Thursday, February 16, 2012


As a writer who is taught to “spice things up”, “make things interesting”, “don’t be redundant”, etc. it may seem intuitive when writing dialogue to substitute “he said” or “she said”, with “he whispered”, “she shouted”, “he bellowed”, “he growled”, or “she happily howled hoarsely” to let your readers know who is speaking in your piece. But those “in the know” will tell you it is okay and even preferred to use “said” every single time you need to describe your dialogue. And if you think about it, you will see this actually makes sense.

When a reader is reading an exciting verbal exchange in your writing, they are right there listening to what is being said, anxious to find out how the conversation ends. When they come across a fancy said-phrase, they pause and they realize they are not there but they are reading. Not what you ideally want. “Said” is almost an invisible word. Readers are so used to seeing it they just gloss over it, not pausing or stopping to think about you, the writer. Plus, if you write your dialogue (what is said) artfully enough, the reader will not need to know if the character screamed it or hollered it, they will already know by what is SAID. If it is clear who is speaking, you don’t even need to point out who is talking, just start a new paragraph and the new quoted dialogue.

Want to learn more about how to put great dialogue in your fiction? Then plan to attend the “Talk the Talk” session at Midwest WritingCenter’s March 24, 2012 Pen In Hand Mini Writing Conference from 9:15 a.m. to 11 a.m. in downtown Davenport, Iowa.

Ann Boaden, Augustana College instructor and fiction author, will teach this workshop session. Her fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in a variety of literary journals, including South Dakota Review, Big Muddy, The Heartlands Today, Buffalo Carp, British History, Lutheran Journal, Wascana (Canada) Review, and in the anthology Christmas on the Great Plains (published by the University of Iowa Press).  She has collaborated on two novels for junior readers, served as librettist for four musicals performed locally, and written three plays produced by the professional regional theatre group New Ground.  Her book Light and Leaven:  Women Who Shaped Augustana’s First Century, was released last May.

Discounts for this and the three other Pen In Hand sessions are offered for early registrants, members and bulk buyers. Visit and click on the Pen In Hand link under the “Events & Opportunities” tab or call 563/324-1410 for more information and learn how to register.

-By Jodie Toohey (

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