“The fundamental difference between the 19th century romantic novels and the contemporary romances that borrow heavily from them is in the self-possession of the heroines. Although the unmarried and all but dowerless Elizabeth Bennet and the orphan governess Jane Eyre are in positions of greater social vulnerability than their contemporary counterparts, neither 19th-century heroine is willing to sacrifice self-respect in order to gain financial security or love. …By contrast, the scenes in which Bella Swan and Anastasia Steele literally fall at the heroes’ feet and rely on the heroes’ strength to stand foreshadow each heroine’s willingness to stay in a relationship with a man whose dominance overwhelms her sense of self, and without whom she seems lost.”—
Kristina Deffenbacher, Professor of English at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/159709-lesser-shades-of-jane/#.UCHs_6LE1jI.facebook
What 19th century romance novelists were doing, which most modern ones are not, is very carefully examining, discussing and criticising the world around them in a conversation that was almost entirely held between women. Novelists during this period, especially romance novelists, were almost exclusively women, as were their readers. Men were still expected to read and write poetry if they were going to read and write any kind of art, because poetry was the higher art form, and also accessible only through the classical education that was denied to most women at the time. So women wrote (and read) novels, which were derided as ‘low’ forms of entertainment until men like Walter Scott and Charles Dickens came along and legitimised the medium by writing the first ‘historical’ and ‘state of the nation’ novels.
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is probably one of the subtlest and smartest critiques of the way women like Elizabeth Bennett - self-possessed, opinionated, well-read, passionate - were portrayed in the media in the late 18th and early 19th century. A young, ‘over’-educated woman with opinions of her own was probably the most derided figure in the medium, soundly mocked as utterly self-deluded, ugly, undesirable, raised by fools and liked only by fools; at best she’d end up eventually repenting all her previous opinions and meekly settling down to spinsterhood, at worst she’d end up dying tragically by the end of the novel whilst its real heroine, a stereotypical feminine angel, married happily having surrendered herself entirely to her husband. Pride and Prejudice turned this formula on its head, making Elizabeth the desirable heroine because of her opinions, her education, her self-possession, and fiercely criticising the idea that a woman who gives up her entire self to (the idea of) a man/a marriage, can ever be truly happy (see, Mrs Bennett, and Charlotte, even Lydia).
In essence, the original, great romance novelists of the late 18th and early 19th century, were doing their best to engage with and subvert the problems they saw for women in particular in the world around them, especially in the ‘pop culture’ of the age, commentating in the only medium available to them. The current generation are interested only in pandering to popular culture, not taking it apart and shaking it up and calling out its bullshit - and therein lies the problem.
“why is elementary even a thing? i bet sir arthur conan doyle is rolling in his grave!” she hits ‘create post’ and feels the satisfaction wash over her. that’d show them. sir arthur conan doyle would be horrified to see the monstrosity that his masterpiece was about to become.
she turns when she hears a sound behind her, and finds herself face to face with the spirit of sir arthur conan doyle himself.
“why…” he says, and his voice is broken by the tears that he is holding back.
she understands the feeling well; elementary has upset her to the point of tears before too. “i know,” she says. “i can’t believe it’s real either. they’re ruining the name of sherlock holmes and totally damaging the brand! moffat’s version is brilliant, we don’t need another bad american tv cop show when moffat’s taking such good care of your baby.”
sir arthur conan doyle falls to the ground, a broken man. his body is shaking as he sobs, and he says, “why won’t you just let him die already… it’s been too long… why can’t holmes just stay dead…”
We have added definitions of each word and an example sentence. Also, we have omitted hinted and insinuated, as we agree with fellow writers’ suggestions that they are not suitable additions to the list.
Instead of whispered, consider:
murmured: A soft, indistinct sound made by a person or group of people speaking quietly or at a distance: “Don’t go,” he murmured, grabbing her hand as she turned to leave.
mumbled: Say something indistinctly and quietly, making it difficult for others to hear:“Thanks a lot,” he mumbled sarcastically.
muttered: Say something in a low or barely audible voice, esp. in dissatisfaction or irritation: She muttered to herself all the way down the hall, reciting all her usual complaints.
breathed: Say something in a quiet voice or whisper: “I love you,” she breathed, her eyes full of tears.
sighed: Emit a long, deep, audible breath expressing sadness, relief, or tiredness; say something in a low or barely audible voice, esp. in sadness or irritation; to say exasperatedly, or all in one breath: “Right,” he sighed. “Well, just don’t do anything too stupid.”
hissed: To utter with a hiss, esp. in instances that include one or more sharp sibilant sounds, as of the letter s: “Just stop,” she hissed, her grip on Lisa’s arm tightening.
mouthed: To form (a word, sound, etc.) with the lips without actually making an utterance: “The baby’s asleep,” she mouthed, leading her parents back into the living room.
uttered: To give audible expression to; speak or pronounce: He uttered a string of barely audible insults.
intoned: Say or recite with little rise and fall of the pitch of the voice: “I’m not going anywhere,” she intoned. He could tell she was exhausted by the pitchless quality of her voice.
susurrated: (susurration) The indistinct sound of people whispering: The room hummed with the soft susurrus of conversation.
purred: To utter a low, continuous, murmuring sound expressive of contentment or pleasure, as a cat does: “I know you want me,” she purred into his neck, trailing kisses across his collar bone.
said in an undertone: To speak in a low or subdued tone: “Not now, Jessee,” he said in an undertone.
gasped: Say (something) while catching one’s breath, esp. as a result of strong emotion: She could hardly gasp out an apology.
said low: (slang) Say something in a quiet voice or whisper: “Plants are more like us than you think,” he said low, as if he spoke to the lilies themselves.
said into [someone’s] ear: Say something in a quiet voice or whisper, esp. near the listener’s ear, in such a way that only they may hear: “Meet me in the parlor,” he said into Jane’s ear, and her heart betrayed her with a flutter of excitement.
said softly: Say something in a quiet voice or whisper: “I’m here now,” Usula said softly, brushing a lock of hair from her cheek.
said under [one’s] breath: (idiom) Say something in a muted voice or whisper: “Over my dead body,” Jacob said under his breath.
said in a hushed tone/in hushed tones: (idiom) Say something in a softened tone, or in a quiet voice or whisper: “Will he make it, Doctor?” Kendraasked in a hushed tone.
Thank you to everyone who reblogged this list to add their opinion. We have, with their permission, included some of these opinions so that you may benefit from their perspective.
memattbe adds: Whispered is the simplest and conveys what you mean by a whisper the best. Maybe murmured would be a good substitute if you just used whispered. Muttered, sighed, hissed, gasped, mouthed, purred, breathed, mumbled all mean things noticeably different than whisper. The said… ones aren’t bad, but one word is better than four.
It’s not boring, people’s eyes will just move right over the word said. If you use something else, you draw attention to it, and it messes up the flow of the text completely. You come to the end a bit of dialogue and then think “Woah okay what just happened.” It looks really unprofessional, tbh.
mumblingsage adds: I’ll just add that it’s always good to know a lot of not-quite-alternative words in case you ever think a character whispered, only to find out that they actually were murmuring it. The point is precision.
Or sometimes to avoid repeating words, but in that case you probably shouldn’t have a character performing the same action multiple times in a few paragraphs, or at least from continuing to remind the reader they’re doing it (if you state that a character is whispering, the reader will assume they continue whispering throughout the scene, until told otherwise).
And, um, if you thought your character was whispering and they’re actually susurrating…you might want to get that checked out.
There was another truly wonderful criticism of this list that is quite long, so we are including it in a Read More. Click below to see bobbyisrightthereyaidjit’s critique.
I’m writing an exciting new novel set in a dystopian future in which trans* people (who call themselves “Giftgivens”) are now the majority and cis people (who are labelled “Stainleavers” as an offensive slur) have become oppressed.
The novel aims to expose the true injustices of Oh my god I can’t even fucking commit to this joke listen to me right now if you are a writer who thinks you’re clever for proposing a dystopian future about the reversal of roles pertaining to a form of oppression, you’re actually a giant twit and you’re being really fucking patronizing and it’s not because the rest of the world isn’t ready for your ideas, it’s because you’ve surrounded yourself with people either too stupid or too pathetic to tell you how awful you are
Also, coming up with new words that currently refer to other things as a ham fisted metaphor isn’t clever and the fact that the Police are called Grabbers or Snatchers or Chasers or Takers does not make your story any less moronic