November 12th, 2006


Said bookisms

I've heard this writer's tip before, and recently hit a term for the sin: "said bookisms." That is, using verbs like shouted, whined, mumbled, etc. instead of the humble "said." The theory seems to be that "said" disappears from readers' attention like "the," and it's the mark of an amateur writer to try and fluff up weak dialogue by using stronger verbs.

I resist. I resist with grouchy mistrust. I like conveying tone of voice, volume, mood and so on through my verb choices. I am a poet before I am a writer, much like Tolkien, and sound matters to me as much as content.

That said, I've felt rather hacklike lately. It's partly just a dry spell; looking back at my writing last spring I see more original technique in all areas. Nevertheless, I am a devotee of "said bookisms," and I'm wondering whether it's a habit people find irritating.

In a similar vein, I stumbled across a web page collecting bad habits of SF writers which is probably worth a read by everyone.