"Don't keep repeating the same words over and over. Use a synonym and your story will sound better." we would tell them. And so the "Said is Dead" lessons began. Children were forced to use different words at the end of their dialogue instead of " Sally said " or "he said". We wanted them to get creative..."Sally shouted"...or "He whispered." And we as teachers would give the kids a nice red smiley face on top of their papers to show our pleasure in the fact that the children were increasing their vocabulary.
Today I sat in class among several other teachers at the Summer Writing Institute at SUNY Oswego. While
listening to the keynote speaker Ellen Yeomans, we were all very surprised when she told us to stop teaching those lessons. As a professional writer, by not using 'said' at the end of a sentence, it sends a red flag to a publisher that you are an amateur.
The word 'said' at the end of dialogue is basically an invisible word. As a reader, our eyes skip right over it,
allowing what was in the text to stand out even more. But if we put a fancy word to describe how the sentence was being said, it puts the emphasize on how it is being delivered, rather than focusing on the meaning of script.
We always want the discussion between characters to stand out to our readers. We can reflect how the conversation is being said by using body language. By having somebody roll their eyes, the reader interprets how that person is feeling, without you having to come out and saying "....Annie retorted."
Ellen also taught us to write a poem about each chapter or scene that we right. "If you can't write a poem about it, then it doesn't belong" she said. (notice how I threw 'said' in there?) As a writer I was in awe at this concept. So many times I have mulled over sections of my work wondering if it belonged or not. I can't wait to try this trick and see how it helps the story.
Tomorrow is day two of the institute and I am very anxious to return. What will I learn? Now that 'said' has been resurrected, anything is possible!