The main reason for the ‘said’ rule, is that 'said' is invisible.
If you write a whole page of dialogue, readers need to be able to distinguish between the speakers.
There are several ways of doing that:
- Action tag: Peter threw the mug across the kitchen. “Don’t ever talk to me that way again.”
- Name of the character in the dialogue: “Don’t ever talk to me that way again, Mary.”
- Distinctive speech pattern: “D-don’t ever talk to m-me that way again.”
- Inserting ‘stop’ words particular to the character. “Like, you know, don’t talk ever talk to me that way again, you know?”
- Dialect: “Don’ evah talk t’me them way agin.”
- Emphasize the words: “Don’t. Ever. Talk. To. Me. That. Way. Again.”
If you need to add a speech tag, ‘Peter said’ is pretty invisible. It’s similar to a stage direction:
(Peter:) Don’t ever talk to me that way again.
The other part of the rule is that novice writers are tempted to pimp up their speech tags instead of the dialogue.
"Don’t ever talk to me that way again," Peter hissed.
"Don’t ever talk to me that way again," Peter threatened.
"Don’t ever talk to me that way again," Peter yelled.
"Don’t ever talk to me that way again," Peter bellowed.
If you need to increase the impact of a dialogue and you cannot think of a way to change the dialogue, adding an action tag is better than changing the speech tag from ‘said’ to ‘threatened’.
The twinkle disappeared from Peter’s eyes and he stepped closer. His voice was low, almost a growl. “Don’t ever talk to me that way again.”
If you need to make a point quickly, yes, you can use a different speech that from said. I believe in the “you can do anything you want” in writing. However, use it moderatively.
Every rule can be broken, but most can be circumvented. The best advice is to use both as best as you can.
Here’s another post that can illustrate this even further.
Again, you can do anything you want.
Modern anesthesia didn’t come into practice until around the mid-1800’s with the rediscovery of the properties of ether (Paracelsus had used it long before, but no one cared). Before ether came on the scene, people had to just “bite the bullet” and endure the pain of surgery, probably with some swigs of booze to take the edge off. In medieval England there were recipes for an anesthetic that were commonly circulated to “make a man sleep whilst men cut him.” The interesting thing about this drink, called Dwale, is that it was probably just as dangerous as surgery in pre-sanitation/antibiotic era medicine. Take a look at the recipe:
“How to make a drink that men call dwale to make a man sleep whilst men cut him: take three spoonfuls of the gall [bile] of a barrow swine [boar] for a man, and for a woman of a gilt [sow], three spoonfuls of hemlock juice, three spoonfuls of wild neep [bryony], three spoonfuls of lettuce, three spoonfuls of pape [opium], three spoonfuls of henbane, and three spoonfuls of eysyl [vinegar], and mix them all together and boil them a little and put them in a glass vessel well stopped and put thereof three spoonfuls into a potel of good wine and mix it well together.
When it is needed, let him that shall be cut sit against a good fire and make him drink thereof until he fall asleep and then you may safely cut him, and when you have done your cure and will have him awake, take vinegar and salt and wash well his temples and his cheekbones and he shall awake immediately.”
The bile was typically mixed with fat to help break up the ingredients and make them easier to absorb. Hemlock is the most recognizable ingredient on the list, and the most deadly (1 mL of hemlock juice can kill a person). It acts by blocking acetylcholine receptors in the nervous system, causing paralysis and blocking sensory impulses eventually causing respiratory failure. Bryony was used as a purgative in medieval England. Mandrake is also toxic. It acts like atropine, blocking muscarinic receptors. It also crosses the blood-brain barrier and induces sleepiness and hallucinations. The lettuce juice was thought to induce sleepiness. Opium obviously blocked pain. Henbane acts like mandrake, and induces a long period of unconsciousness. The vinegar, well, that woke the patient up (think smelling salts).
As you can see, there are some very dangerous ingredients. There’s speculation that dwale wasn’t as dangerous as it seems. The roots grown further north are often less potent than those grown closer to the equator (like in Greece, were hemlock killed Socrates). Boiling the ingredients also possibly detoxified them. Since the patient only had to drink enough until the passed out it’s not likely they ingested enough to poison themselves but we can’t know for sure.
Anonymous said: How do you write a action scene?
I have posted a bunch of tips about that. :-)
#40: Ten Tips For Writing Good Action Scenes.
#50: Writing Action. Part 1.
#51: Writing Action. Part 2.
#60:Writing Action Scenes
#96: How To Write A War or Battle Scene in Your Novel
#120:Fight Scenes and Love Scenes – Seven Tips to Writing Action
#121: Writing Realistic Injuries
Anonymous said: I have a question, I'm wondering how to write a fight between two people using their fists. How do they defend themselves what are the right movements? I just wonder what is needed to be taken into account to write such a scene. I'm sorry if this has been answered before.
Don’t be sorry! Writing about fighting when you have no practical experience is a difficult challenge and writing fight sequences when you do is still time consuming. There are a lot pieces working together and figuring out how they function is difficult and something very few writers actually do well.
Here are a list some of our posts that may be helpful to you:
Also check anything in our Michael Janich tag, he is a very good instructor who teaches self-defense. I refer people to his videos for the work he does with concepts, where he actively explains what a technique is, what it does, and why it’s used before teaching the technique. As a writer, you need both technique and concept before you can put it on the page.
I plan on doing a write up on both elbows and knees in the near future. There’s a lot of misconceptions about how these techniques work.
Also check out Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series particularly First Test and Page in The Protector of the Small quartet. Tamora Pierce is one of the few authors that write fight scenes I feel comfortable recommending for reference.
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- Over-explanation. This includes prologues. “Prologues are never needed. You can usually throw them in the garbage. They’re usually put on as a patch.”
- Too much data. “You’re trying to seduce your reader, not burden them,” Friedman said.
- Over-writing, or “trying too hard.” “We think the more description we add, the more vivid it will be; but we don’t want to be distracted from the story” we open the book for.
- Beginning the novel with an interior monologue or reflection. Usually this is written as the thoughts of a character who is sitting alone, musing and thinking back on a story. Just start with the story.
- Beginning the novel with a flashback. Friedman isn’t entirely anti-flashback, but the novel’s opening page is the wrong place for one.
- Beginning a novel with the “waking up sequence” of a character waking, getting out of bed, putting on slippers, heading for the kitchen and coffee…a cliche
- Related cliche: beginning the novel with an alarm clock or a ringing phone
- Starting out with an “ordinary day’s routine” for the main character
- Beginning with “crisis moments” that aren’t unique: “When the doctor said ‘malignant,’ my life changed forever…” or “The day my father left us I was seven years old…”
- Don’t start with a dialogue that doesn’t have any context. Building characterization through dialogue is okay anywhere else but there.
- Starting with backstory, or “going back, then going forward.”
- Info dump. More formally called “exposition.”
- Character dump, which is four or more characters on the first page.