All too often the temptation when writing is there to have a character do something other than simply ‘say’ their words. It’s a topic to which I’ll return later, but there is certainly some scope to use a few more descriptive words (such as whisper, mutter or whine) now and then. Just don’t go overboard. Your writing needs to sound authentic.
The thing is, does the word work in context? So many people use hiss, when their sentence has not a single ss sound.
‘You ought to get changed,’ he hissed.
And then there are those who spit their words with no good reason.
‘You might have explained,’ she spat.
And worse, some characters mutter when clarity is of the essence.
‘It’s third right at the North Circular turn off and follow the road six blocks before you hang left,’ he muttered. ‘If we don’t make the hospital in time, I may never see my father alive again.’
And what about characters that resort to whispers when all around is chaos?
The wall gave way and chunks of concrete hit the ground and Josh turned to his friend. ‘We have to escape,’ he whispered.
All of these are fairly obvious faults, but the worst is when you do things that simply can’t work.
Ever tried to truly whisper to the person next to you on a plane? It can’t be done. There’s too much ambient noise. Every tried to share a secret in a crowded bar. Even with hands cupped to ears, there’s a damn good chance someone will mishear. Of course that could be intentional…
‘We have to go,’ she whispered.
‘I’ll get them, same again?’ he said.
And that’s how we ended up in that bed once more. Every good intention forgotten. I made a note to only split up with boyfriends in libraries from that day on.