I SAID AND

“I’ve seen this a lot lately,” I said and stopped typing to think about how clunky this reads. “We need to talk about that construction.”

The construction we need to talk about is:

said and

…in dialog attribution.

It’s clear what authors are trying to say with this, but it just reads terribly. A character says a thing then does some action. Yes?

Or is that a character says a thing and does an action at the same time?

That disjunction is probably my biggest issue with said and. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be seeing there. And honestly it feels a bit lazy. It feels as though the author is reporting on an event rather than immersing me in a story. And that’s not just semantics, there’s a huge difference there, and the difference, honestly, is between pedestrian and compelling writing. I know we all would prefer—in both fiction and non-fiction—to achieve the latter.

So then what instead?

Start with the problem:

“I’m here!” I said and stepped through the door. “Now the party can start!”

If I’m stepping through the door at the same time I’m saying “I’m here,” it should be:

“I’m here!” I said as I stepped through the door. “Now the party can start!”

If I step through the door and say “Now the party can start!” at the same time it might be:

“I’m here!” As I stepped through the door I added, “Now the party can start!”

If I step through the door after saying “I’m here,” but before saying, “Now the party can start!” I’d prefer:

“I’m here!” I stepped through the door. “Now the party can start!”

I took out I said here because the action between the two lines of dialog is what “I” am doing, so that should convey who’s speaking.

And there are lots more options… variations aplenty, yes?

So then think about those options rather than said and.

“That was a short post this week!” Phil said and let it end there.

Oops!

“That was a short post this week!” Phil said, letting it end there.

 

—Philip Athans

Follow me on Twitter @PhilAthans

Link up with me on LinkedIn

Friend me on GoodReads

Find me at PublishersMarketplace

Or contact me for editing, coaching, ghostwriting, and more at Athans & Associates Creative Consulting.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Editor and author Philip Athans offers hands on advice for authors of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and fiction in general in this collection of 58 revised and expanded essays from the first five years of his long-running weekly blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook.

About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
This entry was posted in authors helping authors, authors to writers, best fantasy blogs, best genre fiction blogs, best horror blogs, best science fiction blogs, best websites for authors, best websites for writers, fiction writing blog, fiction writing websites, help for writers, helping writers become authors, how to write fantasy, how to write fiction, how to write horror, how to write science fiction, Publishing Business, websites for authors, websites for writers, writers to authors, Writing, writing advice, Writing Community, writing fantasy, writing horror, writing science fiction, Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to I SAID AND

  1. garyklinecc2014 says:

    Dear Philip:

    Thank you for this post. Something else I should look for in the proofreading stage.

    A couple of fun versions:

    “I’ve seen this a lot lately,” I said, and I stopped typing to reflect on the many ways this could be better said.

    “I’ve seen this a lot lately.” My fingers slammed against the keys as the screen filled with text. “Only minutes left, and we still need to talk about that construction.”

    Have a great week!

    – Gary K.

    On Tue, Jan 18, 2022 at 11:56 AM Fantasy Author’s Handbook wrote:

    > Philip Athans posted: ” “I’ve seen this a lot lately,” I said and stopped > typing to think about how clunky this reads. “We need to talk about that > construction.” The construction we need to talk about is: said and …in > dialog attribution. It’s clear what authors are ” >

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s