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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Said is NOT Dead

Part 2, a continuation...

You know how once you start noticing something, it seems to be everywhere you look?

That's what happened today with SAID as a dialogue tag. I'd been reading a perfectly good middle grade historical novel. The debut author has received praise and glowing reviews. I actually love the story, so far. But today, I had to put it aside until I get this whole SAID thing out of my head.

Here are a few of her dialogue tags, from a random opening of two consecutive pages:
Instead of said, the (fairly young, I think) author has written

stormed
snorted
cried
murmured

And actually that's just under two pages, because it's the beginning of a chapter.
The funny thing is, I really didn't notice when I picked the book up last week. Today? Couldn't help it.

So maybe that was just those pages. I'll check two more:
explained
went on
asked (ok, that's no big deal)
added
And three saids on those pages.

There are also a lot of LY adverbs. I'm not talking about using these words in description or interior monologue or anything other than pure dialogue tags. Hmm.

Are there editors out there who are suggesting these revisions? Because this book was from a major publisher. So maybe this is the new trend, and not just with school kids. Maybe this young writer went to school in a Said Is Dead school district? They're all over the place. A quick google will turn up a whole boatload of lists, lesson plans, books-- you name it.

Maybe I'm missing something.

7 comments:

Augusta Scattergood said...

And I don't mean to imply that you NEVER use anything except said as a tag. That would be boring. An occasional asked or hollered or shouted or even wondered. But I'm not sure about sneezing, snorting, laughing dialogue. Just doesn't work for me...

Barbara O'Connor said...

I am so with you on pondering this.....*head scratching* *just wondering* *would love to hear from the trenches* (teachers?)

I mean, sitting at home in your jammies at the computer all day is certainly a different animal from being in the classroom. But I would so love to hear HOW students are taught the difference between "school writing" and "real book writing."

Barbara O'Connor said...

It is not humanly possible to laugh, sigh, giggle or moan speech. Just sayin'

Sandy Ruth said...

"Aaargh," she stormed, angrily, her ice blue Germanic eyes sparkling like crystals in a pristine spring-fed mountain pool. "If one more character intones, avers, gasps, or angrily exclaims his dialogue, my head shall surely explode!"
I'll ask a friend who's a retired teacher about this. Maybe she'll respond to this post and explain the prejudice against "said."

wdeegan said...

You may be onto something. I have always found it difficult to write dialogue and only very recently have tried to work at overcoming that problem. For some reason, I do feel uncomfortable using "said" over and over again, especially when trying to develop a lengthy back-and-forth conversation. Hence - all of the alternatives you mentioned starting appearing in print or at least I start entertaining their use. No explanation for this, no one told me not to use "said," it's all completely self-imposed. My solution has been to stay away from writing fiction, or anything that requires heavy dialogue

Augusta Scattergood said...

I wonder if this is a problem particular to Writing for Kids. (Leslie, Sue? are you out there?) So many adult novels, esp genre fiction, seem to have no qualms about moaning or sighing their dialogue. So perhaps, Bill, you should just write what feels comfortable and, if it sounds like every other sentence is being laughed or snorted, edit some of them out.

I don't think we're saying you must ALWAYS use said. (Tho perhaps we are.)
Just don't try to tell us Said is Dead. Or rather, don't try to teach young writers that Said is Bad.

wdeegan said...

Sorry, my thought wasn't very clear. I was trying to say that I found it difficult to write dialogue because I was spending way too much time trying to think of more clever ways to say "said." What you are saying is that it's perfectly OK to use the word and I like the idea.