Should said/says be used the majority of the time or avoided? Three tips I’ve found that help me.
I’ve seen conflicting opinions on if said/says should be used as much as possible or avoided. This is my general understanding of the argument:
Pro Said/Says: When reading, said/says is so common that it fades into the background and allows the reader to easily follow and stay immersed in a story.
Against Said/Says: This camp believes that said/says are overused and boring. They tell us little about the moment and add little. Therefore, said/says should be deleted, reduced, or replaced by something more descriptive/engaging.
After receiving some initial feedback from my beta readers, I’d like to share what has been working for me
1. Said/Says is the default. If I need to alert the reader that a particular character is saying something my default is said/says. If I need to make a comment by a character pop a bit more to reflect their personality, current attitude, reaction, etc., then I might consider using something a bit more dramatic than said/says.
2. Do you really need said/says? A conversation has begun between two characters that are alone together. After the establishing which character said the first line, the reader doesn’t need a line-by-line reminder of which character is speaking. These are great places to drop any unnecessary said/says phrases.
3. Is the word you’ve chosen to replace said/says furthering the story? When I first began writing I was at the extreme of using too many words other than said/says. For example: she laughed, she cried, he growled, she spat, he frowned, he smirked. It was enough that my husband said it was driving him nuts.
So I went back and each time I used something other than said/says I asked myself if this detail was important or even possible. As my beta reader reminded me, can anyone really laugh whole sentences? I tried it, I can’t.
This allowed me to achieve a balance between said/says and more exciting words. The moments where I say something like he growled pop a bit more now and don’t annoy the reader. (Side note: I get that growling is a little odd, but I’m not writing about regular old humans!)
As with many things I do think personal preference comes into play in this debate. So write what you would like to read. Or check out a few of your favorite books and see how the author has approach it!
What are your thoughts on this? Do you prefer one over the other?