1. Daniel W
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    Daniel W Member

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    Said John

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Daniel W, May 10, 2008.

    For this thread, i will just use the name John for my examples.

    I would probably say i'm pretty good at writing stories, but my one problem is finding different words to put after a persons name in a conversation.

    For example:

    "hello," Said John.

    "I hurt my elbow," John sobbed.

    I try to avoid the same old 'said John' as it can get very repetitive and can make it less interesting. I might repeat the same one every now and then, but i try not to do it too much. I am usually spending lots of time while reviewing my stories to try and find other words to use instead.
    Can anyone help me on this?
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Daniel W,

    Actually, in most instances using 'said' is better than other descriptive words such as 'sobbed'.

    The point behind 'said' is that it helps attribute dialogue to a particular character when necessary. Actions, alternating conversation, context can often clue in a reader, reducing the number of dialogue tags necessary.

    Using 'said' becomes becomes invisible to the reader. The context, situation, characterization in the story and reader imagination should provide how (or the tone) a character is speaking. 'Said' blends into the text, much as quotes for dialogue do. The reader notes it and the implication but does not pay close attention/get destracted by it.

    That is not to say that only 'said' should be used in dialogue tags, but 'sobbed', 'whined', 'grumbled', etc. should be kept to a minimum when needed or even for emphasis, but not as a regular staple.

    Terry
     
  3. (Mark)
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    (Mark) Contributing Member

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    Even if it seems like you're using said too much, most people aren't going to notice. Traditional AP style suggests that you use said instead of anything else when you're writing news. I wrote a story that was quote-heavy, and it used said all the time, but I didn't even notice upon reading through it. I don't think your readers will either. Terry makes a great point in that when you do use those other words, it will really draw particular attention to the dialog that it stands by.
     
  4. Adelaide
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    Adelaide Member

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    I actually become more distracted when there are too many dialogue tags like "cried," "screamed," "groaned," etc. It's totally fine to use one every once in awhile, but "said" is a perfectly unobtrusive way of getting the message across. In other words, I totally agree with what has been said in the two previous posts. :)
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    pay attention to what's been said above!... besides, one can't 'sob' words!... you sob and you speak... one is not the other...
     
  6. MumblingSage
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    MumblingSage Contributing Member

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    When you speak while sobbing, you blubber. Of that I am convinced :D.

    Just the other day I learned that 'sneering' only refers to making the facial expression, and not to saying something in a mocking tone. My world was rocked.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    exactly my point re 'sobbing'... so many beginning writers think you can 'laugh' words, or whatever... if you check out successful authors' work, you'll find they use little other than the invisible 'said'...
     
  8. MumblingSage
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    MumblingSage Contributing Member

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    A few authors I've read (Ralph Scott Bakkar and C.S. Friedman are two that come to mind) rarely use the word 'said', but also rarely use dialog tags. They have long dialog interspersed with character action, and when characters speak they tend to use more descriptive words like 'whispered', 'demanded', or sometimes 'said' with an adverb. It's not irritating, because the tags are few and far between. I don't know if I'd recommend it, though, since you need pretty thick prose to keep the reader from noticing.

    Our of curiosity, does anybody know the PROPER word for 'sneering'? Because when you say something in that way, it's very distinctive, but if it isn't a sneer, what is it?
     
  9. Daniel W
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    Daniel W Member

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    Wow, thanks everyone. You've already helped a lot. And also made me realize something. I've never noticed myself, in books, when the 'said' comes up, but when others come up, i take notice. That is why i thought that perhaps i should use them a bit, but now i realize there is no need. This will definitely change some of the ways i write from now on.
    I am writing another short story right now, but i have been completely leaving off the 'said something' off the end, because the reader should know who is speaking, as there are two people exchanging sentences. I guess that's pretty much the same as the invisible 'said'.

    Perhaps hissing? I don't know, because if you're hissing, you would probably think of making a sound like a snake, or something like that.
     
  10. Kaij
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    Kaij Senior Member

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    Hrm, do you mean scoff, MS? It means to speak to someone in a scornfully derisive or mocking way.
     
  11. Ehdom
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    Ehdom New Member

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    Well, there's no need to keep repeating what's been said, as it's all great advice. Just remember, the best style is the style you don't notice.
     
  12. MumblingSage
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    That might be it, although I think 'scoffing' is especially done when you're skeptical. I begin to suspect I will use the word 'sneer' every once in a while, and I don't care. Hopefully others will misconceive it as I do.

    Oh! And I just read something funny about hissing--you can only hiss words that have the 's' sound in them. So you have to be careful with that.
     
  13. ChimmyBear
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    Well, I have been enlightened my friends! Great thread for anyone just curious about discribing dialogue!
     

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