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  1. #1

    Sanderson Overuses "Said"

    Am I the only one that finds this terribly annoying? Almost 90 percent (made up percentage) of his lines of dialogue end with "x said." It's so unimaginative and jarring that it takes me out of the scene completely. Even when only two characters are having a conversation he still feels the need to put "x said" after every line. To me it seems like lazy writing.

    This is referring more specifically to the first Mistborn novel, because I haven't read his other stuff.

  2. #2
    Couch Commander Danogzilla's Avatar
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    It's generally considered a sign of good writing. "Said" is the invisible word (to most of us). Using all the other words are generally considered examples of bad writing, and give us "said-bookisms" and "tom swiftisms".

    If the problem you have is that he writes "said" where writing nothing at all would suffice, that's reasonable, but how is that lazy writing?

  3. #3
    Registered User toromos's Avatar
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    I've always like Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing, with #3 and #4 being pertinent here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/16/ar...ptedoodle.html

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by toromos View Post
    I've always like Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing, with #3 and #4 being pertinent here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/16/ar...ptedoodle.html
    That is a different argument entirely, however I still somewhat disagree. Especially when two people are having a conversation, you don't need to emphasize who is talking every single line, you can just drop it all-together and make it flow more naturally. Look at other modern fantasy others like Abercrombie or Lynch, their dialogue reads far more naturally.

    My point is that dropping the part explaining who was talking all together is often better. I'm not saying that every line of dialogue should have some other verb trying to replace said. The way Sanderson does it seems incredibly redundant, especially when do characters are having a conversation saying sentences that are four words long.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by toromos View Post
    I've always like Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing, with #3 and #4 being pertinent here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/16/ar...ptedoodle.html
    I'm referring more to the redundancy of using "x said" when it doesn't need to be used, especially in a two person conversation. I obviously prefer "said" because as the article points out, it's easier to ignore. However, I would vastly prefer to just drop the word altogether when it isn't needed. Even worse is when he uses it in a line of dialogue as a pause and then adds it again. At the very least he doesn't need to repeat the characters name every single time, he could use he/she said instead.

    I've never had this problem before with any other author, but for some reason in Mistborn it is jarring and bothersome to me.

    Lazy and unimaginative weren't the right words, but it gives the writing an almost robotic formalism which is what I meant.
    Last edited by Dogman'sBladder; January 9th, 2013 at 11:58 AM.

  6. #6
    Registered User toromos's Avatar
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    I can understand the frustration. Mistborn is his early work, right? Maybe he was just working through some growing pains. I am admittedly unfamiliar with his other work.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogman'sBladder View Post
    Lazy and unimaginative weren't the right words, but it gives the writing an almost robotic formalism which is what I meant.
    Sadly, this seems to be the problem for a lot of modern fiction writing nowadays. I know using the word "said" redundantly in dialogue is supposed to indicate good writing skills. But for me it makes characters seem emotionless, boring, and uninteresting. If this is the status quo of what keeps readers reading then fine. But this is a core reason why I can't get into any of this modern over simplified/dumbed down fiction writing style. This book in particular would probably bore me to tears.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Starchaser3000 View Post
    Sadly, this seems to be the problem for a lot of modern fiction writing nowadays. I know using the word "said" redundantly in dialogue is supposed to indicate good writing skills. But for me it makes characters seem emotionless, boring, and uninteresting. If this is the status quo of what keeps readers reading then fine. But this is a core reason why I can't get into any of this modern over simplified/dumbed down fiction writing style. This book in particular would probably bore me to tears.
    Using said consistently is the current "rule" for writers being spread about the net. While it certainly beats hissed or whistled and whatnot as a dialogue tag, it's not as invisible as some folks would have you think. Overuse of it, like anything, makes it stand out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Marquitz View Post
    Using said consistently is the current "rule" for writers being spread about the net. While it certainly beats hissed or whistled and whatnot as a dialogue tag, it's not as invisible as some folks would have you think. Overuse of it, like anything, makes it stand out.
    I guess using the word "said" consistently as opposed to constantly is OK. Still, I think some of these "rules" that have become the norm of conventional wisdom in recent years on internet forums will eventually stagnate fiction writing altogether. It seems like words such as innovation, creativity, and originality are fast becoming taboo mind sets for new and upcoming writers in this day and age. I think good fiction writing should adhere to certain rules. But IMO it should not be some sort of mathematical equation of robotic formalism that Dogman'sBladder mentioned.

  10. #10
    You're exactly right. There's a ton of information out there being promulgated as fact by people who should know better. These "rules" are a great guideline, a good place to start, but they're being pushed as the be and end all of writing. That said, it's usually those (generalizing, obviously) who don't follow these rules so religiously, who go their own path, who are more successful than those doing what you implied, writing by the numbers. There's still room in our world for rigid adherence to standards and form, but I'm with you. I'd rather struggle through a book like Alden Bell's or Cormac McCarthy's than be force fed somebody's idea of perfect writing.

  11. #11
    I just recently read Red Country, and Abercrombie has a knack for making his conversations brisk and effortless to read, so perhaps that is skewing my perception. Sanderon's just feel clunky to me, but I might just be nitpicking. I'm sure the series has countless redeeming qualities that make my complaint seem trivial, so I will undoubtedly continue it at some point.

  12. #12
    Couch Commander Danogzilla's Avatar
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    Abercrombie's dialogue is great. He has also been, book by book, moving to more and more "he said" dialogue tags. If you look at the first and second books of his trilogy it's filled with "he sneered" and "he scowled" and whatnot in place of "he said" as a dialogue tag.

    As to your original post, in a two person conversation not many dialogue tags are really needed. I agree with you there (though I don't remember being offended by them in the Mistborn trilogy - I do have problems with Sanderson's writing, but that isn't one of them).

    The only real rule to writing is: if it works, it works.

    I'm an avowed lover (to a disgusting sycophantic degree) of Guy Gavriel Kay and he regularly breaks every rule of writing there is. And when he does it, it works.

  13. #13
    Thanks you all quite kindly. My brother just gave me the Mistborn trilogy for Christmas saying it was his favorite series and I'm about to start it. Can't wait to notice every line of dialogue and how it was written! It's like you just told me to ignore my tongue.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by phil_geo View Post
    Thanks you all quite kindly. My brother just gave me the Mistborn trilogy for Christmas saying it was his favorite series and I'm about to start it. Can't wait to notice every line of dialogue and how it was written! It's like you just told me to ignore my tongue.
    I'm the only one that I've ever seen mention it, so think nothing of it, I'm probably just crazy.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by phil_geo View Post
    Thanks you all quite kindly. My brother just gave me the Mistborn trilogy for Christmas saying it was his favorite series and I'm about to start it. Can't wait to notice every line of dialogue and how it was written! It's like you just told me to ignore my tongue.
    Haha...I have the same problem. You are probably the type of person that has trouble sleeping when you start thinking about how you are breathing, because you can't stop and start breathing weird. Or you think "My arm is in a weird position, but it doesn't bother me yet. Oh wait, now that I'm thinking about it, it's bothering me, now I have to move" Anyways....

    I rarely notice the dialogue tags in books. Or pay attention to what adverb or synonym is being used. I just try and see who is saying what, and move on. My biggest problem with some authors is the LACK of any tag. I'm thinking it was Malazan, I can't quite remember, but a recent series I've read had almost no dialogue tags. So if you ever lose track of every other line being that person...then you have to go back up and try and figure it out all over again. I'd rather have "..he said" being over used than underused. I can more easily ignore it being there, than I can with it not being there enough. And I've read Mistborn as well as Sanderson's Wheel of Time books. And I plan to read Allow of Law, Stormlight, and possibly Warbreaker. Brandon is a really good writer! Don't let this distract you at all.
    Last edited by chris777; January 11th, 2013 at 09:30 AM.

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