Tuesday, August 30

"Save Me," He Said

Said: an evil word or a necessity?

Repetition can be effective. Repetition can be boring. When someone reads your writing, the last thing you want is for them to be bored.

Time to switch things up, yes?

While you don't want the story to drag on and the characters to be mundane, some writers have the tendency to go overboard when it comes to avoiding repetition and the generic.

If someone is reading through their work, they may find something like this:

It was peculiar how the dog never stood on all four legs.

Then, further down the same page:

The coin had a peculiar colouring to it.

Oh my gosh, it burns! Using the same word in such close proximity is an eye-sore, an ear-sore, and a mind-sore.

Never fear. The Thesaurus can save you!

Substitutes for "peculiar" are:
  • Odd
  • Strange
  • Weird
  • Unusual
  • Abnormal
There, just swap in one of those and you're all dandy.

Wait... There is one word which continues to crop up: "Said."

'I can't wait to be done with school,' he said.

'We should explode the cake,' Maria said. 'That would teach him.'

'I love synonyms and adverbs,' said Peter.

Said, said, said. Is it really necessary?

I wonder how many alternates I can find for the word "said."
  • Muttered
  • Swore
  • Grumbled
  • Shouted
  • Replied
  • Remarked
  • Interjected
  • Commented
  • Uttered
  • Mumbled
  • Exclaimed
  • Asked
  • Responded
Those are just some of many synonyms that I could replace "said" with.

Then, if I run out, I can always add adverbs to the mix.

'I can't wait to be done with school,' he sighed, longingly.

'We should explode the cake,' Maria grumbled angrily. 'That would teach him.'

'I love synonyms and adverbs,' said Peter eagerly, excitedly and happily.

My eyes, they cry! My ears, they ache! My mind, it bleeds! Make - it - stop.

The word "said" is your friend. It is simple, to-the-point, and it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb adorned with a fuchsia plaster.

What matters are the words your character says, not the word "said" itself. It is there to prop up your dialogue and help it flow. Over-use of synonyms like "muttered" and "exclaimed" and additions of horrid adverbs like "sadly" or "pleasantly" are just going to slow down your writing and make it seem flowery and gross.

Always remember that when in doubt, use "said." Don't canoodle with the Thesaurus.


Determinist said...

Tom Swift, a character from a serial novel series back when I was a kid had lots of adverb "said", "muttered", "yelled" etc... I think it became a running joke from the series authors.

Jenny said...

I also just tend to drop dialog tags sometimes, especially during a short conversation. And do a lot of action.

"Well, I don't know." Jane selected her math book from her locker. "He has a very funny shaped nose."