What writers say with how characters speak

There’s a lot to be said about dialogue attributions in writing. Sure, there are a billion ways to show a character is talking without going anywhere near the word said. If a character is angry, they might shout or yell something. Sad? They may cry or blubber. Happy? They might declare cheer. And so on and so on. There are grunts and grumbles and mumbles and whispers, too. So many ways to get the same ideas across that it’s absolutely maddening to think about. Why, then, do writers choose to instead stick to a steady stream of characters saying things? He said, she said, they said, and everyone else in between said.

I don’t have a right answer, but I have the answer I agree with more strongly. I’m actually fairly certain I’ve written on this topic before, now that I think about it. For the sake of keeping it fresh in people’s minds and because I haven’t got any better ideas. When everyone is going about saying things different ways, each attribution becomes a giant red flag of who is doing the talking. Every time someone opens their big, fictional mouth to shout or whisper or grumble, it turns into another distraction. Uniform use of said, with the occasional use of asked, allows attribution to blend in with the dialogue. The words being spoken are given center stage while the attributions work the flies and levers used by stage crew.

Let me emphasize this point: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using varied dialogue attributions. I think it’s better, for the sake of easier reading, to focus on using something that will allow the focus to fall on the dialogue itself, the actions, and the scenes. These repetitive attributions serve a greater purpose in the overall narrative. More importantly, though they serve this greater purpose they also don’t happen to be important enough to worry that they’re repetitive. That’s why, barring boring dialogue and bland characters, the he said she said business just blends in with the background noise.

The reality of it is that writers can choose to go either route without major detriment so long as there’s compelling writing backing it up. I just happen to prefer said to the collection of other possible choices.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s