How Often To Use 'I/He/She Said' - Page 2


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Thread: How Often To Use 'I/He/She Said'

  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by SueC View Post
    Hi C.Lee and welcome to WF!
    This, to me anyway, is a hard question to answer. If you are writing a conversation between two people, I feel it isn't always necessary to identify who is speaking. Sometimes that can be accomplished by setting. Here's what I mean.

    George and Fred walked into the diner together and sat in the booth closest to the door.

    "What looks good to you George?"
    "I dunno. I'm not really very hungry."
    "How come?"
    "Fred, I just feel a little low today. Nothing looks good."

    You see two men sitting in a booth, and because Fred uses George's name in his conversation, we know that Fred is the one speaking first. Then we know George is the one replying.

    I try very hard not to use he/she said unless necessary. I try to use other tools, like name use within the conversation to make that clear.

    Hope this helps!
    Thanks, that's pretty helpful (as are all replies i've read, so thanks all).

    I try to use 'xx said' sparingly when I can and try to make it clear who is speaking through other means when possible. My main thought has been to try and make the actual dialogue as realistic as much as I can, so I have avoided trying to make the characters speak each other's names too much as I feel that might make it feel a little more forced, and so have tried to make characters perform actions during the course of conversations where i can, e.g.:

    ' I scratched my chin out of confusion a little. "Alright, so what exactly did she say to you about her daughter the last time she saw you?" '

    You guys have given me some helpful things to think about though - much obliged!

  2. #12
    I recently began reading 'The Institution' by Stephen King and was surprised at how often King uses 'said'.

    “Kid,” one of them asked, “what the hell are you doing here?”


    “Taking the test,” Luke said. “Same as you.”


    They considered this. One of the girls said, “Are you a genius? Like in a movie?”


    “No,” Luke said, smiling, “but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night.”


    They laughed, which was good. One of the boys held up his palm, and Luke slapped him five. “Where are you going? What school?”


    “MIT, if I get in,” Luke said. Which was disingenuous; he had already been granted provisional admission to both schools of his choice, contingent on doing well today. Which wasn’t going to be much of a problem. So far, the test had been a breeze. It was the kids surrounding him that he found intimidating. In the fall, he would be in classes filled with kids like these, kids much older and twice his size, and of course they would all be looking at him.
    Most of the dialogue is written in this way. It's not like every single piece has the tags, but most do. I thought that was interesting, given the conventional wisdom is often to avoid 'said' unless it's unclear who is talking.

    I don't have a firm theory for this, but probably attribute it mainly to King's recent style, which has come rather full-circle in the last ten years. King's work went through a patch of experimentation mid-career and now it seems he has decided 'to hell with it' and decided to just write simply.

    Personally, I tend to drop dialogue tags if I see the work becoming congested by them or they are very clearly unnecessary and their presence causes repetition.

    Fred picked up the ball. "Here's your ball Johnny," he said.


    The above is clearly redundant because the action preceding the dialogue (and its presence on the same line, immediately next-door to the dialogue) makes it obvious it is Fred speaking. But in a case where the dialogue is a standalone I would use them. I would tend toward using them by default. It's really a matter of reading your work back and taking into account the flow. If 'said' becomes so frequent it jars, it needs slimmed down.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

    “Remember this: Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. ”

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  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    I recently began reading 'The Institution' by Stephen King and was surprised at how often King uses 'said'.

    ...

    Most of the dialogue is written in this way. It's not like every single piece has the tags, but most do. I thought that was interesting, given the conventional wisdom is often to avoid 'said' unless it's unclear who is talking.

    I don't have a firm theory for this, but probably attribute it mainly to King's recent style, which has come rather full-circle in the last ten years. King's work went through a patch of experimentation mid-career and now it seems he has decided 'to hell with it' and decided to just write simply.

    Personally, I tend to drop dialogue tags if I see the work becoming congested by them or they are very clearly unnecessary and their presence causes repetition.


    [/I]
    The above is clearly redundant because the action preceding the dialogue (and its presence on the same line, immediately next-door to the dialogue) makes it obvious it is Fred speaking. But in a case where the dialogue is a standalone I would use them. I would tend toward using them by default. It's really a matter of reading your work back and taking into account the flow. If 'said' becomes so frequent it jars, it needs slimmed down.

    With this, I wonder if / suspect that it is to support a voice. I've not read The Institution or any King for a long while but a lot of his work if I recall can be very flavoured with the voice of the character/s, and if they're prone to parsing text in this way, it could work. Problems arise, for me, where the style and the voice/personality don't match.


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  4. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    With this, I wonder if / suspect that it is to support a voice. I've not read The Institution or any King for a long while but a lot of his work if I recall can be very flavoured with the voice of the character/s, and if they're prone to parsing text in this way, it could work. Problems arise, for me, where the style and the voice/personality don't match.
    It's a good suggestion, but I don't think it's the reason in The Institute. It's written in third person, for one thing, and while third person doesn't exclude a stylized voice, it's also involving multiple converging plotines with very different character focuses. One of them (the one I quoted from) involves a child and therefore the possibility of frequent dialogue attribution being to create a 'childlike' feel, but the other main thread follows an adult man and is still written in this way.

    Not really a problem, it's very readable, but as somebody who has developed quite a critical eye for this sort of thing I found it a little odd.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

    “Remember this: Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. ”

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  5. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by SueC View Post
    Hi C.Lee and welcome to WF!
    This, to me anyway, is a hard question to answer. If you are writing a conversation between two people, I feel it isn't always necessary to identify who is speaking. Sometimes that can be accomplished by setting. Here's what I mean.

    George and Fred walked into the diner together and sat in the booth closest to the door.

    "What looks good to you George?"
    "I dunno. I'm not really very hungry."
    "How come?"
    "Fred, I just feel a little low today. Nothing looks good."

    You see two men sitting in a booth, and because Fred uses George's name in his conversation, we know that Fred is the one speaking first. Then we know George is the one replying.

    I try very hard not to use he/she said unless necessary. I try to use other tools, like name use within the conversation to make that clear.

    Hope this helps!
    I'm with SueC on this.

    The only time I use tags is when it's unclear who is speaking. If it's clear, I drop the tag.

    Two people speaking is easy. If a third joins in, it starts to become more difficult. I've written conversations between ten different characters and it was tough to drop the tags with so many speaking... unless there were direct responses and/or clear who was the person speaking based on who was saying what.
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