Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chirp Lit

I never really thought about my stance on variations of the word "said" until I stumbled across a (really old...) post on Nathan Bransford's blog - apparently it's something of a debate among real writers. The literary agent puts himself in "camp said," arguing that alternatives are actually more distracting than descriptive because "a reading brain doesn't really register the word 'said,' and readers only need to be reminded who's talking. It should be apparent from the dialogue and context whether someone is 'shouting' or 'whispering' or, yes, even 'enumerating,' and using 'said' keeps the reader's attention on the dialogue."

So thanks, Nathan, for alerting me to this subpar writing tactic. Now I can pinpoint what exactly irritates me about books like my latest questionable read: Celebutantes. I should have just stopped after reading the following on page one: "'Please, Paulie, just one of the four of us,' her blood red lips purr." Ick.

In addition to the use of various animal noises, Celebutantes may have even coined some new said alternatives, such as "trill" (used in conjunction with both humans and cell phones) and "sing-song."

Perhaps more distracting, however, were passages like this:
"We swerve past B.D. talking to Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera and Alfonso Cuaron by the mosaic tiled pool. As Carolina crouches down to admire B.D.'s beloved Jack Russell, I can't help but admire her electric blue croc mini-Kelly."

~My inner dialogue~

"What's going on here? Shoes, bags, celebrities? All of the above?" the reader exclaimed to herself, twirling her unstyled hair in befuddlement. "Am I that clueless?"

"There's nothing wrong with shopping at Target," the angel on her shoulder chirped. "It's like, responsible and stuff."

"But Forever 21? You're almost 27," hissed the devil on her other shoulder. "I'm a little embarrassed for you."

"Eh, who cares - just keep reading and get to the inevitable happy ending!" the reader concluded, with more enthusiasm than she'd like to admit.

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