Main Said Bookism Discussion

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01:16:17 PM Mar 30th 2012
I'm confused, does this trope refer to any form of dialog attribution that isn't a form of "said", or just to excessive and redundant use? I know King opposes using any non-said dialog attribution, but is that the general consensus?
08:01:37 AM Mar 31st 2012
Well, it probably needs to be unusual, prevalent, or otherwise attention-getting in some way, as opposed to a list of thousands of examples like "Mark Twain used the word 'exclaimed' on page 55 of," etc.

As for the second question, well, for our purposes, it really doesn't matter. Tropes Are Not Bad. And Tropes Are Not Good. TV Tropes is "descriptive," not "prescriptive." We're all about how tropes ARE used, not how or whether they SHOULD be used.
12:09:22 AM Nov 1st 2011
"The Harry Potter books don't do it nearly as much as the Memetic Mutation surrounding a certain example used by Ron and Slughorn would have us believe. "We're not going to use magic?" Ron ejaculated loudly. "Snape!" Slughorn ejaculated." Sorry, but I would like another opinion. It seems to me that said bookisms are used constantly by Rowling.
04:55:27 AM Sep 2nd 2011
I like the article description but how on Earth am I going to work a reference to Tom Swifty in there?
05:15:15 PM Jul 12th 2011
I don't really mind said bookism, really. what annoys me is when all thats ever used is said. over. and over. and over. I was in a shortstory class, and the only dialogue tag in the whole 9 page story was 'said'. I can see why people should be cautious with using other words, but would it kill people to say ' asked', ' responded', 'shouted', " wailed"... you wouldn't say someone walked across the room if they were crawling or running, so why only use said if someone's hissing or screeching? personally, I say, for every 'said' use to of something else, so long as it fits.
10:36:46 AM Jan 4th 2016
edited by Dausuul
If the reader is getting tired of "said," that usually means the writer is overusing dialogue tags. The solution is not to make the dialogue tags fancier and more obtrusive; it's to use fewer of them. You need just enough tags to be sure the reader knows who's talking.

"This is the correct way to do dialogue," Lisa said.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. It makes the writing flow much better."

"I don't know," Jack said. "I feel like we could just use said-bookisms."

"Remember your Strunk and White: Omit needless words. If you don't need a dialogue tag, don't use it. A said-bookism is adding even more needless words."

"I guess so."

01:41:23 AM Jun 11th 2011
Anyone want to start a Troper Tales page for times when we've encountered over-zealous applications of Said Bookism IRL? (For example, I think pretty much everyone at one point had a bad English teacher who hammered this into them.)
09:05:47 PM Jul 6th 2011
Yes, freakin' English teachers! I remember being drilled "never use 'said', always use something else" and being forced to write a list of as many words as possible that can be substituted for "said". As if that wasn't bad enough, it's been imprinted into my mind never to use something like "big" when "enormous" "titanic" etc. can be used, so I always feel hesitant using such simple (but essential) words. Not to mention when I was in Grade 4 (elementary school) I was told to never, ever use the word "and" more than once in a sentence. I realise now it was to prevent kids from creating those gigantic run-on sentences, but I think the teacher went too far and now I have a minor panic attack when, heavens forbid, my "and" count reaches more than two. She also told me never to use "and then" because it was grammatically incorrect or something, but now I'm pretty sure it's not... but again, the panic attacks. And don't even get me started on the word "discourse"...
09:58:16 AM Sep 23rd 2011
Same here, same here. Using the same term for something in two follow-up sentences makes me break out in sweat and hives. A book will very likely be 'reading material' or something equally ridiculous in the next phrase (see? There I go again...sentence) and a computer is never a computer twice in a row. Need I mention that I know countless websites that provide you with synonyms? In four languages? The damage language teachers do... (And don't get me started on using a character's name...)
09:08:54 PM Oct 28th 2012
I had an English teacher do exactly that to me... and then yakking with others on a fan site (re: fanfiction) convinced me to go right back to said.

Using other words for 'said', as well as descriptors (she said quietly) is best used like spices and herbs -to add a bit of flavor, and to accentuate the main dish. Also, when the spoken words don't convey a specific emotional, or other type, of meaning.

Just as an example, the phrase, "I can see that" can have at least three immediate meanings that I can think of off the top of my head: angry, amused, and surprised. On the other hand, 'That was awesome' is pretty clear.

And punctuation marks can do the work of many words. ;p
08:02:07 PM Apr 19th 2011
Okay, I understand what's being said here, but it's almost like you're saying "you shouldn't try to avoid sounding repetitive in your writing," like trying to keep the story from sounding @#$%ing retarded is a crime against humanity. I have a hard time with this one, because it's one of those things in writing that inevitably comes with Dialogue. So should I just keep saying 'said Bob' 'Alice said' 'he said' 'she said' 'he/she/whatever said'?
08:04:35 PM Apr 19th 2011
No, the whole point is to keep everything in moderation. Too much of "he/she/whomever said" is just as bad as too much of "s/he/whomever exclaimed/ejaculated/etc.".
11:04:17 AM Apr 23rd 2011
The general guideline is that if you've got to the point that saying "said" is getting repetitive, you have too many dialogue tags anyway.
12:01:02 PM May 4th 2011
(using a new account) Okay, so that's what you're saying. That there should be a happy medium between the word "said" and synonyms for it. Alright, now I get it.
01:37:52 AM Jun 11th 2011
The problem here is that it was a nice general principle that got turned into a hard-and-fast rule, which was where it became an unnecessary nuisance.

There are a lot of writing rules that fall into that trap. The similar prescription against using "being verbs" is another one.
08:03:35 PM Jun 16th 2011
edited by Robrecht
Yeah. Moderation, not avoidance is the key. The page demonstrates the kind of ridiculousness you get when you avoid said at the cost of readability. But to contrast, this is the page when you avoid Said Bookism:

Alice said: "Said Bookism? What's that?" Bob said: "Well, it's a variety of Purple Prose in which the writer goes out of their way to avoid the word said." Alice said: "Why would they do this?" Bob said: "Because, it was the fashion at one point." He said: "There were even 'said books' you could get mail order with lists of the words that can be used instead of said as saying said was discredited during that time. That's where the name of the trope comes from." Alice said:"But Said Bookism itself is a Discredited Trope these days?" Bob said: "Absolutely." He said: "It's considered redundant, because dialogue should speak for itself without needing fancy tags to convey its meaning and intention." Alice said: "That makes sense." Bob said: "In the worst cases, the dialogue tags end up repeating what the dialogue itself is telling us." Alice said: "Are there any similar tropes?" Bob said: "There are!" He said: "It's not just like Purple Prose, but also sort of like Shlubb And Klump English and Author Vocabulary Calendar." Alice said: "So where can I see what it looks like?" Bob said: "Well, right here..."
04:35:07 AM Jun 17th 2011
edited by suedenim
Of course, another good writing practice is to avoid specifically using "Bob said" or "Alice exclaimed" entirely - just present the quotes unadorned and make it clear from the order of speaking whose words they are.

Basically, in the description example, you could just use "Bob said" and "Alice said" in the first two sentences, then have nothing else following except what's in the quotation marks.
04:49:12 AM Jun 17th 2011
The other thing to consider is that 'said' will tend to disappear - there are a number of very common words, of which said is one, which don't really make a story seem repetitive unless taken to extremes - and if its got to that point, you'd have to have a long dialogue, in which case you can probably cut out a couple of tags entirely where its clear who's talking. For example - would you try to find alternatives to using "the"?

In a lot of ways, repetition in prose is less of a threat than it seems - and trying to avoid it has hazards of its own, like Authors Vocabulary Calendar and this trope.
12:48:36 AM Jun 21st 2011
Another thing to consider is what's going on apart from the conversation. You don't need to put "Alice said" and "Bob said" after every line of dialogue, which leaves room to describe this and not have the scene look as though it's taking place on the Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue.
09:14:51 PM Oct 28th 2012
Long lines of dialogue can be hard to keep straight as to who is saying what. Instead of saying 'said' too many times, you can also have the characters performing actions.

[Several lines of dialogue without said or names]

Alice picked up the plates. "So what do we do now?"

Bob shrugged. "Just wait, I guess."

[More lines of dialogue.]

I like it because it gives a feeling of the actions that take place in many conversations that aren't in an office or school setting. A fantasy setting can have dealing with weapons or gear, a sci-fi with gadgets... whatever works with a story.

08:10:31 AM Sep 18th 2014
^Also a good way of avoiding the Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue.
03:15:02 PM Apr 17th 2011
Moved Eye of Argon from Fanfiction to Literature. Yes, it's kind of a disgrace to the noble history of writing, but it's not fanfiction.
07:54:03 PM Apr 19th 2011
And, this is simply limited to just being a fanfic trope from which original fiction writers are exempt, she inquired offendedly?
07:55:12 PM Apr 19th 2011
Never mind. I re-read that post, my mistake.
08:17:02 PM Mar 22nd 2011
So, would this extend to other basic descriptions, such as "shouted" or "whispered" or is it just the particularly elaborate alternatives to said?
08:31:42 AM Mar 23rd 2011
Good question. I was also wondering if excessive adverbial modification of "said" fits here. (It's another of Elmore Leonard's "laws," against verbiage like "he said sternly" or "she said pensively."
08:03:43 AM May 6th 2011
edited by Keenath
Adverbs are definitely a variant of said bookism. As to Davey's question, it depends largely on what style guide you read! Typically, the rule is that you should only use a variant word if the text itself doesn't imply it.

For example, you have to mark out sarcasm because it often won't be clear from the direct quote: "How wonderful to see you," Cynthia grated.

It's also useful when the verb has a particular connotation: "Davey!" Cynthia shrieked, leaping into his arms.

Komodin below has the right of it — it's about overuse of said-words (or using really obscure ones).

Abe ran his fingers through his sweaty hair. "And really, most of the time the action in the same paragraph will tell you who's talking without the need for a tag." Having said his piece, he sat down and shut up.
02:25:13 PM Apr 7th 2017
"Whispered" and "shouted/yelled" are usually not frowned upon, as they just describe the speaker's volume. A character shouting or whispering "Stop it!" just means he or she raised or lowered his or her voice.
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