Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Simply Don't," Patti Said.

Good morning, writers! Patti here.  Getting back to writing after a couple years break. Well, not a break per se because it wasn't like I planned it that way.  College, grandkids, and life's chaos had me in a complicated loop there for a bit, but I'm back! While I was out, I still kept up on writing issues around the internet sphere and dealt with a bit of writer's block of my own and the mental challenge of breaking bad procrastination and overscheduling habits - but more about that in another post.


My topic for today is a pet peeve of mine, please pardon the brief rant but take the advice to heart.  My peeve is the substitutes for the word said.

Put simply it pushes my buttons to see credible bloggers pushing the idea that there is a substitute for "said." CHECK OUT THIS LIST OF SUBSTITUTES FOR SAID pops up all the time on my feed on Pinterest and backtracking those and reading what these writers want you to substitute makes me pull out my hair. I just ran into a writing book on Amazon where an author published all those words with this same directive - use these to substitute.

No, no, just no. Don't.

One of the main reasons is this:  Anything that pulls your readers attention to your writing instead of being utterly absorbed in the good stuff of your story is bad news.  But let's put some more punch behind that.

Remember back in first, second, third grade when you were learning to read?  It's a simple fact that through practice your subconscious learns to recognize the meaning of certain words but skim them without actually reading them.  Words in this category include: is, it, that, the, when, said, etc.  When your brain skips over these words, what happens?  It falls on more important parts of your story. Subbing words like exclaimed and explained for "said" tangles your reader up in your words because they have to stop and process the meaning of those words, and in some cases, they put an emotion behind them you don't intend. If you want another look at reader statistics to help you shape the how of reading, pick up The Writer's Little Helper Book by James V. Smith here.  It's full of all sorts of gems to help you get out of the way of your reader.

Second, have you read this book: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King? If you haven't, go here and get yourself a copy.  I wish someone had given me this book before I started writing.  I could have avoided a few dozen rookie mistakes, and the pain of undoing the bad habits. Pay attention to their comments on absolutely only using said for the reasons listed above and because it makes you look like a freaking rookie writer.

After I read this book (which was years and years ago), I wrote 3 chapters of a book as a test for myself.  I didn't use said once.  Why?  Because those spots are a perfect opportunity to make your characters real.  People don't sit still when they talk.  They twirl a coffee cup, toy with their food, tap the foot or fingers, rub a nose, stare around the room, flush with embarassment or anger.  Make your story real.  It's a good habit to develop, one I cultivated years ago and now it's a writing habit.  Try it. Always assess "said" in your edit process and see if you missed opportunities to bring forth some motion or feeling. Use said sparingly when you have a dialogue section that needs the "said" attached to help keep straight who is saying what. And then it's, "Shane said." And it is "Shane said" not "said Shane." Period. End of rant.

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