For all you new authors out there there is one book that I consider invaluable: ‘Self Editing for Fiction Writers. How to Edit Yourself Into Print‘ by Renni Browne and Dave King. Get it from the library or buy it, or steal it, whichever, just go read it.* Now! Go, what are you waiting for? (okay so maybe finish reading this post first but then go!)
One of the most interesting things I found in this book, — which totally threw me for a loop by the way — was their section on the word ‘said’. A newbie writer will try to find any other word for dialogue. Using flowery and descriptive words to communicate how the character is speaking. Doing this screams amateur. Both authors of this book are senior editors and they definitely have first hand experience with this. Most of the time if a reader can’t tell how something is said by the actual dialogue, the words your characters are using aren’t strong enough or specific enough. The words you use and how you use them should say exactly how that character is feeling.
Said is unobtrusive and as such the eyes tend to skip over and simply understand, therefore leaping ahead to get to the good stuff. When an author uses a word like grimaced, the eyes won’t pass over it as easily. This happens most especially when the verb used all of sudden changes what the dialogue was supposed to do.
“I really truly love you. You know that?” he said.
Shows how a man might say this to a woman.
“I love you” he screamed.
Throws the reader off. You don’t how or why a man would scream something like that.
Use said. Use said. Use said.
I could keep talking about this for a very long time, but I don’t want to take away any of the time you could be using to read this fabulous book.
As Renni Browne and Dave King said:
“You want your readers to pay attention to your dialogue, not the means by which you get it to them.”
– page 89, Self Editing for Fiction Writers
Keep on writing, keep on reading and keep on editing!
*okay, so don’t actually steal it. 😛 As authors we want to support other authors and buy their books right? 😀