1. Deme
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    Deme New Member

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    are saidisms a form of bad writing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Deme, Nov 3, 2009.

    Well, a very well-known author, Dean Koontz, in one of his podcasts said that he rarely will use saidisms because if the characters are well developed and creative, you won't need saidisms... He does use them though, just not when theres a lot of dialogue, is this good practice, or should most dialogue contain saidism tags?
     
  2. Sillraaia
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    Sillraaia Senior Member

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    Okay, I am not afraid to bite - what is a saidism?
     
  3. Deme
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    Deme New Member

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    To my knowledge they're just different forms of he said/she said dialogue tags...
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Stick with said most of the time (or no tag at all). It disappears from the reader's conscious attention, and that is exactly what you want. Variety only draws attention to the tag, and you want the reader's attention to be on the dialogue itself.
     
  5. Marshmallow
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    Marshmallow Member

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    Exactly; the use of 'said' makes your writing speed up. If you'll notice, long drawn-out conversations -- the type that authors want to remain suspended -- use more elaborate diction. 'Whispered,' 'gasped,' 'spat,' etc. are far more exciting than 'said.'

    So, to pass through dialogue in a passive manner, fill it with 'said.'

    To add flair and slow the reader down, change it up a little...

    Hope that helped. :)
     
  6. Deme
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    Deme New Member

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    It did, thank you very much.
     
  7. Jimmychims
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    Jimmychims New Member

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    Oh god, this helped me so much.

    I have a problem flooding what I write with these "saidisms". It's punishment, grueling, torturous punishment to attempt to write something of length that way.
     
  8. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Never heard them called "saidisms" before (I'm thinkin' opposite of masochisms, or something). What a great term!

    I read a short story once where the writer had chosen a different replacement word for "said," every single place where she was tempted to use it. Honest--every one! The only thing I remember about the story was that after the first page, all I thought about was what the next choice was going to be. So, it certainly didn't help the story at all, but I was impressed with the writer's capacity to come up with so many variations. My thought was that if you have that much imagination, you can put it to much better use!

    So, yes, I agree with others. Put 'em in a cannister with a lid that's not easy to get off.:)
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I drop them altogether, even said, whenever possible. Unless you've a gaggle of
    folks talking on the same page, more often than not it is perfectly clear who is speaking.
    I eschew the saidism and instead opt for being a beatnik.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    For those who didn't catch this reference, a beat is an action inserted between dialogue fragments, for example:

    "I left the messages that brought you here." Jake stubbed out his cigarette. "MacKay's death was no accident. But one of you already knows that."

    The sentence "Jake stubbed out his cigarette." is not a dialogue tag. It is a complete sentence inserted between dialogue fragments, also known as a beat. It introduces a pause between the dialogue pieces, and shows an action taking place during that pause. It also helps the reader keep track of who is speaking, without an explicit dialogue tag.

    Careful use of beats can add life to dialogue. Just be careful not to overdo it, because too heavy depependence upon them can make the dialogue stumble like a drunk with a bum knee.
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well then, perhaps beats are not exactly what I do. I don't allow the action to be incidental, It must be important to the action in the scene itself and it rarely breaks the dialogue in the middle like you have exampled. I have just looked over a piece of my own writing and thought, "Could I just stick in he said/she saids into this without a complete rewrite?" and the answer was yes. I just don't put tags when they are superfluous.

    I hope a very small example from my own work won't be inappropriate here to indicate my meaning:

    Deavon awoke alone.

    The dark wooden architecture of the room reminded him of the Northern Wave. Heavy beams rose to the ceiling like ship masts. The canopied bed was hung with drapes like sails. He could almost hear the creak and groan of the ship as it rose and fell with the swells. There was a light tap at the door. It was Amila.

    “Begging your pardon, sir. Will you be having breakfast.”

    “Where’s Brena?”

    “With Lady Petla. She had me fetch him then had me come back and wait until you awoke, sir. Will you be having breakfast, sir?”

    “Amila, I’m not a lord.”

    “I know, sir.” She ducked her head out of the room to look down the hallway for a moment and then closed the door. “Do you not feel strange with them?”

    “With them, yes.” Deavon waved a hand to indicate the rest of the family. “Not with Brena, though.”
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The last two paragraphs contain beats, although a bit wordier than some. :)
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm.

    *scratches chin*

    *goes to look for better examples*
     
  14. afinemess
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    afinemess Active Member

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    I never paid attention to this much before i began writing. I dislike using 'said' (or other words to describe dialouge) too much in my own writing. I just flow with what is best for the moment. I noticed arguments work best with no tags, while sometimes a regular conversation or comedy works better with beats. (this is for me, others may be different) But, leaving them out too often or altogether, I find is just as bad as using said, said, said, on everything. In "A Farewell to Arms", there are very little saids or tags on dialogue. I found it incredibly annoying and confusing. Sometimes I'd have to go back up the page and read through dialouge again to see who was talking when. Yet, according to the back cover, it's one of the best novels ever, so I may be too simple minded. haha Either way, that's my take on it.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I agree. A lot of otherwise great dialogue in literature is marred by lengthy conversations with too few tags, or other indicators of who is saying what. The reader shouldn't have to count back to be sure who is saying what.
     
  16. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    How would you propose to solve this problem avoiding to say too many times "said"? I'm running out of synonyms and inserting little actions between statements may become tedious after a while...
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you have such a long stretch of dialogue that a few well-placed saids and maybe a couple beats don't disambiguate it, then your dialogue needs a break anyway.

    Don't stuff in alternate verbs for said. Occasionally one is called for, but you should be using said 90% (or more) of the time you use a tag.
     
  18. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    It doesn't always have to be "actions," really. You can move your story forward with a little narrative, too, well crafted to show who's about to speak. When you run across a story segment that includes dialogue in a book you're reading, where you've experienced the sense of moving along with the story, reread it carefully to see what the author has done to avoid confusion as well as to avoid giving undue significance to dialogue tags.
     
  19. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    Are you against the use of verb such as

    1)to answer
    2)to ask
    3)to recall
    4)to point out

    etc...?

    I confess that the problem of repeated words bothers me a lot, especially in relation with dialogues, I'm always trying to find a solution but I notice that many of our real life discussions, especially briefings and casual chatting would require a lot of saidism if written line by line...:confused:
     
  20. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    Sorry, I used the word "action" in a loose way. I meant inserting little descriptions of what the speaking character does while he's talking, for instance, if he's drinking a cup of coffee, or looking around, or keying...
     
  21. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    It doesn't matter how well defined a character is. Sometimes you need them to help people keep track with dialogue heavy sections and to maintain a certain flow and rhythm in sections with less dialogue. And like others have said, people don't notice them when done properly.
     
  22. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    Let me play devil's advocate for a moment...

    Who are we trying to impress when we avoid using saidisms? I wonder if the majority of typical readers, the average sort who don't fancy themselves obsessive, actually care all that much about using said too often. Perhaps this is just one of those things that writers or those who are obsessed with literature focus on. It's a bit of a stretch for an example, but a long while back when I use to play bass in a band we thought it mattered how we looked. Truth was no one gave a damn about how we appeared, so long as our music was good.

    We can all agree too much of something, or a lack of it, is not a good thing. Nevertheless, I wonder if we are being a bit too... stuck up. If nothing else think of the artist judging another artists work, his wine glass up to his nose and both eyes unblinking. He mumbles to himself every now and again. Come to find out he loved the work, but unfortunately he declares the piece of work trash because the artist he is judging uses too much cobalt and not enough periwinkle.

    Alright, I'm done being the devil's advocate.

    This is why I hate the Harry Potter series. I am constantly being informed on who is talking. I understand she wrote it as a kids book, but even children are not that stupid. Well, some are, but that is not the point. I am sick of writers informing me of who is speaking - it gives me the feeling that they do not think I am able to do it on my own. At the very worst, when a writer is constantly using saidism I picture them as being unsure of themselves. Confidence is a very attractive thing. I want a writer to tell me a story, not whisper it to me with an uncertain voice.

    Granted, the novel I'm writing for NaNoWriMo is FULL of saidism. In my own defense, I am doing this to up my word count. I cannot even tell you how many pebbles I am describing in such thorough detail.
     
  23. JZydowicz
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    JZydowicz Member

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    I have made it a habit of only using "said" or "asked", and I drop them as soon as I can in a conversation between two people.
     
  24. WaltzElf
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    When I became a professional writer, the first thing I realised is that using anything but "said" (with the very rare exception) makes my work look unbearably amateur.

    The rules may be slightly different when it comes to writing a novel, but I am struggling to think of times where "said" is insufficient enough to need a replacement in dialogue.
     
  25. Bongo Mongo
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    Bongo Mongo Member

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    Great topic! This really helped me understand a lot more about writing dialogue, something I was having a lot of trouble with.
     

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