We went over a story in class this week (the one I take; not the one I teach), where almost every dialogue tag was an active verb. I love active verbs, but not in dialogue. For example, the first two lines of the story we read last night were something like:
"Get out of my way!" DuBois growled.
"You can't tell me what to do!" The Captain barked.
Before you know it, we're going to start thinking the two central characters are a terrier and a bulldog or that we're in the middle of a barn yard. Character will be clucking, neighing, mewoing, or, my personal favorite (Dan came up with this one) mooing. Keep it simple; "he said/she said" unless you're purposefully trying to create a madcap, satirical piece. And watch out for the adverbs. They are not your friends, she warned suspiciously.
I did read a funny piece from The New Yorker this morning that made me LOL on the trolley this morning It's Calvin Trilling's piece in Shouts and Murmurs, called "Three Scenes Inspired by the Gingrich Campaign."
This is from the opening:
The CEO, in his usual crsip manner, began the meeting withou any small talk. "Let's get to the business at hand," he said (authorial side note: notice he didn't grumble or chortle). "We have to find ourselves a historian, and we have to do it ASAP."
"Maybe a historian could figure out how we got this silly name," the vice-president for marketing said. "Freddie Mac! I mean, it's really embarrassin wehn someone asks you wehre you work. It sounds like a day-care center or a sitcom."