That’s what she said


The general consensus, when dispensing writing advice, seems to be that in dialogue anything other than she said/ he said is extraneous.

Obviously, the best kind of writing can do without this entirely and just have verbal exchanges between characters so distinctive that the reader instantly knows to whom to attribute each utterance. Almost all of us are not that good.

I disagree about she said/ he said. It can make writing too simplistic. Have a look at children’s books (I have a lot of experience in this area) and, believe me, that’s all they use. And, when it comes after a question:

‘What did you think of dinner last night?’ she said.

I have to confess that I writhe with the same inner torment I experience knowing everything isn’t perpendicular on my desk.

I don’t see anything wrong with:

She is fully dressed, when she hears the front door open.

“Hello,” she calls, hoping her voice will travel.

In fact, I like it (and I should do; I wrote it).

Donna Tartt, the doyenne of best-selling literary fiction, has her characters yelling, bellowing and screaming. Alice Thomas Ellis’s creations protest, claim and enunciate. Granted Janet Fitch and Barbara Trapido tend to stick to the he said/ she said formula but Thomas Hardy characters reply, whisper and answer.

If it’s good enough for them…


4 thoughts on “That’s what she said

  1. I’m in full support of variety if it’s within the boundaries of logical speech patterns (whispered, yelled, called, shouted, whined, murmured are all great IMO). I’m not so big on more ‘drastic’ variations. I cringe when characters have to grunt, growl, inquire, question, query, or postulate their dialogue. If it snaps me out of the dialogue flow, it’s no-bueno 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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