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Monday, December 30, 2013

He Said, She Said!

Here are a few of my biggest dialogue gripes as a reader/writer.  This isn’t expert advice, it’s just me. 

Three Gripes:

1.       “Yeah, right,” he said sarcastically.

2.       “Sure,” he smiled.

3.       She took a big mouthful of food.  “What?” she splattered.

Why do I list the above phrases?  Because such dialogue markers drive me crazy when I read them, and not in a good way.  That’s why!

Gripe # 1:  Many writers’ conferences ago I heard from an editor who said she hated adverbs.  They aren’t necessary.  In fact, when used excessively (adverb J) they weaken your writing.  Her examples included several phrases similar to the first listed above.  Let me explain:  if a scene is set up the right way and I’m following the dialogue, do I really need to be told that the speaker is sarcastic?  Seriously?  I think not.   What about when a character speaks:  “heartily?”  Or: “seductively?”  How about: “boldly?”  Most of the time, the vast majority of the time, I don’t need that stupid “-ly” word.  Leave it out!  Readers aren’t’ stupid!  Of course there are exceptions, and a writer may use an adverb because he/she wants to emphasize something important about their character.  Adverbs aren’t evil.  Just don’t use them every other word, and PLEASE don’t use them non-stop with your dialogue markers!

Gripe #2:  This is simple.  It is physically impossible to smile a word.  You speak a word.  You might speak while smiling, but you don’t smile out a word, dang it!!  I’m actually okay with something like:  “Yeah,” he laughed.  I know.  Hypocritical of me, but I think it IS physically possible to laugh out a word.  Maybe it’s just the speech therapist in me, but I hate when characters in books “smile” their lines.  I’d prefer something like:  “Sure,” he said with a smile.  You get the picture. 

Gripe #3:  Oh, this one drives me insane!!!!  I’ve found online lists galore that provide writers with ways to avoid using the word “said” when writing dialogue.  Why???  I can’t find the source to quote here, but I’ve read more than once that we readers skip over the word: “said” because it’s not that important.  Our brains ignore it, because we already KNOW we’re reading dialogue and that the characters are having a conversation with each other.  Duh!  Of course, there are exceptions.  I use:  “he asked,” or “she replied,” or “she whispered,” or “he murmured,” on occasion, but NOT ALL THE TIME!  99.9% of the time, I prefer “he/she said.”  Period.  I don’t need writers to go all out and try to find creative ways to mark their dialogue.  In fact, when they do, they really bug me!  A few examples, from books I’ve read: 

“Yeah, about that,” he sniffed.  (See Gripe #2).

“Please,” he burbled.  Burbled?

“It was strong,” he stated.  Uh, yeah.  I know that’s a statement.  Thanks for clarifying.

Example #3 at the beginning of my post is actually kind of funny, I’ll admit.  However, it was in a book filled with many, many other creative words used in place of the word: “said.”  It got to the point where it was annoying, not clever or funny. 

In conclusion:  “Enough with the adverbs,” Rebecca said angrily.  “They don’t help you at all,” she sniffed.  “In fact,” she burbled, beginning to cry, “they make me want to weep.”

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