1. PGWhyte
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    He said/She said etc

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by PGWhyte, Sep 14, 2016.

    Hi folks,
    In my current project i have many conversations between a few characters and i find myself being repetitive with he said/she said and >insert name< said etc. In some instances I've put some thing He shouted, he whispered etc but still at a loss.
    Is it ok with the repetition and am i worrying too much?

    Thanks in advance for the replies

    Phil
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This question comes up all the time and the answer is: you're over-worrying it. Because we're creating it, we see it. Readers don't even notice it. When you go out of your way to use a bunch of other verbs, that's when readers notice it and it can become annoying.

    Try varying things by using beats instead of tags, and by leaving the dialogue naked and without anything when it's clearly obvious who is speaking. It takes a bit to get a feel for when to use these (especially the latter), but they help reduce all the tags and can - when used well and judiciously - add a dynamic element.
     
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  3. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    "We've had a lot of repetitions of this issue on this forum," he said wearily.
    "Yes, I know." A roll of her eyes tells him that she agrees.
    "So, you can always tell the newbie in the room; he's the one who brings it up again."
    She looked up from her book. "I don't know why you let it get to you all the time; just let it go."
    "It just bugs me, you know?"
    "Yes, I know." She reached out a hand towards him, gently caressing his hair. Her lips creased into a smile as she tilted her head to the side.

    Six speeches, and only one "he said" in it. A combination of beats and "assumed attributions" (paragraph 3 & 5) means you can cut down on the repetitiveness. And, as @Wreybies says, it's one of those things that's easy to overthink. And I can well remember critiquing a piece for using a different word from the thesaurus every speech; he said, he muttered, he whispered, he shouted, he roared, he stuttered, he complained, he whined, etc.
     
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  4. PGWhyte
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    PGWhyte Member Supporter

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    Thank you both, I'll go over what I've written later and see if i can adjust anything.
    Another worry conquered :agreed:
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have a short story called "Table Talk" in my blog that was an exercise of writing solely with dialogue. I found it to be an interesting challenge, particularly because there are multiple participants. I t may give you some ideas, not least of which is a fun challenge to try for yourself.
     
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  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    surprised nobody's mentioned beats yet. Just mention something the character's doing, which would indicate the speaker, without the need for any dialogue tag.

    Also, it's not good practice to actually go out of your way to avoid using tags - if you feel it's needed, it's probably needed. Better a little repetition than for the reader to be confused about who's speaking - I know which would be more off-putting!
     
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  7. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    also if you want to avoid a wgole load of he said, she said downthe page looking like a script break it up by varying where in the sentence it goes

    Bob said "blah blah blah"

    "Waffle Waffle Waffle" Said fred
     
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  8. Francis de Aguilar
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    Francis de Aguilar Active Member

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    Once you have established who is speaking to who, you can leave em out. If, when you review it, it's unclear who's speaking stick a tag in. A conversation between two characters can live almost entirely without tags. If more speakers get involved you need more.
     
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  9. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is very good advice, as well, and important not to overlook. There was definitely a time when I was in anti-tag mode, probably as a new writer who heard someone with more authority than me say "don't use tags so much." As a new writer, of course, that meant "Never use tags, n00b" so I adjusted accordingly.

    The problem is, if you rely on using beats and actions all the time, you start to fill up the page with empty action that adds nothing to the story and just reads like stage directions. As a reader, I don't really care that the character blinked, exhaled, scooted in, scratched her head, wiped his brow, etc. Sometime those actions are important. But sometimes they aren't, especially if they're being used specifically to avoid saying "she said/he said." And those extra, superfluous actions take away from the impact of the ones that really matter.

    Don't be afraid of tags, and definitely don't get rid of them purely because you think having them constitutes bad writing. Just balance them with everything else--beats, unattributed dialog, etc--and you'll be fine.
     
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  10. PGWhyte
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    Thanks for the comments guys. Will take each bit of advice on-board. @Cogito i will be checking you blog entry :read:

    Phil
     
  11. Nicola
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    Nicola Member

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    The reader expects there to be an equal exchange between two people so you don't have to add he said/she said to a two person convo, more than that and you'd need pointers but it helps to add so description e.g:

    'forget about it' he drawled, gesturing slowly with the beer glass still in his hand or 'I'm not worried' she said through a clenched jaw. Billy noticed her loosen her scarf.
     
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  12. NoGoodNobu
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    NoGoodNobu Senior Member

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    I agree with most of the commentary already given.

    As for my own personal writing style (which is actually heavily reliant on dialogues), my rule of thumb is it's only written if it needs to be expressed.

    If I need to make clear a shift in tone or volume, I call it out: he shouted, she cajoled, he simpered, et cetera.

    And if a character is performing some sort of action while speaking, I insert it appropriately in the dialogue. Most people aren't still as statues when the converse, and inserted actions can assist in expressing mood or tone. And a lot of communication comes from nonverbal cues in tandem with their words. It's only natural to provide similiar forms of informing the audience

    And often, I won't specificy who's speaking at all. At the start I might use names or tags or whathaveyou, but if the rhythm of the conversation isn't interrupted and if the character's speech patterns hold and their attitudes & points aren't shifting, the reader can generally follow along just fine between who is saying what to whom without having to constantly hold their hand.

    To my mind, the most important thing is to give only what is needed & nothing superfluous. Don't add or include anything simply because you were told to include it. Is it important? Is it functional? Does it contribute anything to the story? Does it detract in anyway from the flow or the point? These are the most important factors. Write strictly only what is necessary, in some manner or another. If it serves no real function to the story, cut it completely

    Best regards
     
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  13. PGWhyte
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    Thanks folks,

    I've gone through my writings and changed a few things. I think it looks better, and reads more clearly now.

    :p
     
  14. nataku
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    nataku Member

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    I generally ignore people who say I say said too much. If the person is just speaking I use said, but I try to follow it usually by a behavior common to how that person speaks

    EXAMPLE: "It's fine." Rahim said running a hand through his blond curls. Triton tensed at the gesture he'd come to associate as his lover being frustrated over the situation.
    "It's not. We'll do it your way." Triton said quietly. Rahim sighed and shook his head smiling and people thought Triton was the dominant one in their relationship.

    Triton is the strong silent type with a teasing sarcastic streak that's no one's pawn, but when his lover is concerned he'll do anything Ra wants him to. Rahim however is the more self contained person who tends to try for compromise over getting into a verbal fight. When he reaches the end of his considerable patience though he has specific behaviors AKA running a hand through his hair that show this. I use those to help make the dialogues flow better.
     
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