Just say “said”, and getting kicked in the balls

John E. McIntyre; blogger, writer and veteran editor says “Said’ suffices.” The idea is that no one needs to “add”, “blurt”, “disclose”, “explain”, etc. It’s enough to say they “said”. Granted, he is a veteran editor of The Baltimore Sun, not in fiction publishing but I have seen fiction writers quoting him. I can definitely relate with minimizing those kinds of words in article writing, but in ALL writing? This isn’t the first time that I’ve heard of this pet peeve, though, and I can’t help wonder how big of a pet peeve it really is.

I’m a big fan of “said” and I agree that telling a reader that “…she explained” or “he quipped” or “she exclaimed” is a little…. Blah. You shouldn’t have to explain an explanation, most of the time. An exclamation can come with an exclamation mark. I’m no linguist, but I’m pretty sure that’s what they were invented for. I don’t think that exclamations really need a “said” tag at all. It takes away impact.

But sometimes, I think it really is important to know that the character chortled, gasped, wheezed, coughed, or whispered.

For example, if the hero gets hit by a truck and then “says”, oh, anything, I hope that he’s a supernatural being of some kind. If he “gurgles” the line, we can infer that he isn’t long for this world. If he “whimpers”, we know that he is in pain, but still capable of feeling that pain. If he wheezes it, the wind has been knocked out of him and he is probably difficult to understand. In any case, it ramps up the “show” of the event.

I do think that if you intentionally avoid “said”, you are making a mistake and spending your energy in the wrong places. But I don’t think that we should ban all the alternatives. As a reader, I would rather someone get kicked in the crotch and “choke” their next line than go into a long diatribe of how much getting kicked in the crotch hurts. We all know it hurts. Male or female, that’s not a pleasant thing to experience. So unless you’ve got some words that will really make me understand what it’s like to have testicles, show me the pain, even if “…he managed to choke out, around his balls which were now embedded in his throat.”

Am I wrong? What do you think? I only have one opinion, based on what I like to read. So give me yours!

Have fun!


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