Monday, December 29, 2014

Said is Boring

There, I've said it. No, I've proclaimed it!
"Using the word said over and over is boring!" She shouted from the rooftops.
"Using said over and over is boring!" She ejaculated. (We should really go back to using this more.)

They say it's OK to break the rules once you know and understand them, and I hope that's true. I think "said" is boring. I hate "said" and frequently avoid using it. I've been told that whatever you want to convey with another verb should be included in the dialogue. Let's look at how that works:
"You went to the store," he said
"You went to the store," he whimpered.
"You went to the store," he accused.
Sure, I suppose I could make the sentences super long and unwieldy. Because, you know, never use a short sentence when you can throw in half a paragraph of backstory.

"You went to the store," he said, "and the store is terrifying. Ever since I was a child and a giant spider attacked me in the dairy case, I've been afraid of the store. Even hearing you mention it will give me nightmares. I am so freaked out right now, but I have to tell you all about why, even though it has little to do with the plot!" can all be summed up in "he whimpered."

"You went to the store," he said, "but you told me you were going to be at work. I can't believe you lied to me! I will never trust you again." works just as well as "he accused." And it's twenty-four words where one would do just fine.

I just want that hypothetical character to stop talking.
Does that mean I'll never use the word said? No. It's in my current MS 146 times. (In case you're wondering, "asked" is in there 36 times.) That's slightly less than once every two pages. Mostly, I avoid dialogue tags entirely - I prefer to just have the dialogue punctuated with the action, or let the conversation flow. But I do not for the life of me understand the war on said (I don't understand the war on adverbs, either, but that's another post for another day.) Is this too much?
"Let's go to the store," he suggested.
"Okay," she agreed. "Then what?"
"We still have to go to the gym," he pointed out. "Maybe we could do that first."
"I don't know," she equivocated. "I'm a bit tired."
"That's okay," he placated. "I can go later."
"No, wait. I'll go change," she declared. 
Yes, absolutely, that's too much.  (It's also bad dialogue - I'm afraid my husband and I don't have the most thrilling conversations on Sunday mornings.) I'm not saying that every word has to be replaced with said. I'm just saying I don't agree that another word can never be used. I understand the rule. I've heard the "said" is white noise argument. I also disagree, and I'm okay with that. I've found a happy medium that works for me.

Next week: I heart adverbs.

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