Saturday, December 20, 2014

Survival Saturdays #1

Writing advice to help you survive that first draft.

We've all heard it (no pun intended).
It is by far the most common dialogue tag out there. (or "say" if we're talking present tense. But don't get too far ahead of yourself. We're staying in the past. So shush.)

The reason why SAID is often discouraged is because it can get repetitive fast.

"Toss me that water bottle," Jesse said. 
"Sure thing. I just love being your slave," Riley said.

Can you feel the emotion?  The drama?
No. No you cannot.

Let's see what happens if we replace SAID with more interesting words.

"Toss me that water bottle," Jesse demanded. 
"Sure thing. I just love being your slave," Riley scoffed. 

How about now?

DEMANDED and SCOFFED are far more descriptive than SAID.  Not only can you get a feel of the scene, but you have some insight into the characters' relationship and personalities.


Here is a list of alternate words for SAID:

NORMALLY: stated, spoke, remarked, reported, added.

HAPPILY: rejoiced, laughed, joked, giggled, sang, cheered, marveled, chimed, beamed.

FULL OF WORRY: quaked, stammered, stuttered, gulped, gasped.

BOSSILY: commanded, ordered, dictated, insisted, demanded, bossed, preached.

ANGRILY: demanded, hissed, fumed, thundered, snapped, sneered, barked, ranted, grunted roared, bellowed, spat, retorted, blurted, barked.

LOUDLY: shouted, belted, yelled, screamed, exclaimed, boomed, called.

SADLY: cried, sobbed, groaned, bawled, whined, blubbered.

QUIETLY: mumbled, muttered, whispered, murmured, comforted.

AFRAID: stammered, stuttered.

AS A QUESTION: asked, inquired, requested, questioned, begged.

AS AN ANSWER: answered, replied, responded, acknowledged, explained.


(Pinterest)'s not all dead.
While it is best to avoid SAID when possible, SAID should not be eliminated entirely.  If two characters are having an important conversation that you want the readers to pay attention to, you might want to throw a few SAIDs in there to help with readability and flow.

For example:

"I'm here to bring the neighbor's dog home," Kurt explained. 
"I put him outside," Jesse responded. 
"He's not there," Kurt insisted. 
"What do you mean?" Jesse stammered.
"I mean he's not in the backyard," Kurt clarified.  
"What?" Jesse gasped. 

Even though those dialogue tags are very helpful in getting a feel for the scene, they can slow the reader down.  (This is also a good time to mention that a dialogue tag isn't needed for every line). Using SAID once or twice will help to move the scene along.

"I'm here to bring the neighbor's dog home," Kurt explained. 
"I put him outside," Jesse said.
"He's not there."
"What do you mean?" 
"I mean he's not in the backyard," Kurt said. 
"What?" Jesse gasped. 

A little easier to read, huh?

The best time to replace SAID is when depth is needed--to help make the scene come to life.  Otherwise, SAID is the safest way to go.

God bless,
~Amy Rochelle

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