1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    He said, he said, he said...blah blah blah.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by GingerCoffee, Apr 27, 2013.

    Who the heck decided one should not use alternatives to 'said' in dialogue? When did this 'best writing' rule emerge? :(

    There's a lot of dialogue in my book. I get it the words and whatever else should tell the reader how what is said sounds. And I can find plenty of ways to do this:

    "Help!" Sam was screaming at the top of his lungs.

    But when just identifying who is speaking, supposedly a writer should stay away from anything except, he/she said.

    I'm reading a book my friend wrote and it's good (published by a publisher). She doesn't stick to using "said" so strictly.

    So I'm wondering how strict I should be as well.

    “Brin! Everyone’s looking for you!” Mark and his younger twin brothers hurried into the clearing where I lay on my back watching the night sky.
    I sat up. “Shoot, I forgot to tell my mom I’d be out late.”
    “Are you kidding! It’s dangerous for you to be out here alone,” Mark said.​

    "Mark said" just doesn't cut it. I want to say, Mark scolded. I don't want to stick some other description in after every line of dialogue.

    I could say something like, "Mark sounded like a parent." And in most places, I do put things in like that. But sometimes it can slow the dialogue in a place where the exchange sounds better without all the interference. And in those sections, 'said, said, said' can sound really monotonous.

    For me, I know who is speaking, and I would think the reader should be able to follow. But people reading my pieces have said they got lost as to who was speaking. And I've certainly had the same issue reading other's work so I understand the problem.

    So, how do people feel about this 'rule' to use 'said' and not use alternative words when you want to identify a speaker. There are so many choices, I want to use other words. :p

    he griped
    he scolded
    he uttered
    he whined
    he explained
    he remarked

    and so on. Well, maybe I wouldn't use all of those, but some of them ...
     
  2. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    Depends. Personally, I find nothing wrong with he said/she said. The dialogue should speak for itself(no pun intended) as well as the character's actions as they say the dialogue. For example you should say "He whined," If the dialogue is good enough, the reader will know the character is whining like so.
    "That's not fair," Carl said. "Why can't I get chocolate?" In this example, you can tell Carl is whining/complaining just from the words alone.

    The only other things I can say you should use is HE/She yelled or He/she cried or He/she called.

    People give this advice so amateur writers don't do things like "He said apologetically," "She said gruesomely," "He said faithfully." In all honesty, you become a better writer when you stray away from the adverbs and using things beside he said she said. I say this because I learned from experience. Also, when you use he said, she said, the reader goes by it quickly because they know it's there to let them know who's talking. In other words, just make sure the dialogue is awesome.
     
  3. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Most people stick with "said" so the reader can gloss over it, changing it up draws attention to it--when you want people to ignore your dialogue tags.

    "Help!" Sam said, screaming at the top of his lungs.

    People will read that without even realizing the "said" is there. When you are deep in a book all the "said's" disappear from thought.

    “Are you kidding!" Mark said, looking down at me, furious. "It’s dangerous for you to be out here alone,” he said, crossing his arms.

    It's pretty obvious Brin is being scolded when written this way.


    I especially detest, "he asked," you don't need that at all. It's just redundant. Question marks already show the reader that "he asked" something.
     
  4. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    And what makes it redundant, may I ask? I find "asked" to be completely appropriate. I've never read anything that says "he asked" after a question that seemed redundant. Logically it makes sense. You open the quote, you write the sentence, punctuate with a question mark because it is a question, you close the quote, and finish with "he said" or "he asked". As I see it, "asked" seems more appropriate in context because it is explicit that he asked a question and it can be read over just as easily as "said". The word "said" typically connotes a statement as opposed to a question.

    I agree it is best to stick with the basic he said/ she said in most cases. It is even better if one can delete most of the dialogue tags so it reads more like conversation. I don't see it as much of a rule as it is a convention because most writers--that I've spoken to--who are bothered by it are only really bothered because someone else taught them not to do it (that is referring strictly to "asked", "said", "yelled", and "whispered").

    To the OP:
    It doesn't hurt the story to say "he scolded" here; it actually keeps the word count down and gives the reader (namely me) a fair enough image without needing to visualize him crossing his arms. That said, one should avoid most adverbs in dialogue tags because those get really annoying to read. They can lead to clumsily constructed sentences and poor descriptions, and are often distractions for me as a reader (not necessarily as a fellow writer).

    Additionally, phrases such as: "he... inquired, chided, questioned, exclaimed, bellowed, grunted, chortled, hissed, screeched, whined, etc." should be avoided in dialogue tags. They draw attention to the writer and away from the writing. I say this not as a writer, but from reading experience. Colorful synonyms to not help.

    Whenever possible use "said". If you must, use "yelled" or "whispered" to establish the volume of speech, then continue as said, the dialogue itself and the rest of the writing should depict if there is a change. If a question is asked, I say "asked" and said should be pretty interchangeable--whichever you choose, you must remain consistent-- but to avoid annoying writers and editors, My advice is to use "said". I also advise you to use your judgement as a writer and have other people read your work, writers and non-writers, and have them tell you how it feels to read it.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's not a rule. It's just a good thing to keep in mind, so that you don't wind up writing things like:

    "Don't call Darth Vader a weenie little pissy-pants," Luke admonished.

    "Well, I was here minding my own business, then Susan came in, then Fred came in with a gun, and here we are," Bill recapitulated.

    "Happy birthday!" Jill muttered uproariously.

    "How are you today?" Johnny interrogated.

    "To be or not to be," Hamlet spewed forth.

    "FREEEEEEEDOOOOOOOMMMM!" William Wallace yelped.

    "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," Rhett Butler pondered.

    Inexperienced writers sometimes write like that. The rule is there to help them avoid embarrassing themselves by writing like that. Experienced writers, those who are confident they know what they're doing, are free to do what they please.
     
  6. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    To the OP again, What is important is that the descriptions don't distract the reader from the discussion. What's being said should be more important, and how it is said should become more clear through the tone of the scene. There are plenty of ways to do it. As blackstar said,

     
  7. Quille
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    Quille Senior Member

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    While I use a lot of he/she said, I don't think it works all the time. For example, someone who is screaming doesn't 'say' anything.

    Just took a look at my WIP and I have the words "Alex, you up?" communicated over a link. There are so many emotions possible for this question. If I don't have Tom yelling, you might think it was merely a polite inquiry. I feel that replacing 'yelled' with 'said' destroys the urgency I'm trying to build.

    So I did what I always do and took a look at some published work. While there were a lot of 'saids' in the couple of pages I scanned there was also an 'asked' and even more body language.

    imo you're okay with other tags when they're needed, as long as you're not using those dreaded adverbs.
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Thank you everyone, these posts are all very helpful. So here's a sentence I'm just now re-writing:

    “So if you’re not going to the city now, when are you planning to ruin our lives?” Emgee chimed, determined to maintain the myth of Kinear’s superiority.​

    Chimed vs said, I think "chimed" works fine. But maybe I can't see the problem.
     
  9. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    I see a problem. As a verb, chimed means

    v. chimed, chim·ing, chimes
    v.intr.
    1.
    a. To sound with a harmonious ring when struck.
    b. To make a musical sound by striking a bell or set of bells.

    So is Emgee singing to Kinear as he says that dialogue?
     
  10. Quille
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    Quille Senior Member

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    To me, chimed means repeated, as in agreeing with or elaborating on something some else said. You've only given us the one sentence, so I can't tell if it's working or not.
     
  11. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    "Can you come with me?" Bob asked.

    I already know Bob asked something because of the question mark.

    And no one told me not to use, "asked," in fact I see it used all the time. It is just my opinion, I prefer not to use it. I prefer to have my tags uniform. I don't look down on those who do--I just as I said, feel it's redundant.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Perhaps the definition I intended was too obscure:
    How about this:
    “So if you’re not going to the city now, when are you planning to ruin our lives?” Emgee cut in, determined to maintain the myth of Kinear’s superiority.​
     
  13. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    This is one of those cases where "said" is best. The word "chimed" has a specific definition, but it can connote anything to anyone because the only real use people have heard it in is "so-and-so chimed in". In other words, it is an annoyance that I mentally replace with the word said because it adds no additional meaning beyond the to "chime in". However, for someone to "chime in" they must be joining a conversation they weren't in at that moment in time.
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm with Andrae, I fail to see the problem. If one uses 'he said', you can make the same claim, well we know he said it. How is that any more redundant than, he asked?
     
  15. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    :D

    It's close, but I'm going to revisit the exact context.
     
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For me, the problem with "chimed" is that it's so unusual in a dialogue tag. It calls attention to itself. When I see "chimed," I think of a grandfather clock tolling out the hour. I prefer the "cut in" option, or even "interrupted."
     
  17. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    "Chimed" works if Emgee is speaking in a cheery kind of tone, but the rest of the sentence seems a bit unnecessary. It should be obvious in context that they're determined to do...whatever it is that they're doing.
    EDIT: Wow cool lag, computer. A++++

    As for the issue of said vs. words that aren't said, most of the time you can just use "said" and have the feeling of the line implied by the dialogue itself. But if a character says something in a strange tone that wouldn't normally fit what they've said ("I've killed before and I'll kill again," she giggled.) then that'll work just fine.
     
  18. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    First let me apologize. After re-reading that, It seemed like I was accusing you. I was not trying to accuse you of being a writing snob (as I call them), I was referring to them because I let my hands get ahead of my head. I'm sorry about that, really and truly, friend. You are entirely entitled to your opinion as a reader and writer and I didn't mean to come across as attacking it. I see no problem with with "asked" being in your sentence, it reads naturally to me, but if it bothers you, insults you as a reader because you know he asked a question, You are right to voice it.

    As I see it, "he said" is short for "He said as statement." Likewise, "he asked" replaces, "He asked a question." To avoid it altogether, I would probably leave the tag off unless I'm giving the name to identify the speaker.

    EX.
    "I just don't believe Beth had anything to hide," said Joe, "She was such a good person."
    "Was she?" asked Bob, "She always struck me as a little... curious."
    "Well I'll have to see proof before I believe she killed him."
    "Can you come with me, then?"
    Joe knew he would regret saying yes, but he agreed and went with Bob. He just hoped that what he was going to see would not mar his image of Beth too badly.

    Sorry, I got carried away there.
     
  19. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    :confused:
     
  20. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    That is true, and I normally wouldn't write that way either, I was just trying to keep with the OP's example.
     
  21. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    I think what Minstrel said next is good too. It is too unusual. unlike said, asked, yelled, and whispered, the word chimed calls attention to itself. I think it's because most readers don't have a clear idea of exactly what it means to chime a "statement" I wouldn't expect most readers to know what it meant if I said, "he quibbled". I know it perfectly, but still think the context of the dialogue should let me know that the speaker is arguing/questioning a point. Thus I would use "said".
     
  22. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Because you have to use dialogue tags. So why not make them uniform as much as possible? What do you gain by saying "he/she asked?" that "he/she said" with a question mark doesn't already convey?

    But as I said, It's just my own personal style. All my favorite authors use "he/she asked" and I still love them all the same.
     
  23. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    You could just get rid of the clunky dialogue tag explaining that Emgee interrupted someone by just using the good ol em dash.
     
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  24. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    My computer just lagged all to hell when I tried to post my comment, and by the time it went through you'd already cleared up what "chimed" you were talking about. Sorry!

    But I agree with Jhunter - an em dash would probably work best to show that Emgee interrupted someone.
     
  25. Anthelionryu
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    Anthelionryu Member

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    This was discussed in the creative writing class I'm taking. The instructors take on it was that there are the two schools of thought. One will only ever accept "said" as the proper tag and the other likes their tags to be more creative. Her advice... if you like creative tags, find a publisher that doesn't mind them. Problem solved. :)

    In her case, she loves creative tags and has about a half dozen traditionally published books.
     

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