Saturday, 7 January 2017

He Said, She Said and Being Bound by the 'Rules' of Writing

So a friend and I started this group for local writers, trying to bring people together in order to benefit from the collective...we call it the literati group. The group is made up of writers and maybe some readers (I hope) and we try to develop each other's craft in various ways. So today, someone posted a story for critique and someone else mentioned how they weren't following the rules of 'he said' and 'she said'.
Now that brought back some deja vu because when Child of Destiny was in editing, the editor erased every other representation of 'he said' i.e.
" he replied.
" he demurred.
" he exclaimed.
Claiming that in the 'rules of writing' one is only supposed to use 'said' instead of these, adverbs (?) because it breaks the flow of the story.
Every. single. one.
So when he sent it to me for proof reading I undid every. single. one. of those edits.
I wasn't just being a stubborn asshole. I just really felt like the flavor was all gone from the story.
It had become like white people food.
No spice.
(Is that racist?)
Anyway so I wanted y'all to weigh in. How do you feel about following rules while writing? Is there a point where creativity might be stifled because of it? And furthermore, it's a story, not a white paper so why do we have to follow rules? Isn't the whole point of creativity to create? To come up with something new? Do you think God followed the rules when he made +Kanye West? Do you think he worried about coloring in the lines when he made the duck billed platypus?
Who came up with these rules anyway?


K Hoerner said...

I was instructed, when getting my MFA, that if it is necessary to use an attribution to utilize "he said" or "she said"... as it tends to disappear in the mind's eye of the reader, letting the dialogue shine. Why trip up dialogue with filler attributions? When I look back at my memoir, I think I have but a handful of attributions that fall out of the "he said/she said" directive, because the scene demanded more.

Val Rainey said...

Yeah, I like the fillers only when it really makes a difference. I too used to love getting away from he said/she said but the story really does flow better......I know.....bummer!

When there is a long conversation involving only two characters you only need the he said/she said in the first exchange. Used sparingly the giggled and screamed can be fun but be really carefull. Have friends and beta readers check out your story before wailing on your editor too much.

Annemarie Musawale said...

Ah, key word. If the scene demanded more... I do agree with you otherwise.

Annemarie Musawale said...

Yes, I do that. Just do away with them altogether. But sometimes you're painting a picture, with facial expressions, actions, movement and sound...

K Hoerner said...

Even after placing the attribution at the beginning of a long exchange, it is important to realize that one must reinsert the attribution if it ever gets cloudy as to whom is speaking; it is, generally, inserted intermittently.

Annemarie Musawale said...


Toinette Thomas said...

Have you ever checked out the Insecure Writer's Support Group? Our monthly question was about writing rules this time. You can check it out here:

As for dialog tags, they serve a purpose but can be overused or used poorly. I don't think it's a good idea to say 'never use them' or to imply that they are always needed. It should be all about the context and flow of the story at hand.

Annemarie Musawale said...

No I had not checked it out before but I have now. Interesting concept. Not sure I really understand how it works tho.

Saurabh Sahni said...

i really loved your post . and will share it on my website too best new year dp

Annemarie Musawale said...

Thank you so much!