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Old 12-02-2017, 11:10 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Catlady View Post
Because generally the words should not call attention to themselves. Most of the time, the only reason for them is to indicate who is speaking.
Yup. The dialogue should be written so that the inflections are implied by the words themselves.
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Old 12-02-2017, 11:22 AM   #17
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"The dog is barking. Why is he barking? What is he barking at?" she questioned.
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Old 12-02-2017, 02:42 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Nabeel View Post
'Steve's just won the lottery. He's got a million pounds!'
'A million pounds!' he said.

'Steve's just won the lottery. He's got a million pounds!'
'A million pounds?' he asked.
Wow, really!? So when do I get my check? :P But anyhow, yeah, I tend to use words at the end that add variety and only really use said and asked in my example as they're more or less what the other varieties boil down to in meaning. That was something my editor got on my case about early on was my use of certain words too closely to one another in my writing cause an annoying echo chamber effect that I try to avoid these days.
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"The dog is barking. Why is he barking? What is he barking at?" she questioned.
Yeah, I think that's one that always trips me up. Sometimes I use said if the questions are not exactly questions (ie, sarcasm) or it's more of a statement spoken in question form. Otherwise I default to asked in those situations.
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Old 12-02-2017, 06:04 PM   #19
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She said, "You don't understand what I said."
I said, "No, no, no, you're wrong.
When I was a boy everything was right,
Everything was right."


Lennon/McCartney
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Old 12-03-2017, 06:30 PM   #20
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I try to avoid the necessity for attribution, but when speech would be confusing without it I don't follow the rule of using the 'invisible' said.

For example, "The dog is barking. Why is he barking? What is he barking at?" she questioned.
I would use 'questioned' here because she is obviously more than merely asking; her statement, with its succession of short expressions, denotes bemusement. She is not merely asking, she is puzzled and interrogative.

The invisible said is becoming so bland. If a dialogue tag is needed, make it interesting.

I'm sure your editor will hate that idea!
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Old 12-04-2017, 02:50 AM   #21
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I find there's an interesting parallel between this thread and the audiobook thread (and my Self-Editing for Fiction Writers thread).

While reviewing my draft I've been using my text-to-speech software - and the "he said", "she said" stuff really stands out. Audibly, "said" can be a hard sounding word. Perhaps a professional narrator can sort of mumble over it or something, but my text-to-speech software almost emphasises it, and it can become quite boring and repetitive*. It may be that the eye happily glosses over "said", but audio doesn't.

* Note, sometimes, like when you have more than two people involved in a conversation, you can't cut as many attributions as you might like.

The other thing that listening to audio makes apparent is a possible problem with the common trick of mixing speech with a beat to avoid explicit attribution, for example: "Cheers, mate." Jacko lifted his glass.

When presented on the page as a paragraph it's immediately obvious that it was Jacko that said "Cheers, mate", but when listening to audio this can be less apparent. (A professional reader would presumably provide more subtle timing to make it apparent.)


The Self-Editing for Fiction Writers book does make a fairly strong recommendation to avoid getting too inventive with your attributions. They claim "said" is "absolutely transparent" - which my notes above suggest is not always the case. But the intent of their advice stands: avoid calling attention to the attribution (normally the dialogue is what you want the reader to see, not the attribution). But, as always, context is everything. Where there is good reason to not simply use "said", then you should do what's right. The point of the rule/advice is not to say "never do it", but to make you look at each piece of dialogue and question whether it presents effectively: Am I telling the reader something they already know, or would know if I wrote better dialogue?

The funny thing is how much these rules overlap. You don't want excessive use of adverbs, italics, exclamation points, etc., for effectively the same reason.
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Old 12-04-2017, 01:57 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by gmw View Post
I find there's an interesting parallel between this thread and the audiobook thread (and my Self-Editing for Fiction Writers thread).

While reviewing my draft I've been using my text-to-speech software - and the "he said", "she said" stuff really stands out. Audibly, "said" can be a hard sounding word. Perhaps a professional narrator can sort of mumble over it or something, but my text-to-speech software almost emphasises it, and it can become quite boring and repetitive*. It may be that the eye happily glosses over "said", but audio doesn't.

* Note, sometimes, like when you have more than two people involved in a conversation, you can't cut as many attributions as you might like.

The other thing that listening to audio makes apparent is a possible problem with the common trick of mixing speech with a beat to avoid explicit attribution, for example: "Cheers, mate." Jacko lifted his glass.

When presented on the page as a paragraph it's immediately obvious that it was Jacko that said "Cheers, mate", but when listening to audio this can be less apparent. (A professional reader would presumably provide more subtle timing to make it apparent.)


The Self-Editing for Fiction Writers book does make a fairly strong recommendation to avoid getting too inventive with your attributions. They claim "said" is "absolutely transparent" - which my notes above suggest is not always the case. But the intent of their advice stands: avoid calling attention to the attribution (normally the dialogue is what you want the reader to see, not the attribution). But, as always, context is everything. Where there is good reason to not simply use "said", then you should do what's right. The point of the rule/advice is not to say "never do it", but to make you look at each piece of dialogue and question whether it presents effectively: Am I telling the reader something they already know, or would know if I wrote better dialogue?

The funny thing is how much these rules overlap. You don't want excessive use of adverbs, italics, exclamation points, etc., for effectively the same reason.
Good comment. You're right about sometimes needing attribution for dialog in audio where you wouldn't in text. I've actually modified my writing for that reason. Because I do straight readings -- no voices, etc -- the listener can quickly lose their place in the dialog if i don't throw in enough attributions. Then it's a matter of making sure that it doesn't make the text look clumsy.

I don't find "said" to be hard sounding in my readings. Don't know about my audience.

I've dealt with your "Jacko lifted his glass" example. It's not as obvious in audio.

I agree with SEFW about not getting too fancy. Also about using each situation as the ultimate guide for style. Keep it plain and simple as much as possible and let the story take care of things.
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Old 12-04-2017, 08:02 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by arjaybe View Post
[...] I don't find "said" to be hard sounding in my readings. Don't know about my audience. [...]
I think the hard sound in the text-to-speech rendition may come from how it automates emphasis and pauses based on general speech patterns and syntax. I think the software places a subtle emphasis at the finish of a paragraph, and since an attribution of "said" is so often at the end of a paragraph, and already ends with a hard "ed" sound, the combination becomes too much of emphasis (just where you are looking for subtle). There are other, similar, artefacts that result from the automation. A lot of this stuff is probably be adjustable in the software, but I don't bother for my editing work.
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Old 12-05-2017, 11:03 AM   #24
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gmw: I also use text to speech software to read back what I've written. I use Balabolka with an installed voice: Audrey (British). Until you pointed it out I hadn't noticed the hard 'said' but Audrey has a softer voice than the US ones.

The software I'm using (I'm sure this applies to all text to voice software) enables you to adjust the pauses, if any, between punctuation, paragraphs etc.

But I think you're right. Any word used repeatedly draws attention to itself. I can't remember which of Dickens' books it's in, but I remember reading a passage where the word 'fog' is used frequently for emphasis. If you want to emphasize a concept, this is great, but isn't 'said' supposed to be 'invisible'?

I don't know how or why the idea that alternatives to 'said' are verbotten (spelling?) came about; personally I consider this a silly idea and will happily use more descriptive alternatives IF a tag is needed.
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Old 12-05-2017, 09:48 PM   #25
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Thanks, BookCat. Yes, I found the options for managing pauses etc., but these (in my software) are global, and really I would want to alter the effect just in particular places. You can create text with relevant adjustments, but that's not appropriate while I'm still editing. If I was going to try and set up audio files for others I'd definitely do something like that - with enough time and effort I believe a very good result would be possible, but would be a lot of work.


I think "said" became verboten (just one 't' ) largely through exaggeration - as has happened with adverbs, italics, exclamation marks and telling. You don't find many successful books without examples showing that these are all quite acceptable - in the right place, and in tasteful moderation.

The exaggeration came about through articles wanting to attract attention: being moderate about something is boring; being extreme makes people look.

The reason for wanting to advise authors to be more cautious about their use of attributions (and adverbs and italics and so on) came about through serious abuse. Some authors, even some that have since become quite famous, have sometimes been highly inventive in all these areas and such abuse drags the reader out of the story to stare at the words - and this is not a good thing.

But alternative verbs for speech are sometimes useful. Adverbs that do, indeed, prop up some dialogue can be more efficient than rewriting dialogue to show the intent. For all that people insist that a story should show, not tell, the simple truth is that this is "story telling", in most cases a good story will be a mix of showing and telling.

All of it is always about getting the balance right - and right for your story, and the particular place in the story, because the effects required vary with the situation and narrative style.

But no one wants to read about moderation and balance. They want the hard and fast rules for success, so adverbs become words to hate, "said" becomes the only permissible verb for speech, exclamation marks become the butt of jokes ... and writing becomes that much more boring.
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Old 12-06-2017, 07:28 PM   #26
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Yes, it's jumping from one extreme to another.
But even Rowling, in her (commercially) very successful books used many alternatives to 'said'.

“I WANT MY LETTER!” he shouted.
“Let me see it!” demanded Dudley.
“OUT!” roared Uncle Vernon

If each of these statements had been followed by "he said" "said Dudley" and "said Uncle Vernon" something would have been lost, some drama.

I deliberately chose a successful, fairly recent novel, as opposed to a classic. In Victorian literature even slow beginnings and long descriptive passages were tolerated. But then their attention span hadn't been shortened by television and the internet.
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Old 12-06-2017, 08:31 PM   #27
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Wow, I'm impressed! I just remember that one was a question and the other a declarative. Love your examples (and everybody else's!).
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Old 12-06-2017, 10:57 PM   #28
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Yes, it's jumping from one extreme to another.
But even Rowling, in her (commercially) very successful books used many alternatives to 'said'.

“I WANT MY LETTER!” he shouted.
“Let me see it!” demanded Dudley.
“OUT!” roared Uncle Vernon

If each of these statements had been followed by "he said" "said Dudley" and "said Uncle Vernon" something would have been lost, some drama.

I deliberately chose a successful, fairly recent novel, as opposed to a classic. In Victorian literature even slow beginnings and long descriptive passages were tolerated. But then their attention span hadn't been shortened by television and the internet.
Excellent examples. Not only would something have been lost, the incongruity would have jarred. These things were obviously not just "said".
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Old 12-07-2017, 04:44 AM   #29
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Yes, it's jumping from one extreme to another.
But even Rowling, in her (commercially) very successful books used many alternatives to 'said'.

“I WANT MY LETTER!” he shouted.
“Let me see it!” demanded Dudley.
“OUT!” roared Uncle Vernon

If each of these statements had been followed by "he said" "said Dudley" and "said Uncle Vernon" something would have been lost, some drama.

I deliberately chose a successful, fairly recent novel, as opposed to a classic. In Victorian literature even slow beginnings and long descriptive passages were tolerated. But then their attention span hadn't been shortened by television and the internet.

"WHAT!" he ejaculated.


(A fan of Gothic literature.)
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Old 12-07-2017, 06:41 AM   #30
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"WHAT!" he ejaculated.


(A fan of Gothic literature.)
"WHAT!" as he ejaculated.
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