On Writing, The Many Trials of a Blacksmith

In Which I Use ‘Said’

I’ve found that there seems to be two lines of advice: one which says: whatever you do don’t use ‘said’. The other which states: use ‘said‘.

I’m also pretty certain that there is a third line: the one which I take – where the word ‘said’ is used whenever it can have a greater impact on the sentence.

For instance, this is a snippet of a first draft which I’ve recently typed up:

“If you don’t come back with me,” he said, affably, “I’ll knock you over the head and carry you back.”

“I have to do this.” Was that a hint of pleading in the boy’s gaze?

“Nay, you don’t. I won’t allow it.”

“I’d like to see you stop me.” The boy was spitting mad.

Timothy looked pointedly at the ropes in his hands, “I’ll bind you again.”

“I’ll hit you again.”

In this I’ve managed to make each line more diverse without adding the boring ‘he said, he replied, he stated, he warned etc etc’ (however – sometimes I lean to the side of making it too diverse and thus obscure, which makes me scratch my head and think ‘huh? Who is speaking?’).

Yes, there is a dreaded adverb in there – but, to be perfectly honest, I do use them. Not all the time; only when it suits my purpose.

Now, take a look at that first line of dialogue:

“If you don’t come back with me,” he said, affably, “I’ll knock you over the head and carry you back.”

The idea is that he [Timothy] is stating a threat in a friendly manner (a bit of an oxymoron that!). If I took out the ‘said’ and attempted to substitute it:

“If you don’t come back with me,” he threatened, affably, “I’ll knock you over the head and carry you back.”

I find it a little too chunky; the tongue trips over the words and the sentence is marred. And, on a side note, if I take out the adverb and add in this:

“If you don’t come back with me,” he threatened, in a friendly manner, “I’ll knock you over the head and carry you back.”

No – I don’t like it; it’s too long and looks ridiculous. So ‘said’ stays and the adverb too.

Stairway
dialogue is like … a staircase! Each step is a line which leads to another till eventually one reaches the bottom of the staircase – the end of the conversation.

I’m learning, with every word typed; every sentence finished. Oh! I’ve only just learned that I can’t spell ‘dialogue’ – apparently there is an ‘a’ in there. Lesson duly noted, Spell Check.

Next post: the subject will be ‘the wunderful spelin’ of Nesss Kingysly’ …

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