Thursday, September 20, 2012
I was impressed because I don't remember learning something so fun in my own fourth grade class. I remember doing a report on the natural resources of Alabama.
But then I thought, is this really the right lesson for a writer?
Said gets a bad rap, doesn't it? Use it too much it gets redundant and boring. Don't even think of spicing it up with an adverb (shudder) because the literary police will actually come knocking on your door and ticket you for lazy writing. "Then of course there are using other words in its place," she scoffed.
Just the other night I had a conversation with my daughter that went something like this...
G - "Mom, what's another word for said?"
Me - "What do you mean?"
G-"You know, what can I use instead of said?"
Me - "Um, hmm, well, you see..."
No, really, try and answer that question easily. It wasn't that I was stumped, but I had to ask her what was going on in the scene. And then suddenly I was getting into dialogue mechanics* and the tone of the scene and what point did she want to get across and really all she wanted to do was finish her work, watch some Phineas and Ferb and then go to bed herself.
To be clear, I don't have a problem teaching fourth graders to find different words for overused ones. I get it. This is for creativity, not creating a Printz-worthy masterpiece. It expands their minds, makes them think. As I revised some of my own writing this week, that little phrase kept going through my head. And while I didn't put said to bed on every page, I did give it some warm milk and made the suggestion on quite a few. The result was tighter, more concise dialogue.
Maybe not a bad lesson for writers after all.
So how about you? Do you have trouble putting said to bed?
*For a great lesson on dialogue mechanics and the word said please refer to the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.