Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Writer's Wednesday

I get a lot of questions from fans and writers alike asking me for tips and tools for their writing. I thought I'd respond to a question here to help others out.

Dear Ms. Gibson:

I love your books and hope you can give me some writing advice. So many times, I run out of words how to say things. I use a thesaurus and such but I just get so frustrated trying to find more words to get an action across. Like walk. How else can you say a character walks. And said. I get so tired of writing said. Any advice?

I've had this problem myself. In fact, I have several thesaurus websites booked just so I can do quick references for actions that my characters are doing.

I'll list suggestions for word replacement. But, let me tell you what many writers and editors have told me about "said." Said is a throw-away word that has to be there. You want to be careful not to use to many descriptive words to replace "said" because they'll just get in the way of the story or won't make sense. Example: in a contest I judged, the writer kept saying...

"...Sally giggled." or "Sally sighed." or "Sally squeaked."

Is she an asthmatic mouse who'll laugh at anything? LOL! Seriously, can't giggle, sigh, or squeak dialogue. In attempting to get away from the word "said," the writer wrote something that's incorrect. She should have said something like, "...Sally said with a sigh," or "Sally giggled as she spoke" or "Sally said with squeak." See the diff?

If you still need other words for said, use them...just do it sparingly. Here are some suggestions:

Action verbs to replace SAID -

add, affirm, allege, announce, answer, assert, break silence, claim, come out with, communicate, conjecture, convey, declare, deliver, disclose, divulge, do, estimate, express, flap, gab, give voice, guess, imagine, imply, jaw judge, lip, maintain, make known, mention, opine, orate, perform, pronounce, put forth, put into words, rap, read, recite, rehearse, relate, remark, render, repeat, rely, report, respond, reveal, rumor, speak, spiel, state, suggest, tell, utter, verbalize, voice, yak

Action verbs to replace WALK -

advance, amble, canter, crawl, creep, ease, escpre, exercise, foot, go, hike, hoof it, hustle, lead, locomote, lumber, march, meander, pace, pad, parade, patrol, plod, prance, procede, promenade, pursue, race, roam, rove, run, saunter, scoot, scuff, scurry, scuttle, scramble, scamper, shadow, shamble, sidle, shuffle slink, slog, stalk, step, stride, stroll, strut, stumble, stump, tottle, tour, traipse, tramp, traverse, tread, trek, troop, trot, trudge, wander, waddle, wobble

How these help! Let me know other words you'd like replacement help with.

Marley = )



Anonymous said...

BAHAHAHA, "That's what she said" I love that.. Shay from ShayTards on YouTube ALWAYS says this and it always makes me laugh..

Too funny!

TinaFerraro said...

Helpful blog, Marley! I'm going to link it to my Facebook for my aspiring writer friends!

Anonymous said...

Amen! I like to do away with dialogue tags altogether when I can--which is actually 99% of the time--and use actions instead. That helps get rid of the problem of characters giggling and squeaking dialogue.

"Shh!" Priscilla crouched behind the couch. "On the count of three. One...two..."

Jerry opened the door. "Anybody home?"


(lame scene, but you get me) :)

Nice to meet you at RWA, by the way!!


nymfaux said...

GREAT POST!!!! And GREAT advice!!! Thanks Marley (And Tina)!!!!

I was just working on some dialogue last night, and was feeling like I was saying "said" too much--I switched it up, but now I'll go back and double-check/edit(just checked, might not be too bad)!

Heather Davis said...

I need replacements for shrugging and nodding, Marley. Help!



nymfaux said...

@Heather--instead of shrugging and nodding, what about eye rolls and eye raises? ;)