I’ve posted blogs here before about the many different ways you can say “he said.” There are literally dozens of them, many of which help convey emotion and imagery that avoids dreaded adverbs. This is all well and good, but today I’m going in an entirely different direction and that is a way to avoid it entirely.
There are many ways to indicate who’s speaking without saying “he said” or one of its many synonyms. Describing a facial expression or gesture clearly associated with the speaker is often effective. This can integrate action with the conversation and make it come alive as opposed to sounding like your reading a screenplay.
Here’s a short example from my WIP:
When the echoes of his booming baritone faded, a tense silence remained. Someone rang the doorbell, all of them jumping in startled response. Sara exhaled hard through her nose, turned on her heel, and opened the door, finding herself face to face with Gretchen.
“Excuse me,” she muttered, and stomped down the steps to the driveway where she stared helplessly at Liz’s car. She rolled her eyes, wishing she’d listened to that prompting to drive her own.
Moments later, Liz was beside her, arm around her shoulders. “Are you alright, honey?” Sara nodded. “My goodness, you sure hit a nerve! Angela had mentioned that Bob can have an ugly temper, but I’ve never seen anything like that before!”
“Yeah. Sure wasn’t what I’d call Texas friendly, was it?”
Liz laughed. “I’ll say not! C’mon, I’ll take you home.”
See what I mean? In that entire scene I only used a “said” synonym (muttered) once.