When writing every author will have their own opinions as to the presence and effectiveness of dialogue tags. Nobody is right and nobody is wrong. However with every word counting on the page there are different schools of thought.
Stephen King says in ‘On Writing’ to only use said.
Others will use dialogue tags very very sparingly or not at all. Stuart MacBride is an advocate of never using dialogue tags and his books rank very highly among my favourites
Yet again other authors will use all kind of different descriptive tags such as answered, snapped, asked, howled and so on and so on.
Personally I now try to use as few dialogue tags as humanly possible with said being the only one I will use. My train of thought is that the character’s voices should be strong enough to denote the speaker. This for me is an extension of showing as opposing to telling. Different emphasis on certain words can change everything.
Take for example the three passages below which all have exactly the same dialogue.
‘Go away,’ yelled Susan
‘I’m not going anywhere,’ snarled Brian angrily, ‘you cheated on me. Why should I leave?’
‘Please calm down,’ cried Susan.
‘Why should I be the one to leave?’ Brian repeated.
‘I haven’t got anywhere else to go,’ sobbed Susan.
‘And I have?’ asked Brian.
‘I’m not going anywhere,’ said Brian, ‘you cheated on me. Why should I be the one to leave?‘Please calm down.’
‘Why should I be the one to leave?’‘I haven’t got anywhere else to go,’ said Susan.
‘And I have?’
‘GO AWAY BRIAN!’
‘I’m not going anywhere. You cheated on me Susan. Why should I be the one to leave?
‘Please. Calm down.’
‘Why should I be the one to leave?’
‘I haven’t got anywhere else to go.’
‘AND I HAVE?’
For me Passage A is tagged to death and I would not enjoy reading anything which was written in this way. Also I hate seeing the word “asked” right after a question mark. The question mark itself shows that something is asked. This kind of overload has been known to make my teeth itch. I'm an adult for goodness sake. I'm not perfect at grammar but I know the squiggly line above a dot means someone has asked a question. (rant over)Passage B is the middle ground and is indicative enough to identify the speakers without intrusion. This does tend to be the norm in most of the books I read and said become background chatter which is easily ignored.
Passage C is in my humble opinion the strongest of the three and says so much more than A or B because it treats the reader as an adult.
If the author were to have Susan move behind a table or shrink back from Jason in the narrative then it will show her fearing him. Or Brian could throw something across the room. It would be showing not telling, which every decent author always promotes.
We all have an opinion on this. Please share yours.