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