Focus today’s post on the contrast between two things. The twist? Write the post in the form of a dialogue.
“What is the big deal about dialogue tags?” I asked, pouting at one of the well-followed guru know-it-all’s from the internet.
“No big deal, really,” he replied. “He said, she said. You said, I said. They said, we said. See, it’s simple.”
“How is it simple to be so mundane?” I really wanted some sound advice, but my ability to project is weak. “Why am I being asked to pretend that my potential readers are morons who will get lost, confused, distracted by any word besides said?”
“Because they just do,” he said, (in a tone meant to imply he is upset that I don’t agree). “Said. No more, no less. Just said.”
“But,” I giggled. (I did giggle as I uttered that word. People do that from time to time.) “I like to think a lot of people out there are like me. They read because they want to be entertained. They’re reaching out for something …” I paused to scratch my head and think of the right word. “Refined,” I said, (snapping my fingers) “Different, you know? None of this Dick and Jane crap.”
“Crap?” he said, (in a biting tone that made me jump in my skin, eyeing him with just a touch of fear.) “Dick and Jane?”
“Well, yeah,” I laughed again, (and while I said the last word. A gentle breath of laughter as I said Yeah. I’m sorry, but his ire has started to amuse me.) “Look, Tom! said Jane. Here is Mom. That’s swell, said Tom. Jane said, Hi, Mom! Tom said, Hi, Mom! Mom said, Hi, children. That kind of he said, she said is juvenile and boring. Isn’t it?”
“I think you’re being deliberate,” he snarled. (Yes, the kind of snarl your cat produces when confronted by something it doesn’t particularly care for.) “Everyone who reads likes said, and if you choose other words besides said, those readers will get lost, put your book down, and vow never again to read anything you write.”
“Which would imply I am attracting an audience of elementary children, yes?” I ask, (because it is a question with a legitimate question mark at the end of the sentence.) “I want to think my readers are more intelligent, and better able to cope with words that go beyond said and are meant to help convey a mood.”
“So, you’re telling instead of showing, are you?” He said. (in question form, and to me, in a tone that implied snobbery, but whatever.)
“Ooh,” I cooed (because that’s exactly how it sounds, with a hint of snarky thrown in for effect). “That’s a whole other topic right there. If you can’t be logical about words besides said, don’t think you can convince me that words of expression and imagery are somehow taboo, because I’m liable to come undone.”
“Undone?” he said-asked. “How so? Are you one of those writers who likes to describe things?”
“Yes,” I said (in a defensive tone.) “I’ll give my readers glimpses of the background, the setting, and even what the characters are wearing. You have a problem with that?”
“You’re telling us, then,” he said (very condescendingly). “That won’t fly with readers, either. No wonder your book isn’t doing well. You refuse to follow the rules and write the way everyone wants you to write. You’re a hack with no concept of modern, sameness, and cut the crap and just tell us what’s going on in this -.”
I gasped, pointed at him, cut him off mid-rant. “You just said tell!” I turned and smiled at the girl who had been running back and forth the whole time, clutching a pink balloon with the glittery words ‘Hunk, Sex, the End’ on it. “He said tell! You heard him, right?”
The silly girl holding the silly balloon stopped darting back and forth long enough to stare at us both. “Is he hot?” she said. “Does he have washboard abs? If the cover is bad, I won’t read it.”
We both watched as she resumed her methodical and yet somewhat creepy long-wise dance, and then I returned my attention to this uppity hipster in his thirties, who makes lots of money writing he said, she said, and who has millions of online followers as a result.
“I tell my readers what they need to know in order to better follow the story I’ve weaved,” I explained. “I show them who these people are, where they live, and why they act the way they do. I convey things using words that are specific to a scene, and not because I deliberately want to confuse or distract the reader. They’re a highly intelligent bunch who don’t get hung up on the minor incidentals you keep trying to cram down our throats and doesn’t help us or make much sense as a writer.”
“So, you’re someone who refuses to get with the program, then,” he said, folding his arms at his chest and smiling in a way that shows he’s won this argument. “An old fuddy-duddy who writes with a Jane Austen flair and some Hemingway bite, then. You like dead people who don’t mean anything today and haven’t got a clue about what is hip, now, modern, and acceptable in the twenty-first century.”
“I told you not to go there,” I grumbled (because maybe he’s right and I’m wrong, so I’ve bowed my head and pouted). “I never liked nit-picky people.”