He Said / She Says
|Bud vase and seedlings--the he said/she says|
of spring. Photo | Elizabeth King Humphrey
Oddly, spring also seems to be bringing out some verbal sparring--an endless supply of he said/she said arguments. Then it happened to me with another editor. Not the same kind of argument, but a discussion about attribution. I'm still unresolved from my discussion. Perhaps you can weigh in?
As many writers know, when your attributions (the said/shouted/whispered/bellowed part of the dialogue) melt into the dialogue and become a seamless part of a scene, the dialogue helps to strengthen the writing.
But when a writer uses a word (or words) that might cause her reader to trip (perhaps a "she bellowed belligerently"), the writer has ever so slightly taken the reader out of the illusion being created.
In fiction, it might work to have a little belligerent bellowing and, while I don't have a ready example, some writers manage the non-said attributions beautifully. But in nonfiction, it hardly seems the place to embellish the attribution.
So, what happens if the author chooses "says" instead of "said" for a nonfiction piece?
The flower in the bud vase and the pot growing the seed remind me a little of this discussion. One (the cut flower) is grown and has happened; the seedling is growing and is active. Both are useful, but one seems bursting with liveliness and possibilities.
In your attributions, are you the type who says, said, or belligerent bellows?
Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in North Carolina...where the dogwoods have started to bloom and the azaleas are already starting to peek out from their greenery.