Friday, December 21, 2018

Writing: Unpopular Opinion - Said-Bookisms Are, Occasionally, Okay.

So there's this massive stigma against said-bookisms in the literary community right now. By that I mean, anything that isn't 'said' and 'asked'.

"What are you talking about?" he screamed.

"I want to see you die," she laughed.

"Here's something you might not have considered," he pointed out.

Yeah, sometimes it's a big problem. But honestly? I think they're like any other tool. To be used sparingly and at the right times.




So when IS the right time to use a said-bookism?

It Might Be Okay to Use a Said-Bookism If:

1. You haven't done one in a while. - You probably don't want to have a said-bookism on every page. My two cents would be, once every thousand words is liberal usage. Once every 2-3k is probably safe.

2. It is giving the line you wrote some context it would not have if you simply wrote 'said' or 'asked' and you can't show that context through actions around that line. - The way someone says something matters. Read the words you wrote, and the actual dialogue.

"Here's something you might not have considered," he pointed out.

He was clearly already pointing something out.

"I want to watch you die," she laughed.

I mean, wait a minute.

"I want to watch you die," she said.

That's going to feel like a deadpan. She's going to seem angry.

But if she laughs it? I mean. That's still not ideal, but it's better. It gives you context. She is jovial about getting ready to cut this person down. That's charged. That gives the reader something to chew on. More bang for your buck if you will.

3. The said-bookism is actually a way to say something. - You don't laugh your words. You don't really sigh them either. Try to laugh your own dialogue. That's the problem with the above example.

I myself am guilty of saying 'she breathed' a lot. To be fair, if I'm shocked enough, I breathe words. (Hush, I'm working on breaking the habit, I promise!)

No one ever chortles anything, okay?

4. The said-bookism doesn't sound ridiculous. - No really, the big problem with most of these things is that they are disruptive.

Again, no one chortles anything.

And seriously if I ever see you say, 'he ejaculated' in the context of dialogue, we're not friends anymore.

5. It reveals something to the reader. - I mean this beyond context. Context is great, but using a said-bookism in the context of revealing something about the point of view character is wonderful.

"Of course I love you," he lied.

Chills, friends.  Chills. Especially if it's the first hint that he's lying.


In other words, not never-ever. Just sparingly. Like any other tool. If all you have is a hammer, they say.

Fortune Favors,
Megan R. Miller

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