My local writing group has been discontinued. This is very disappointing, but I must not let it stop me from writing.
In our last session, I shared a piece I had been having trouble with getting right. I was proud of how it turned out. One of the members told me he was confused because I had used dialogue without always saying, “He said,” or “She said.”
The main reason I did not use the obligatory said was because I did not want to let the reader know the gender of one of the characters. I also felt that, as long as I wrote “He said,” for the man’s dialogue, it would be clear who was speaking because there were only two characters in the scene.
My friend said he was taking an on-line course that taught the student to use said rather than all the other choices (exclaimed, yelled, remarked, etc.). He admonished me, “I just learned the rule and you broke the rule.” 🙂 Of course, he said it with a smile and a laugh.
That conversation has stuck with me since that day. I often ask, “Does the reader know who is speaking?” while I write.
Then I borrowed Robert B. Parker’s book, Chasing the Bear, in audio version. The story was good, but the dialogue consisted of very short statements and each statement was followed by “S/he said.”
I am not quoting from the book because I don’t have it in front of me, but the following is a good imitation….
My wife came home. “Hello,” she said.
“Hello,” I said.
“How was your day?” I said.
“Fine,” she said.
“Want to eat take-out?” I said.
“Sure,” she said.
You get the point. That is a lot of saids. Even more annoying, much of the time the word asked would have been more appropriate.
The audio was somewhere around three hours, if I remember correctly. I was really tired of the word said, but the story was really good. I don’t think it would have bothered me nearly as much had I been reading the book rather than listening.
At one point, I was driving the youngest home and we listened to it together. I had wanted another opinion as to how annoying the saids were. Of course, during the first five minutes, we listened to an action scene with no dialogue.
It wasn’t long after the dialogue started again that the youngest gave me an incredulous look. “Mom, why are you listening to this?”
I explained the story was really good. I paused the audio (thanks to modern technology in my car), and summarized the story.
The youngest agreed. The story sounded great, but the saids did not seem to entice the youngest into hearing anymore.
I did like the story. I want to make that clear. I just did not like the way the dialogue was constructed.
I think it was a great story for me to listen to because it reaffirmed my belief that the reader should be able to understand dialogue without constantly pointing out who the speaker is.
What do you find most difficult about writing dialogue?