisible than others. It seemed like beginning the tag with the invisible part was the thing to do. I'll probably join the Frank-said crowd, though.
Now all I need is a plot.
[This message has been edited by WouldBe (edited November 15, 2010).]
quote:Yeah. Whatever you do, you've gotta break that up and not use "said" anything with each and every line of dialog.
Exactly what I told the author. The other problem had been that it was a four of five way conversation, so the tags were necessary to keep track of the speaker. My advice to the author was not only to mix up the dialog tag but use body language action tags.
I walked down to the library today and looked through several new books in the areas of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. Not once did I see "said he," but plenty of "he said." As for "Nym said," versus "said Nym," I saw both about equally. There is no grammatical rule and I think one must rely on the inner ear to see which sounds right. Many authors used both formats, and I think that is what should be learned here. By switching between the two, and using other dialogue tricks, the writing seemed to flow nicely.
I am glad this was brought up, as I realized I was relying almost exclusively on "said Nym" when I needed a tag.
I suppose "said he" would be considered archaic...
Footnote discussion addition: If you've written a lengthy stretch of dialog, say, anything more than half a page of short responses, and identified the speakers with nothing else but "So-and-so said," you should consider a rewrite.
Break it up a little...describe what the characters are doing while they're speaking, even if it's something like "Frank moved over to the window," or "Frank stood up," or "Frank sat down."
Doing this you accomplish two things: (1) You've identified the speaker, and (2) You've made the reader see that the scene is not just a static tableau of talking heads.
(There's a school of thought, best exampled by the works of Barry B. Longyear, that a writer shouldn't use "said" anything---just sentences of description inserted between dialog. But I've always thought that's going a bit too far...)