LESSON Things to say instead of 'said'

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by Minibit, Jul 29, 2013.

  1. I would like to preface this list of alternatives to the word 'said' by pointing out that 'said' is a perfectly useable word. It notes that a thing was spoken without pausing or disrupting the sentence, and there is nothing wrong with using 'said' as a go-to. The problem only arises when you need a more specific or attention-drawing word, and using the unobtrusive, quickly-read 'said' fails to provide necessary tone, as in the scene below.
    You see how that was weirdly monotonous to read?

    Let's try it as...

    Acknowledged
    Added
    Admitted
    Advised
    Agreed
    Announced
    Answered
    Approved
    Argued
    Assumed
    Assured
    Asked
    Babbled
    Bargained
    Began
    Bellowed
    Boasted
    Bragged
    Called
    Claimed
    Commanded
    Commented
    Complained
    Cried
    Decided
    Demanded
    Denied
    Described
    Dictated
    Emphasized
    Estimated
    Exclaimed
    Explained
    Expressed
    Feared
    Giggled
    Grinned
    Grunted
    Indicated
    Insisted
    Instructed
    Laughed
    Lectured
    Lied
    Mentioned
    Moaned
    Mumbled
    Murmured
    Nagged
    Noted
    Notified
    Objected
    Observed
    Ordered
    Pleaded
    Pointed out
    Prayed
    Predicted
    Questioned
    Reassured
    Related
    Repeated
    Replied
    Responded
    Requested
    Restated
    Revealed
    Roared
    Ruled
    Scolded
    Screamed
    Shouted
    Shrieked
    Snapped
    Sneered
    Sobbed
    Spoke
    Sputtered
    Stammered
    Stated
    Stormed
    Suggested
    Taunted
    Thought
    Told
    Urged
    Uttered
    Vowed
    Wailed
    Warned
    Whispered
    Yelled
     
    #1 Minibit, Jul 29, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2015
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  2. I think there's a list of 500 words out there, can't remember where it was.
     
  3. I enjoy seeing more than just "said" as a dialogue marker as the next person, but it's the most used marker for a reason. It is used so much that our eyes skip over it and continue with the rest of the story without interruption whereas using multiple markers halt the flow and force us to focus on it instead.

    Also, you're going to get some knuckleheads who will replace "said" entirely and their dialogue becomes this:

    "Don't leave me!" she screamed.
    "I have to," he whispered.
    "Why?" she begged.
    "Because," he muttered.

    And so on. Hopefully with more words. The markers force you to acknowledge and focus on them. The best alternative to "said," in my experience, is to use an action. Here is the same rather terrible example using actions to mark the end of the dialogue:

    "Don't leave me!" She clutched his jacket sleeve in a desperate hysteria. Fingers white around his arm, she refused to tear herself away from him. She couldn't let him leave.
    "I have to." He clenched his eyes shut and looked away. Her claws dug uncomfortably into his wrist.
    "Why?" Tears streamed down her cheeks, smearing artfully done makeup. She shuddered as she wiped away the wetness from her eyes with her other hand.
    "Because." Without glancing towards her, he wrenched his arm out of her grasp. His coat fluttered from behind him and he ignored the tightening in his chest as he slammed the door shut behind him.

    With this (also quite bad) example, you get a better feeling for the characters' emotions without slogging through the dialogue markers.

    Something people don't realize in writing: characters can talk and do things at the same time.

    Just food for thought.
     
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  4. Also, remember that sometimes you don't have to use anything like 'said'; you can simply let the dialogue flow without any outside descriptions and use them only when they change tone of the scene somehow.
    "You're such a fool." and "You're such a fool," she teased lightly, create two very different mental pictures.
     
  5. Yes! If context has already been set up, we can fill in the said/teased/shouted/etc blank ourselves!
     
  6. Nothing works like a good balance, is - I believe - what everyone is trying to say.
     
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  7. Some time ago, I was reading TV Tropes' 'Said Bookism' page, and they considered Said Bookisms -- going out of your way to avoid using the word 'said' -- to be a Discredited Trope. In some cases, the words used to avoid using 'said' were considered violations of the Show Don't Tell guideline.

    In any case, I think it's okay to use 'said' every now and then, as long as you have a few other words to use in that place as well. Sometimes different words can help with the tone of a scene and establish the character's tone, and sometimes it's just to avoid being overly repetitive.
     
  8. [​IMG]

    Also, you missed the greatest alternative of all for hammy characters:

    BELLOWED!
     
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  9. Added it in!
     
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