May I say:

"Why does this happen?" despaired Ralph.

Or if not, do you have any suggestions as to a suitable replacement for the placid "asked". What I'm looking for is a mixture of despaired and entreated.

  • to despair is to lose hope on something. How can asked be replaced by despair in every context? – VijayaRagavan Oct 22 '13 at 9:27
  • No, just in this context :) – John Marty Oct 22 '13 at 9:30
  • 2
    These substitutions are called said-bookisms. In modern style, writers are often encouraged to stick to neutral tags like said and asked, or to leave them off altogether. – snailcar Oct 22 '13 at 10:03

I haven't seen despair used in such context anywhere.

As a verb, to despair means

to lose hope or to be without hope.

Words which usually fill in the following blank:
"Why does this happen?"____ Ralph.
are verbs which depict a verbal action by the subject. For instance, laughed, bawled, exclaimed, mumbled. All these verbs depict a verbal action and hence fit. Despair doesn't fit the bill, I don't think it can be used here without sounding very odd, if not incorrect.

Perhaps you can say:
"Why does this happen?" moaned Ralph. (or groaned, sighed, cried - these all depict despair).

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