Dialogue: Said

Dialogue is one of the most difficult things to master as a writer. Someone is always afraid to over use the word ‘said’ and then there is always someone who is in no way shape or form afraid to use it and it gets put into every single sentence. I’ve been told by several writers that ‘said’ is invisible and you can use it as much as you want to. Don’t believe them! For some writers it may seem okay but let me tell you that I have actually put stories down because of over usage of ‘said’. When you use it too much it literally turns into a “he said, she said” story and I really don’t like those. If you do, then great, but leave me out of them and if you don’t like my opinions then I suggest you go away because the whole point of this site is that you are reading my opinions, now let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

Does This sound Right to you?

“I don’t want to go!” said Garrett.
“You have to go doofus,” said Katie. “I promised Dad we’d be there.”
“But they’re just about to break into the secret cave!” said Garrett.
“I don’t care. I promised Dad we would go to his going away party,” said Katie.

I’ll admit that it doesn’t sound as bad as I made it out but let me tell you that it gets really boring and frustrating to read an entire book like this. However, there are ways to get around the trap of ‘said’.

1. Use it and Lose it. The use it and lose it technique is simple use it once and then make sure that you use proper paragraphing.
2. Enhance ‘said’. This technique is still frustrating but it can make it a little less boring to read.
3. Use Different words all together. Using different words removes ‘said’ from the picture and prevents the writing from sounding like a high school lunchroom conversation.
4. Action. Filling space with action can both tell you who is speaking and let you see how the characters are interacting with their environment while making it so that you don’t have to use (shudder) ‘said’.

Use it and Lose it is perhaps the easiest of the three and the least likely for you to over do it.

“I don’t want to go!” said Garrett.
“You have to go doofus,” said Katie. “I promised Dad we’d be there.”
“But they’re just about to break into the secret cave!”
“I don’t care. I promised Dad we would go to his going away party.”

It’s cleaner and as long as you start a new paragraph every time a different character starts talking you’re fine.

Enhancement is one way you can keep all of your ‘saids’ and still make it a little more lively.

“I don’t want to go!” said Garrett pitching his voice up an octave.
“You have to go doofus,” said Katie with a chastising tone. “I promised Dad we’d be there.”
“But they’re just about to break into the secret cave!” said Garrett loudly.
“I don’t care. I promised Dad we would go to his going away party,” said Katie with a sigh.

Different Words can also help to prevent the high school lunchroom feel, though I had someone recently point out that these words should be used like spices; lightly so as not to over power the dish. And I agree with this person whole heartedly, though how much spice you want is up to you.

“I don’t want to go!” Garrett whined.
“You have to go doofus,” Katie chided. “I promised Dad we’d be there.”
“But they’re just about to break into the secret cave!” he exclaimed.
“I don’t care. I promised Dad we would go to his going away party,” sighed Katie.

Action is one of the best ways to do it and one of my personal favorites because it makes the characters real. When you talk you move around and you fidget, so should your characters.

“I don’t want to go!” Garrett hid the remote behind his back.
“You have to go doofus,” Katie put her hands on her hips. “I promised Dad we’d be there.”
“But they’re just about to break into the secret cave!” Garrett burrowed deeper into the couch.
“I don’t care. I promised Dad we would go to his going away party,” Katie lifted him up and took the remote, turning off the TV.

One other way to deal with the trap of ‘said’ is to combine all four of these methods which takes some talent but when done properly can create (a pardon to graphic audio for using this) a movie in your mind.

“I don’t want to go!” Whined Garrett hiding the remote behind his back.
“You have to go doofus,” Katie chastised. “I promised Dad we’d be there.”
“But they’re just about to break into the secret cave!”
“I don’t care. I promised Dad we would go to his going away party.”

As writers you can use any of the methods shown above, and I highly encourage it, or you can use your own method. But whatever you do make sure that you like it. Writing should be fun and worry free. If you don’t like what you’re doing then it becomes a chore. When you’re writing becomes a chore it’s not worth it anymore. I hope this helps.

I'd love to hear your opinion! Feel free to link to your blog if you have one, I'm always looking for something new to read.

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