The Sword and Laser discussion

Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1)
This topic is about Old Man's War
557 views
2013 Reads > OWM: Use of "said"

Comments Showing 1-50 of 70 (70 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

Todd Carrozzi | 60 comments This is mildly off topic as it is more of a Scalzi discussion in general, but I am curious to see if I am the only one to notice this.
First off, I really enjoyed the book. I agree with some of the criticism I read in this topic about character development, etc, but it was a quick, fun read and an interesting premise, so I was easily able to overlook any issues I had. I even continued to read Ghost Brigades and Last Colony, more to flesh out what was really going on in the universe than due to an interest in the characters.
So on to my minor nit, which I first noticed when I listened to the audible version of Redshirts...it seems like Scalzi uses the word "said" a lot(ie. "Why did you do that?", John said. "Because I wanted to", Jane said, etc. Now I can't say that I noticed this when reading the books, but I find it noticeable to the point of distraction at times in the audio versions.
I've listened to many an audiobook by other authors and never noticed that. Has anyone else noticed this, or am I just crazy? :)
At any rate, as I mentioned I have enjoyed everything I have read by the author. It's just like having a small bug bite when listening to the audio versions at times.


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I noticed it while reading.

Wasn't distracting or anything, but still noticeable.


Todd Carrozzi | 60 comments Ala wrote: "I noticed it while reading.

Wasn't distracting or anything, but still noticeable."


Yeah, the more I think about it, I think the reasons I noticed it in the audiobook considerably more than the written text are: 1) When reading one(or at least I) tends to internalize the dialogue, so my mind more or less edits out the superfluous words, and more importantly 2) The reader of the audiobook has a voice for each of the characters + a narrator voice and in a conversation, especially when each person is only saying a few words at a time, there is a rapid switching between voices.


Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 819 comments The funny thing about it is that in German it is quite common or expected to vary the words and use synonyms. Of course it's always a matter of style.

Contrary I've *heard* that in English it's considered "better" to keep it simple and not show off your knowledge of synonyms.

I don't know where I heard (or read) it and how true it is (or was), just that it is something that stuck in my memory for a long time.

That said I didn't notice this reading Old Man's War on my Kindle, BUT I did notice it when listening to the audiobook of "Fuzzy Nation", which was also written by Scalzi. I found it slightly annoying and repetitive then, but I don't mind it when I just read the paper version of a book. Wondering whether the problem is the lack of variations or if Scalzi just uses a lot of dialogue and it becomes more obvious (especially when listening to the audiobook).


message 5: by Louise (new) - added it

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments Said annoying if repetitive, but I didn't really notice it in OMW. When I write, I do try a few other ways of writing "said", but for the most part I don't use an equivalent at all. I have the character do something instead, show their expression etc.

I imagine it would be really obvious in audio and I think sometimes if its a full cast reading or the reader is particularly good at voice, the word said is removed from the text altogether.


Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 888 comments It's #3 (and #4) on Elmore Leonard's Rules for Writers. "Said" is the preferred verb for indicating dialogue precisely because it's unobtrusive. The experienced reader's mind just skips over it without having to process it, leaving them to focus on the dialogue itself, the important part of the prose. That's why most professional writers use it.

But it's sounding like it has the opposite effect when the book is read aloud.


Tamahome | 5872 comments The use of 'said' is really irritating in the Redshirts audiobook. Timothy Zahn's Scoundrels handles multiple characters talking much better. Plus the narrator in the audiobook gives different voices for each character, imitating Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams, and even someone that sounds like George Takei (Sulu).


Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1823 comments I also listened to the audio version, and did notice this from time to time, particularly when there were short, snappy exchanges followed by said said said - it wasn't terrible, but I did notice it. I think the problem with any such word is that they have the potential to become intrusive, which is probably why we are always told to avoid "a bunch of bullshit variants", as Darren amusingly put it. However, I think said said said has just as much potential to intrude. I guess it's pretty hard to get the balance right.


message 9: by Louise (new) - added it

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments Its also particularly common when I go back and read books from my childhood. Enid Blyton's Famous Five stories for example, include lengthy repetitions of "he said", "she said". If its noticeable though, chances are there's too much talking and not enough description in a scene. I've read draft passages that come across like a script for that very reason.

Variants are ok if you're trying to convey something specific (like muttering because you want to show the character is feeling awkward), but should still be limited. All those kind of rules, like never using the passive, should be approached with caution.


Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1823 comments I agree. I think there are also times when certain words or phrases are spoken which I feel mean something a little different if simply 'said'. For example, if a character says 'goodness gracious!' I expect it to be followed by a 'she remarked' or something similar to convey her surprise, because if it is followed by a simple 'said' I will imagine the character is not being sincere in her exclamation, and was probably being sarcastic. Or maybe that's just me?


message 11: by Sean (new) - added it

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Joe wrote: "It's #3 (and #4) on Elmore Leonard's Rules for Writers. "Said" is the preferred verb for indicating dialogue precisely because it's unobtrusive. The experienced reader's mind just skips over it wit..."

Just because you should use "said" over the alternatives doesn't mean that you need it after every line of dialogue. For example:

"Will you shut up, please." John stubbed his cigarette out and flicked it on the floor.


tells you who's talking without any need of "he said."


message 12: by Tamahome (last edited Jan 15, 2013 12:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tamahome | 5872 comments 9 Don't go into great detail describing places and things, unless you're Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language.



Ender | 59 comments Hmm, I am still reading the book (chapter 12) and until now I had no problem with "said", maybe it's because English is not my native tongue. Now I notice every "said" and think: "so this is what was Todd talking about". Thanks for planting this thought into my mind :)


message 14: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Harmon (thesaint08d) | 639 comments Way Easier than Stephenie Meyer's overuse of Chuckled.


message 15: by Todd (new) - rated it 3 stars

Todd Carrozzi | 60 comments Ender wrote: "Hmm, I am still reading the book (chapter 12) and until now I had no problem with "said", maybe it's because English is not my native tongue. Now I notice every "said" and think: "so this is what w..."
Sorry about that. :) I was concerned with infecting others. It's kind of like a review I saw for Judas Unchained before I read it where the reviewer mentioned the overuse of the term "enzyme-bonded concrete". Then when I was reading the book, I noticed every use of the term...


message 16: by Rick (new) - added it

Rick | 2716 comments Alex wrote: "I like it when authors skip any sort of dialogue attribution, because in many cases it's still perfectly clear who is doing the talking. "
Not in long passages it isn't. In fact it's more cognitive load for the reader - you need to keep in mind that the first sentence was said by A, the second by B.


message 17: by Ron (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ron Hammer | 12 comments Alex wrote: "It's true that eyes gloss over "said," but I wish Scalzi would have been more sparing in a dialogue.

"Come here and hold this," John said.
"OK," said Mary.
"Are you sure you have it?" said John.
"..."


I agree with this! It's not that Scalzi should have used something other than said, but that he didn't really need to use it at all in much of the dialogue. I wonder if this was impacted by the fact that he self-published this on the web before Tor purchased the rights. So maybe it did not undergo the sort of editorial scrutiny that might have cleaned some of this up?


Robert of Dale (r_dale) | 185 comments I noticed this too in the Redshirts Audiobook. It was very annoying. Rather than vary it with other words, I feel that attributions should be eliminated in quick-fire exchanges between just two characters. It was especially bad in Red Shirts because it was a constant audible barrage of 'Duvall said' and 'Dhal said'. It wasn't necessary until a 3rd or 4th person entered the conversation, but he did it even when it was just the two, very similarly named people.

I really enjoyed reading OMW (with my eyes), but imagine that the audio version would grate on me the same way.


terpkristin | 4037 comments I remember having this issue in both books that I've listened to that were narrated by Wil Wheaton. I know Ready Player One was one of those. I think Fuzzy Nation was the other. Listening to audiobooks makes it significantly more noticeable.

I read Old Man's War on my Kindle. I suspect that I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much if I'd listened to it...I definitely didn't notice all the "said"'s when I read it in print.


Mel (booksandsundry) (booksandsundry) | 137 comments I noticed it as well in the audiobook version of Redshirts and it was very difficult to overcome initially. I almost gave the book up entirely because it was frustrating me so much. There is something to be said for keeping it simple, but sometimes it can be taken to far, or even not far enough - as in getting rid of them entirely.

I did wonder if it's possible when they do audiobooks to make minor alterations to the book that won't effect the storyline. Especially in this case when it was clear who was speaking from the voice changes it would have been nice if the reader had the option to drop the "saids". Surely the reader had to notice while doing the recording.


Christopher Mclean | 15 comments I'm with terpkristin regarding Fuzzy Nation, I listened to the audiobook and the use of said in that really annoyed me at times. I read Old Mans War at the same time and never noticed it there, but as others have mentioned I think that's more down to how I parse written words as opposed to spoken ones.


Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments I've noticed that I tend to skim over the saids in print books. It's much more difficult with audiobooks. I really noticed it when I listened to Redshirts. The characters would make very short statements and those statements were always preceded by or followed with "so&so said". Sometimes, the characters would have a 20-30 line conversation with only one sentence per character. That's an awful lot of saids.

The first audiobook I listened to where that jumped out was Starship: Rebel by Mike Resnick. It was chock-full of saids.


Kelly | 4 comments I did notice it at first. It never bothered me because the book felt more like it was a story being told to me by the main character. Possibly, I didn't notice it because I was listening to it while I was at work.


message 24: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim | 380 comments Joe wrote: "It's #3 (and #4) on Elmore Leonard's Rules for Writers. "Said" is the preferred verb for indicating dialogue precisely because it's unobtrusive. The experienced reader's mind just skips over it wit..."

Elmore Leonard obviously didn't listen to the audiobook...

(I listened to Redshirts, and found it *really* annoying, but read the ebook version of OMW, and can't say I even noticed it.)


Tamahome | 5872 comments Here's the whole thing in a nutshell:




message 26: by Louise (new) - added it

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments There should be another rule, number 11, never take rules to literally :)


message 27: by Joe Informatico (last edited Jan 16, 2013 08:11AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 888 comments Rick wrote: "Not in long passages it isn't. In fact it's more cognitive load for the reader - you need to keep in mind that the first sentence was said by A, the second by B."

You brought back painful memories of studying the Grube & Reeve translation of Plato's The Republic. A book-long dialogue with five participants with no quotation marks and almost no attributions.


message 28: by Mapleson (new)

Mapleson | 94 comments Any overuse of a particular word should be avoided. I agree with Louise that rules are more guidelines than laws. If it's plain dialogue, then 'said' is fine, but if there is a particular emotion or tone involved, then a more descriptive word tends to fit better.

My personal rule is not to use any word more than 5 times per page (100 words). After that, you aren't really moving the story forward, but just repeating yourself.


Tamahome | 5872 comments Scott Westerfeld had a writing tip where you feed your whole book into a word cloud, and see which words you're overusing.


message 30: by Emmanuel (last edited Jan 16, 2013 10:12AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Emmanuel Parfond (frenchdude) | 45 comments That's weird, I noticed it right before finishing part 2 and coming here.

-- said Emmanuel.


AndrewP (andrewca) | 2401 comments I didn't notice it while reading until I read this thread. Even then, I did not find it a distraction as it's one of those phrases you kind of gloss over and not actually read word for word.

I can see how this could be annoying in an audiobook. With a good reader, doing different voices, it would be superfluous.


Suzanne (sue_q) | 5 comments I definitely noticed this too. I put it down to it being his first book, but then I haven't read any of his others so maybe it's his style. It's not massively annoying, though. It just makes the writing feel a little less polished to me - like I've caught sight of the puppeteer working behind the scenery.

Still really enjoying it, though, and am planning to seek out his other work at some point.


message 33: by Daran (new)

Daran | 599 comments This reminds me of Michael Stackpole's rule number six of writing:

You do not have to use them. And you particularly don’t need to add dialogue descriptors. They make things choppy and they are a ‘tell’. Descriptors tend to make things choppy and slow down dialogue.

Instead:
Establish a unique ‘voice’ for each character. This voice can include keywords, styles of speaking, rhythm, etc. Style example: A character may always address women by their first name.
Younger and lesser educated characters will tend to use shorter sentences, shorter words, and words of Germanic derivation.
Older and educated characters will use Latin-derived words, longer more complex sentences, or longer words.
Do use dialogue tags to describe states of being. Examples:
The store clerk appeared at his shoulder, “Will there be anything else, sir?”
VS
John chewed on his fingers, “I don’t think I want to go through that door.”
These tags provide description about the character without the ‘mirror trick’.

When to use ‘he said/she said’:
When you want it to be used as a comma. When you want the pause. This can be particularly useful at the end of a scene for progression to the next scene and cliffhangers.


I will say that, outside of his Star Wars books, I tend to lose track of who is speaking at least once when I read his books.


Leesa (leesalogic) | 603 comments I did notice the "said" thing in Scalzi's books when I listened to them. I got over it quickly and focused on the story and just, I guess, unheard what I didn't think was necessary.


Brian (herkamur) | 24 comments Joe wrote: "It's #3 (and #4) on Elmore Leonard's Rules for Writers. "Said" is the preferred verb for indicating dialogue precisely because it's unobtrusive. The experienced reader's mind just skips over it wit..."

Then, for me anyway, it's a good rule. I don't tend to read the word "said" at all when reading a book. All I concern myself with is what was said by whom. But yes, when in audiobook format each time "said" is said it adds to the monotony of hearing the same word repeatedly.

I noticed this with Redshirts only when I listened to the audiobook after having read the ebook.


Brian (herkamur) | 24 comments I should qualify my previous post by saying that I'm able to get over it and enjoy the book anyway.


message 37: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 808 comments I tried a couple of things in Google to try to find this, but so far no dice.

Sometime in the last month or two, I read something where Scalzi addresses this exact point. My memory is that he's been so annoyed so often by having to backtrack to figure out who's talking that he's by gum NOT going to let it happen in his fiction!


Brian (herkamur) | 24 comments ...he's been so annoyed so often by having to backtrack to figure out who's talking that he's by gum NOT going to let it happen in his fiction!

I can get behind that. It certainly works. I've read four of Scalzi's books now and doubt I've ever lost track of the speaker. In the written word versions of his books I just breeze through and, as I mentioned, don't really notice the many instances of "said". In these formats I don't find it bothersome at all.


Ender | 59 comments Reminds me of McCarthy's The Road. There I was lost at least once a dialog.


Tamahome | 5872 comments Serendi wrote: "...he's been so annoyed so often by having to backtrack to figure out who's talking that he's by gum NOT going to let it happen in his fiction!"

I can't find the post either. Googling 'he said' is difficult.


Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1823 comments One thing I've noticed about this: when you have a character named 'Simon', 'said' becomes about as unobtrusive as giant fluorescent yellow and pink tank.


message 42: by Katrina (last edited Jan 21, 2013 04:32PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katrina | 28 comments I noticed it, but it didn't bother me much - with one exception:
"If any of us were still thinking Earth was the center of the human universe," Harry said, "now would be an excellent time to revise that theory," Harry said. (p. 77 of my edition)


message 43: by Tamahome (last edited Jan 21, 2013 04:49PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tamahome | 5872 comments Here's Scott Westerfeld's writing tip for word clouds, to find possibly overused words: http://scottwesterfeld.com/blog/2009/... He did a lot of tips for Nanowrimo. I think he would be a good S&L guest. He used to write some cerebral adult sf before hitting it big with YA sf like Uglies.




message 44: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Dombrowski | 24 comments Katrina wrote: "I noticed it, but it didn't bother me much - with one exception:
"If any of us were still thinking Earth was the center of the human universe," Harry said, "now would be an excellent time to revise..."


That's his editor's fault. That shouldn't happen.

Yeah, it's a little noticable. Not sure what technique other's use to avoid such things, but it didn't really detract all that much from the book for me.


message 45: by Josh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Josh Campbell (soupcan58) | 9 comments I think "said" is much more of a problem in audiobooks than it is in a text book that you read in your head. I didn't notice it in OMW which I read on my Kindle, but I did notice it in the audiobook for Redshirts, and it was my main complaint. When I write, I tend to try and switch up and away from that word whenever I feel I can. It's the main qualm I tend to come up with when it comes to Scalzi's writing, and as long as I stay away from the audiobooks, I think I can ignore it.


Tamahome | 5872 comments That's what she said.


Rochelle | 69 comments Stephen King also mentions dialogue words in his book On Writing. He has the same conclusion as many other writers - use "said" as much as possible. Other words can look contrived and take the reader out of the story.

But in the age of audiobooks, I would agree with many other commenters that many of the dialogue attribution words can be cut entirely. Which is what many good authors do anyway.


message 48: by Graeme (last edited Jan 23, 2013 02:40PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Graeme Ellis (kapt_kipper) | 65 comments Todd wrote: "This is mildly off topic as it is more of a Scalzi discussion in general, but I am curious to see if I am the only one to notice this.
First off, I really enjoyed the book. I agree with some of..."


Actually I just finished the first part of the "Redshirts" audiobook. I had to go look in the ebook to see if the 'said", "said" part to see if it was really that way in the book.

It was a bit distracting.


running_target (running_t4rg3t) | 52 comments This exact thing ruined most of the audio Red Shirts for me. It was CONSTANT and made me want to strike Will Wheaton, even though he was just the messenger.

I haven't had this issue with any of the other Scalzi books I've read so it's not a trend with him.


message 50: by Mike (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mike | 3 comments It actually bothered me when I read "Redshirts", not so much in "Old Man's War". Maybe Redshirts 'scalzised' me enough that I got used to it.


« previous 1
back to top