1. Florent150
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    Florent150 Member

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    Using "said."

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Florent150, Feb 10, 2011.

    When writing I always thought using "said" on its own over and over again might be bad technique, but I've read that sticking in other words to follow it is not a good idea ("said awkwardly," "said irritably," "said smartly," so on.)

    I notice the Harry Potter books do this almost all the time, whereas more critically supported authors for their writing, such as Michael Crichton, almost never use anything other than "said" all the time, at least not in State of Fear (I havn't finished it yet though so no spoilers please :p)

    Is this actually bad and good technique, or is this individual technique or what? I gravitated towards sticking in "sharply," "quickly" and so on after "said" because like I said, filling the pages with loads of "said"'s somehow felt like bad technique, even though I prefer doing it to having to add in something else.

    The only issue is, how do you carry certain phrases that almost contradict their true meaning. For example, I wanted to create a jokey, "mates" atmosphere between a group of soldiers in one of my novels, so phrases like "shut up" and "you're so full of crap" were used here and there in response to teasing. But followed by just "said", it can seem like the character is genuinely annoyed, so I followed phrases like these with "said, grinning" or "said, smirking." Are there other ways to carry out moods or situations like this then?

    Cheers :D
     
  2. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I used to use said a lot but I am trying to cut it down considerably and replace it with beats. I do kind of understand the idea behind it because "said" does become somewhat tedious. I think a healthy balance is fine. Said works fine, IMO. But I don't feel you need to be a slave to using it and it alone.
     
  3. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    The tags, 'he said', or 'she said', or even "--- -- ----- --," said Wilbaforce. Are actually very transparent to the reader. They become almost invisible. One of the reasons writers are urged not to use adverbs like 'quickly', 'irritably', or 'condescendingly' is because the reader should understand the speaker's state of mind and not need to be told. Adding those words occasionally is alright, but do so only for emphasis, not because you think you need to add something different to your dialogue tag. It then becomes fluff. In my opinion.
     
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  4. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    I agree with Terry. You only noticed that Rowling uses said with adverbs and that Michael Crichton doesn't because you were paying attention to the saids. I've read all the Harry Potter books more than once and I don't even remember that she does that. Why? Because the said parts are only there to indicate who is speaking and are otherwise invisible to the reader. Through context, knowledge of the character, and wording, you should be able to tell what tone of voice they used. If you can't, then you have bad dialogue.

    Read this article:

    http://fmwriters.com/Visionback/Issue%205/tags.htm

    And know that this is one of many, many sources that will advise you not to add adverbs (towards the end of the article) or try to replace or enhance "said" in any way.
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    You only need to use said when it isn't clear who is speaking. It is also possible like Show said to use beats instead of tags (facial expressions, movements etc). Said is fine when it is needed.

    I am not anti adverb though like Terry said on occasion they have their purpose. My first book opens with a shout, that needed to be described as there was no context.
     
  6. flanneryohello
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    flanneryohello Member

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    Avoid excessive adverbs (I do believe they can be used sparingly, though others would advise an all-out ban). You should be describing the scene and setting the tone in other ways--if you need to tell me that someone said something "angrily", then you've missed an opportunity to show me that they're angry in some other way. Stick to "said" as much as possible. As others mentioned, it becomes transparent. Also, only attribute dialogue when necessary. If you're using dialogue tags every time someone says something, yes, it will begin to feel redundant.

    Overusing dialogue tags:

    "I'm hungry," Bob said.

    "Me too," Jane said. Her stomach growled, punctuating her agreement.

    "So let's get some food," Bob said.

    Jane didn't need to be asked twice. "Let's go," she said.

    vs.

    Using dialogue tags sparingly:

    "I'm hungry," Bob said.

    "Me too." Jane's stomach growled, punctuating her agreement.

    "So let's get some food."

    Jane didn't need to be asked twice. "Let's go."
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good writers don't need to use dialog tags all the time... by how they alternate the dialog and what they put in between it, the reader can tell who's speaking without being hammered over the head with 'said's for every line of dialog...

    check out how the best writers do that... some can go on for almost a page of conversation without a single 'said' and not confuse us...

    as for using other verbs, 'said' is pretty much invisible, one doesn't notice it... but sticking in other verbs, or adding adverbs jumps out at us and isn't good writing...
     
  8. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    Ideally, the rhythm of dialogue implies who is saying what, in which case "said"s are largely unnecessary & even cumbersome. "Said" only seems requisite to me when it's not clear who's saying what, or when the tone of voice is not clear through text, thus the adverbs of "said sharply/harshly/whimsically/ect". Otherwise, avoid it as much as possible & try to contrive the pace & content of your dialogue so as to be clear who's saying what, in what tone, ect.
    Hope this helps. Good luck.

    Edit: Wow, having actually read the thread I realize most of this has been covered. Good to know I'm not too far off I guess.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say that the adverbs (awkwardly, quickly, smartly, etc.) make "said" worse, most of the time. When you need "said", use it fearlessly, but try reorganizing your dialogue to minimize the need. You can use character actions to make it clear who's speaking, or simply leave out the attribution altogether when it's already clear. In a two-person conversation, you usually only need an occasional reminder of who's speaking when.

    A possible way to handle your "soldier" situation without adverbs or excessive saids could be:

    Andrew climbed into the passenger seat. "I'm told that you may have forgotten how to drive a jeep."

    Joe grinned. "You're so full of crap. That wasn't a road, it was a swamp."

    "Nope, nope. Regulation 10-15 part b--any driver who gets a perfectly good vehicle caught in the mud for more than twelve hours must file for re-certification."

    "Shut up." Joe started the engine. "Next time it happens, I'll make sure you're along to push."


    ChickenFreak
     
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  10. Paris_Love
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    Paris_Love Member

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    I try to avoid using anything but "said" when attributing a line of dialog. For children's books, adding in the adverbs might be a good tactict as young readers may not have the ability to know that:

    She felt the tears well up in her eyes as she laid the roses on the headstone.

    "Goodbye, mother." She said (mournfully
    ).

    the previous sentence is directing the dialog.

    I write for adults (my friends, usually) and I skip any adverbs. I try to leave them out of the entire story, if I can.
     
  11. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    That's what she said.


    I tried to avoid being juvenile all day, but this thread kept rising to the top. I was hoping someone would beat me to the punch so I wouldn't have to be the most immature person on here. Guess it was just my destiny.
     
  12. Fallaryn
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    Fallaryn New Member

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    This thread has possibly saved my sanity and work.

    I never realized "said" didn't need adverbs, and how transparent it really is. Plus I now know the importance of beats. (I didn't even know they were called that!)

    I didn't learn any of this in high school... maybe I should take post-secondary English after all.

    @ guamyankee: LOL. Didn't even come to my mind. Then again, I'm almost always the victim... :redface:
     
  13. FictionAddict
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    FictionAddict Senior Member

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    English is not my first language. The overuse of adverbs in tag lines often forces me to rely on a dictionary, so I agree that it should be used wisely.

    Great advice for when I get to the editting stage of my novel. I'm writing it in English and I'm sure I'd used far too many bookisms so far:(
     
  14. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^

    Don't worry about that. When you edit, you can cut stuff out and make the writing leaner. Post some in the review room if you need any help. :)
     
  15. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am not as sure that "said" is that transparent. It's more transparent than most, but I find myself noticing it a little more lately. It's less invisible.
     
  16. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that you're a writer. Consciously or not, you might have started to home in on those words because of conversations like this. For me, I mostly just notice whose name is accompanying the "said" and ignore the rest.
     
  17. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it is more noticeable because the trend is to use it as little as possible, in doing so we are making it less invisable, in which case we may see a surgence in the use of adverbs which flow into the story better and stick out less.
     
  18. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    To be honest, as a reader, I find it much more annoying when authors use nothing but said. A few whispers and shouts makes it sound less repetitive, especially if it's needed to show who speaks a lot. Also never been bothered by adverbs.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But I would argue that the adverbs make the "said" much _more_ noticeable. It's as if the writer is waving his hand and saying, "Hey! Excuse me! Just wanted to apologize for that 'said' there, but I decorated it real pretty for you; is it OK?"

    Edited to add: Now it is a problem when it's used repetitively, list-like:

    John said, "Blah."
    Judy said, "Blah."
    John said, "Blah blah and also blah."
    Judy said, "Blah!"


    And so on. But the answer isn't:

    John said merrily, "Blah."
    Judy replied, "Blah."
    John retorted, "Blah blah and also blah."
    Judy said angrily, "Blah!"


    It's still irritatingly repetitive. A better fix, IMO, is:

    John put his fork down. "Blah."
    "Blah." Judy shrugged and reached for the ketchup.
    "Blah blah and also blah."
    Judy shook the ketchup bottle with unnecessary force. "Blah!"
     
  20. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    "Chickenfreak, I think you've nailed it," said guamyankee.
     
  21. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    I'm sorry... I know this isn't exactly relevant, but I'm having way too much fun imagining two people having lunch while shouting "Blah blah!" and brandishing condiments. :D
     

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