Sunday, 5 January 2014

I said, you said

This is one of those rare posts in which I'm going to make some semblance of sense.

Although I spend quite some time writing, I'm sure that anyone who's attended grade school will have heard of those many, many lists of "The seventy words to use instead of 'said'." To be honest, I find a lot of those fairly hilarious. Seriously, vocalize? And for heavens' sake, I've seen so many people conned into using 'ejaculated' unknowingly.

Anyways. As you progress through school and your writing improves, you start hearing comments like, "Oh, your fancy dialogue tags detract from the story lalala use said instead." And then you curl up in a corner and cry because you can't believe your teacher lied. (If that actually happened, I congratulate you on having such trust in your probably awesome teachers.)

Amongst some literary communities, the use of fancy words to replace said is called "Said Bookism", and here's a fairly amusing article which can provide some context to my investigation.
"Investigation?" queried the reader. "What does that mean?"
"Well," responded the blogger, "after borrowing fingers from unwilling family members and friends, I counted the ratio of 'said' synonyms to total dialogue tags in excerpts of books I liked. I've tabulated my results below:
Book Title (Author) No. of 'said' synonyms No. of dialogue tags % of 'said' synonyms

A Game of Thrones (George RR Martin)
30
50
60%

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (JK Rowling)
15
50
30%

The Bad Beginning (Lemony Snicket)
9
50
18%

And Then There Were None (Agatha Christine)
13
50
26%

"So you see," said the blogger, "different writers have different preferences when using dialogue tags, and it's hard to have a clear-cut line. Just be careful that you're not using 'said' all the time instead of synonyms, or vice versa. If you're unsure, it's always great to find critics to check out your writing!"
Okay, I went a little insane in the conversation anyways, but I'm very proud of myself for maintaining partial sanity for so long and being able to do the math without a calculator. I hope you enjoyed your baked sanity!

2 comments:

  1. I've been hearing this a bit on Figment at the moment, and I admit I don't get it. I don't see why the brain scans over said more than any other word. Mine doesn't. I've read things which are pretty much all said, and it sounds repetitive to me.

    Obviously you can go to far the other way and use big words for the sake of it which sounds just as bad, but I think, like most things, the answer lies in a happy balance.

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  2. I find silly modifiers can be the worst part of someone trying to spice up their taglines. The other day I came across 'shrieked loudly'. How else do you shriek? I can bet you a lot of money it won't be quietly...

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