19 May, 2011

He said, she said, they said, we said

This post is not about gossip nor is the start of a Dr. Seuss book.  It is about how much I dislike the word 'said.'

I really do.  It bugs me.  I can't quite figure out why, because as an avid reader and an aspiring novelist, I see and use 'said' a lot.  A lot.  Which, now that I wrote it out and can look at my reasoning, makes perfect sense.

I feel, when I'm writing, that every other word is 'said.'  It is the most used word after I, you, to, a and the.  Every time someone says something, they either 'said' it or 'said' it plus some type of adverb, loudly, fiercely, sweetly, quickly, smoothly, coldly, bitingly, bitterly, etc.  I love adverbs, by the way.  Just doing something is boring.

And so I am always trying to find ways to get rid of 'said.'  words like stated, told, announced, proclaimed, clipped, shot, growled, slurred, chuckled, things of that nature.  Or, I like to pair the dialogue with an action, so you know who is supposed to be talking through motion.  Like:  'He looked over his shoulder.  "Pass me that wrench, will you?"'

This whole 'said' thing was really distressing me a few days ago.  (Yes, I do think about verbs and adverbs on my commute to work.)  I was frustrated with my novel, since it doesn't seem to want to settle down into the final action sequences the way I want and I was getting nowhere with starting little thousand word short story snippets.

So, I decided to read a comfort book.  Comfort books are the best.  Book you love, love, love and can read over and over.  Mine are usually silly or witty and have some fluffy bits in them.  I flicked on my e-reader and randomly selected one of my comfort books.

It was 'Chip and the Flying U,' by B.M. Bower.  It's a western and it and it's sister books are the silliest things ever.  I love it.

But as I started it for the quadrillionth time, I noticed something.  First, that the perspective, shared between the two main characters would switch around mid-scene, showing both sides of their internal dialogue.  Not all the time, but frequently enough that I noticed.  I usually make a point not to blur the internal monologue parameters and keep each characters thoughts inside their own bubble-scene.

Also, and I'm sure you saw this coming.  'Said' was everywhere.  And after a snort of disgust and a few minutes reading, it didn't bother me.  I just looked over it, the same way my eyes slipped past people's names.  I knew who the characters were.  I didn't have to sound each word out in my head.  I know a  lot of research has been and is being put into this sort of thing: how we read and communicate.

But I think I have made my peace with said.  It's like periods.  No one...at least I don't read: Quote he looked over his shoulder period double quote pass me that wrench comma will you question mark double quote close quote

That makes my brain hurt just to look at it.  And so, I think I will try to look at 'said' as a form of punctuation.  Something that goes after dialogue as a gentle reminder of who said what, so thing don't get complicated.  And I need to lighten up and not worry so much about things like the word 'said' anyway.  Perspective, people.