Thursday, September 04, 2008

"My current pet peeve," he said.

I've decided I hate the word "said."

Early in my writing career, the idea of writing dialogue bothered me. There was so much advice, and it was difficult to know who to trust. Some authors and writing gurus suggested never, ever using the word "said" because it's boring. Other idjits said to only use the word "said" because anything else looks silly.

I've come to the conclusion that both are right, in a way.

Yes, readers don't want line after line of dialogue that reads like this ...

"I love you," Jane said.
"I know," Jim said.
"No, I really mean it," Jane said.

But readers also don't want something like this ...

"I love you!" Jane exclaimed.
"Do you?" Jim questioned.
"Not really," Jane lied.

Get the idea. And here's another that pretty annoying ...

"I love you," Jane said exasperatedly.
"I don't believe you," Jim said sarcastically.
"You hurt me," Jane said tearfully.

See those -ly words at the end. Those are adverbs. They also happen to be annoying. Adverbs can be used well, but usually in limited use. Generally, kill your adverbs, and a lot of your adjectives too. If you don't know what an adverb or an adjective is ... well, not to be harsh, but you probably shouldn't even be trying to be a writer. At least not until you've studied some more.

But back to hating "said."

After 20 years of writing, I've decided that all the gurus out there can go shove off. The best way to write well is to read well, to pay attention to what authors you like are doing in their text.

When I do that, I don't see the word "said" a whole lot, though I do see it some. I definitely don't see hardly any of those silly adverbs in goofy places.

What I do see is action, action, action.

Example ...

"I love you!" Jane darted across the room and grabbed him by the shoulders.
"I know," Jim said, bringing his lips up to hers.
After the kiss, she leaned away from him, staring into his dark eyes. "I always knew it would be this way."

Okay, so that's not great writing. Sue me. It's not like you're paying me for this blog. But I think you get the idea. Writing the action in with the dialogue works. It might not work well if you did nothing but that (as I did above), but mixing things up a bit never hurts.

I'll keep on using "said," but now I hate it. Which means I won't be using it nearly as much. Which I think will make my writing stronger.

1 comment:

von Darkmoor said...

"I love your point," Jason said sincerely.