There was an interesting meme that came out right after a close friend and I had a discussion about the word “said”. She was having problems using other words, and that is one major problem that many people struggle with. Said is an overly popular word that many people have come to “accept” in writing, but that does not help writers describe tone of voices, or meaning behind certain phrases in scenes.
So let’s start with this: What is “said”, exactly?
According to the Websters Dictionary, it means “Past tense and past participle of say.”. The more simplistic verison is that it it a word used to describe part of a conversation between parties.
But you notice that you’ve used that dreaded word through most of your story, or manuscript. You know it’s repetitive, and you just can’t stop using it because you don’t know what else to do! It’s aggravating, irritating, and you’re ready to pluck your hair out because you’re out of options. Whatever can you do?!
Here are some things that can help you in using other descriptive words to counter that “said” word.
1. Use a thesaurus. There are plenty of them available online, if you can’t afford to buy one. They also show you different contexts to different words. Using this also helps you to think about your sentences. For me, it also helps describe things that are pertinent to the scene I am writing.
1. Read it out loud, or with a partner. People I know (myself included) do not realize how repetitive they are when they are writing. To them, they are the greatest writers in the world. They know the story and how things are told. When you run it by someone else, they may think in a different context. For example, in one of my rough drafts, my beta reader commented in her review that I used the word “said” over 600 times in 140 pages. That’s a lot of “saids”!
3. Picture your scene. If you picture it like you are there, you’ll most likely get a better result. Here is an example:
Aviere turned and put her hands on her hips, stomping her foot as she looked at him. “Look, I said leave me alone.”
This example here is really blah to me, for two reasons. One, if she is mad, she most likely would yell, or exclaim, not just talk in a blah voice. That’s the impression I would get reading this sentence. You can add some different actions and have an exclamation point in there, and you got yourself a whole new mood to that sentence.
4. Take the time to look at assess. If you find that you’re irritated with it, chances are so will someone else. Rather than just shrug it off or be upset, chalk it up as a learning experience and learn from it. All writers starting out do this, myself included. It takes time and practice to make this perfect–and it definitely isn’t in the first draft 🙂0