How do people talk in stories these days?

FridayNights-FrontOnly

SO THEY’RE TOGETHER, the high school football and the older woman, the femme fatale. He just lost the most important game of his life, and she’s waiting for him in the end zone on a field hidden by darkness and the veil of a heavy rain.

So what happens next?

Well, here comes the dialogue.

So what do they say to each other?

That’s easy.

How do they say it?

That’s the question.

I’ve always been old school, comfortable with using the traditional speech tags of he said and she said.

That’s all.

The said is invisible. Nobody ever reads it.

You know who’s talking.

Let the story move along.

In my upcoming novel, Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever, this is the way I would have written it.

***

She kissed him softly and gently, running her tongue lightly across the stitches that were holding his swollen lip together.

Casey felt his hands beginning to tremble. He wanted to run. He knew it was time to run, but it was too late. Casey felt her fingers fumbling with the top button of his wet shirt, and she was peeling the soaked fabric away from his chest.

“What’d you do that for?” he asked.

“Because I’m a woman,” she said.. “And sometimes I act like a woman.”

“Jesus.”

“Was that a prayer?” she asked.

“No.”

“That’s good,” Karen said with a whisper.

He watched, barely breathing as she moistened her lips. Her umbrella fell out of her hand and dropped shamelessly to the ground.

“I get tired of being with a man who would rather pray than make love to me,” she said.

“But you’re a preacher’s wife.”

“He doesn’t treat me much like a wife sometimes. He’s too busy stroking that damn pulpit of his.”

“Brother Proctor would kill us if he caught us together out here,” Casey said.

“I’m worth the risk,” she said.

***

It works for me.

The story never slows down.

But maybe I’ve been wrong.

A new trend has come along.

Forget the speech tags, it says.

Describe the action of the speaker.

Not only do you hear what’s being said.

You can see what’s going on.

So in my novel, I wrote it this way:

Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate is my idea of an older woman femme fatale.
Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate is my idea of an older woman femme fatale.

She kissed him softly and gently, running her tongue lightly across the stitches that were holding his swollen lip together.

Casey felt his hands beginning to tremble. He wanted to run. He knew it was time to run, but it was too late. Casey felt her fingers fumbling with the top button of his wet shirt, and she was peeling the soaked fabric away from his chest.

“What’d you do that for?” His face was hot in the cold rain.

“Because I’m a woman.” The look of curiosity in her eyes had turned to one of amusement. “And sometimes I act like a woman.”

“Jesus.”

“Was that a prayer?” Now she was mocking him.

“No.” Casey could barely choke the word out.

“That’s good.” It was a whisper.

He watched, barely breathing as she moistened her lips. Her umbrella fell out of her hand and dropped shamelessly to the ground. “I get tired of being with a man who would rather pray than make love to me.”

“But you’re a preacher’s wife.”

“He doesn’t treat me much like a wife sometimes. He’s too busy stroking that damn pulpit of his.”

Casey backed away, nervously wiping the rain off his face. “Brother Proctor would kill us if he caught us together out here.” His voice was strained. His stammer was one of protest.

Karen threw her head back and laughed again. “I’m worth the risk.” Her eyes were dancing in the rain.

***

Does the story work better that way?

I hope it does.

An occasional he said and she said is all right, I’m told.

But for the most part, I’m packing said away until the trend changes.

The reason is simple.

You should write the way people want to read, or you shouldn’t write at all.

 

 

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