Looney Lunes #134

Who Says?

I read a great article from an editor about how to feel about editing. It was good. She used “literally,” which isn’t a crime, and she used it correctly but it usually falls into my expendable word pile. And she “essentially” says to ignore what you don’t want to hear. I agree, to an extent. That article is from Literary Architect

I also watched a Lifetime movie. Talk about fondue…I digress.

What I want to know is, with all the rules and formulas out there, what is “right”? Said only? The other day I read “said is dead”. Unlike the heart of Rock n Roll I believe it. Check this out – randomly Googled scene builders and breakers dialogue tags –

articulated ejaculated narrated phonated recounted related sounded told uttered verbalized vocalized voiced accounted alleged assumed conjectured considered deemed estimated gossiped held reckoned regarded reported rumored supposed thought aloud announced communicated expressed mentioned equivocated sung sang spoke pronounced broadcast / ed disclosed divulged noted prevaricate / ed asseverate / ed (Thank you, Elmore Leonard) acknowledged argued claimed came back defended disputed mewled explained parried pleaded rebutted refuted rejoined remarked retorted refused returned sassed barked squealed screamed shouted retaliated enunciated pronounced mouthed off professed swore exclaimed sighed whispered chimed in stated spat drooled murmured

If you suffer from stilted dialogue, or fear dialogue you can write the most trite shit ever uttered, add one of those evocative tags and find an adverb to support it. Or –






Rodney whipped a nickel plated nine out of his shoulder holster, and with no mercy in his eyes he leveled it at Martin’s nose. “You say ‘show don’t tell’ one more time, Imma kill you, motherfucker.”

He professed, sternly.


Published by

Phil Huston


6 thoughts on “Looney Lunes #134”

  1. When I was young I thought it a crime to use said more than once in a story so I used all those words you listed. Then I realized how distracting that was an not achieving anything. Nowadays I try to make everything stripped down and only use dialogue tags when needed to make clear who is talking. Some stories I’ve read use zero dialogue tags and sometimes use zero quotation marks to boot! It’s kinda cool. I haven’t tried that yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are those no ” schools of thought. The art to that is creating attribution. I have read it with and without dialog tags. The clumpiness of tags, and worse, tags with adverbs becomes WAY obvious because you anticipate the conversation. Almost poetic when it’s stripped of everything not necessary. (Hemingway’s Iceberg approach). I prefer quotations, but I think if I went in the David Foster Wallace direction of watrecolory short stories I’d drop them. When all the writerly affectations are gone so remains the story.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Only ‘said’ here. Or nothing at all. I try to make it obvious who’s speaking though. I try not to use adverbs at all, i proclaim emphatically and sternly. Snort.


  3. Yes, yes…even Stephen King says drop the fruity adverbs and tags, which I either have or am attempting to do. Mine will either be naked or simple “saids” but only when necessary, says I.


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