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.

Heroes Week Finale – Those Damn Paladins

It only seems appropriate to finish heroes week with one of the greatest paragons of justice and good in all of fiction. In the time it took me to start this post, I also managed to clean my living room, eat some hummus, and pour myself what I feel is a much-deserved glass of scotch (that last bit is somewhat subject to debate, of course). Interest has sufficiently waned.

Right. Paladins.

These sorts of heroes are the polar opposite of the Evil Overlord type of villain. Defining characteristics include an unprecedented need to champion justice and good, a strong moral compass, chivalrous ways, an unwavering loyalty to their cause, country, and king, and so on and so on. Honestly, they’re also the lapdogs of the heroic world, so there’s also that to consider. A fan-favorite, and very polarizing character, who also happens to become a Paladin is Final Fantasy IV’s Cecil. I’m prepared to take some grief on this one, as I know a few people who just really hate how Cecil turned into a Paladin. My opinion? It was all right. Good story arc and everything, but I’m not really a fan of the supreme goody two-shoeing of Paladins. Onward to example-explanation!

Cecil starts off as a captain of the Red Wings, but as a Dark Knight. Some of his abilities exchange HP for greater damage. This is interesting, as he sacrifices of himself to do harm while he is in this state. He is on a mission to reclaim the various crystals from around the world, which he carries out without many questions until a major crisis of conscience and so on and so on. The important part, however, is his switch to a Paladin.

Eventually Cecil faces himself. He must defend against the powerful onslaught from his former Dark Knight self, doing what Paladins do best: defending. Paladin Cecil survives, showing the error of his former ways. The truth of a Paladin is sacrificing for the protection of others and not to further one’s own personal strength, of course, as demonstrated by these two versions of one character. It’s only because of this transformation that Cecil is able to become the hero he needs to be to save the world (and the moon, I guess) from certain destruction at the hands of Golbez (and, you know, not some other dark force because that would totally be spoilers but if there were another final boss it would certainly be a real pain in the ass).

Friday Heroes – The Eternal Optimist

I’m never doing two themed weeks of posting in a row again, as I’m already tired as can be of these damn things. On a more cheerful note, I had a nice, relaxing day off today, which is certainly a good thing.

The Eternal Optimist proved to be a tricky entry, as it’s hard to find a hero who doesn’t falter at least a little in his or her journey. Naturally, I’m allowing for some wiggle-room on this subject so as to not end this post by ripping my hair out.

Whether chosen by destiny, or simply because they’re inherently, overwhelmingly good, these heroes remain positive in even the most grim situations. They’re certain, beyond almost all doubt, that they will find victory in their quest, as they are on the path to defeating evil and doing good. Generic heroing stuff, of course.  Continue reading

Thursday Heroes – Heroes of Destiny

No, I’m not talking about the Guardians people can play as in Destiny, although I suppose they’re kind of applicable in their own way. I’m talking about heroes who, come Hell or high water, will save the day because it was prophesied in some bird droppings on an old sage’s bald head over a century ago, damn it.

These sorts of heroes are, admittedly, a dime a dozen. Their narratives often begin with “In a world” and end with some happily ever after, even if there’s a struggle along the way. The beauty about Heroes of Destiny is that they aren’t always entirely thrilled with said destiny, and so they don’t really plan to go along with it. I’d happily argue, for instance, that Rincewind of the Discworld novels is a Hero of Destiny in his own haphazard, eternally lucky way. If nothing else, he certainly knows how to escape horrible situations with most of his important bits in tact.

Of course, this also covers the heroes of virtually every Final Fantasy game ever created. A great tragedy faces (world), and so the crystals called upon forces of light to save the day. And so on and so on, and many monsters died in the process of creating this adventure.

I’d like to think the comical, resistant heroes of destiny are far more fun, as they show greater conflict with their own nature before inevitably saving the day. Thoughts?

Delayed Wednesday – Villain-Turned-Hero

Good evening, folks. I find myself delightfully devoid of a headache, but woefully devoid of motivation. That said, I’m behind one day on Heroes Week and feel like a proper cad about it, so I shall soldier on as I should have last night.

This type of Hero is embodied by one example that I still need to read, so the details will be a bit fuzzy. That thankfully means there won’t be any major spoilers, thankfully.

Incorruptible and Irredeemable are two comics that ran around the same time, featuring a parallel story that is really fantastic. Honestly, I’m ashamed to admit I’m barely into Irredeemable and I’ve only read so much of IncorruptibleContinue reading

Heroes Week – The Lovable Rogue

I spent a whole lot of time accomplishing nothing today, and it felt surprisingly good. I mean, I [redacted until at least after Easter weekend, which is killing me because I’m so bad at keeping secrets]. That must count for something, right?

Let’s not mince words on this. The Lovable Rogue sort of hero is someone everyone knows is a complete asshole. They’re usually self-serving, narcissistic, power-and-money-hungry jackasses, and sometimes they happen to save the day. Maybe they planned to save the day, or maybe it just worked out as such, but it’s safe to say this sort of hero will most assuredly take credit for their do-gooding either way. This is the kind of hero who could try to build a printing press to counterfeit money, inadvertently uncover some evil plot while out buying parts for the homemade printing press, and then save the day because they found out the evil mastermind wants to make all paper money worthless in their planned Hellscape of a future. Someone better make a comic about that hero I just described, because I really want to read it but also have too many goddamn projects as it is.

These are heroes who blur the line between good and bad, oftentimes skipping rope with said line as it suits their needs.

The Guardians of the Galaxy pretty much exemplify this, and I’m not a particularly huge fan of Deadpool so…Dear god. I think I’ll just go ahead and apologize for the burn-out on tonight’s post, then make up for it tomorrow.

 

Heroes Week – The Last-Minute Martyr

Also known as the post that will undoubtedly involve some spoilers because it’s hard to talk about heroes making the ultimate sacrifice without giving away some major plot points. You’ve all been warned, so there’s that I guess.

It seems oddly appropriate that tonight’s post is about heroes who save the day by dying, as I feel like I’m dying. Related: I’m expanding this to include heroes who made the last-minute saving play knowing they would probably die (even if they didn’t), as that makes life a little easier for me and that’s what these posts are(n’t) all about. From here further, you are risking spoilers of various sorts. You were warned, damn it!

Continue reading