I read a short story last week in which the main character snarled – not just once, but twice – and no, she wasn’t a werewolf or a dog: it was a person doing the snarling (an annoyed person, admittedly).
The very next day, I spotted a ‘snarled’ in the book I’m reading (Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith) and last week, when I was flicking through a Jilly Cooper novel, Harriet (oh-so-1970s, but oh-so-good!) – all in the name of research – another ‘snarled’ jumped out at me!
There’s a name for that, by the way – ‘frequency illusion’ (‘the illusion in which a word, a name or other thing that has recently come to one’s attention suddenly seems to appear with improbable frequency shortly afterwards’).
The main reason I noticed ‘snarled’ in the first place though, is that I don’t LIKE it!
Although the definition of ‘snarled’ is ‘to say something in an angry, bad-tempered voice’, so it’s not actually wrong to attribute it to someone’s speech in writing, it just sounds wrong to me, like something an animal would do.
‘Snarled’, I would go as far as to say, is a ‘said bookism’.
You know, the words that some (dare I say it… novice) writers employ to avoid using the word ‘said’ too much. ‘He expostulated’, ‘She expounded’ ‘He rejoindered’ ‘She shrieked’ and so on.
‘Said bookims’ detract from the dialogue, they can be unintentionally funny – and I will always remember the writing tutor who told me that it’s impossible to ‘smile’ words, so you should never write something like, ‘I promise,’ he smiled.
There’s nothing wrong with using the word ‘said’ time and time again. The reader will barely notice it: instead, they’ll be concentrating on the dialogue, which is what you want them to do!
I don’t think one of my characters has ever ‘snarled’ or ‘barked’, or ‘growled’ or ‘whimpered’ and never will, unless he is a dog of course, hmm, or maybe a vampire…