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Just say it!

Posted by Maria Murnane | January 13, 2012

In recent posts, I’ve talked about dialogue and the importance of using beats, and about how many first-time authors struggle with the tendency to tell their readers instead of showing them. This issue pops up a lot in dialogue, where we often see sentences like the following:

  • “Of course I’ll go,” she consented.
  • “But that’s against the law,” he argued.
  • “I need a raise,” she demanded.
  • “It’s time to go,” he insisted.
  • “How about we go for a hike?” I offered.

Writing like this can be extremely irritating if it happens too much. To make your dialogue clear and clean, just use “said” or nothing at all. The reader doesn’t need to be told that John is consenting, answering, countering, demanding, insisting, or offering. All the reader needs to know is what John SAID. The language and beats you use around it should be enough.

Look at the difference in quality between these two sentences:

A) “I think I’m in love with you,” she declared nervously.

B) She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and spoke softly. “I think I’m in love with you.”

And these two:

A) “That’s not even true,” she responded sarcastically.

B) She rolled her eyes. “That’s not even true.”

Or these two:

A) “You really must try my pie,” she insisted.

B) She held a fork full of apple pie up to my face and refused to move until I took a bite. “You really must try my pie.”

“Said” (or “say” if you write in the present tense) will disappear for the readers and allow them to become immersed in the story.

Immersion, not irritation. Now that’s what you want!

-Maria

This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2012 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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