Monday, April 20, 2015

Joe Lansdale on Using Said to Tag Dialogue

Over on his Facebook page, Joe Lansdale shared the following on the usage of said to tag your dialogue:

"I hate it when people use all manner of replacements for said. Asked now and then, maybe in a rare case something else due to the scene, but even if you say they whispered, you damn sure don't need he whispered softly, and if you set the scene right, you don't need whispered at all. I hate he replied, he remarked, he responded, and I hate modifiers, he said with irony, he said with sarcasm, he said with excitement. Yuk. I also hate it when it's the obvious with the elbow in the ribs, meaning. "It's a monster!" he said with great excitement. Well, if it's a monster, we know he's excited. And if he's telling you something, and then you say, he explained, that's redundant.

"I'm not saying don't use these. You get to choose how you like to work, but they stand out like a sore thumb to me and I don't want to use them. It's like waving a flag while you write. It also keeps you from actually forming the scene. Instead of writing a scene that explains itself, you are trying to make sure people understand it with unnecessary words and leaping up and down and waving flags. It's a personal choice, and some of my favorite writers do it, but try taking those out, seeing if the scene is clear. If it's not, instead of writing in all those 'explainers' why not just write the scene where it works."

What he said. :) I've struggled with the use of said for awhile now and sticking with "said" as much as possible is the best way to go. Joe's advice is solid when it comes to ensuring your write the dialog in a way, write the scene in a way that you don't need tagging to convey meaning.

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