Those old he saids and she saids
January 21, 2014
Writers are shoplifters.
At least the good ones are.
They steal whatever they can from whomever they can if it helps them get words on paper better.
However, the writing thief faces problems. What items should he purloin and how will he use them when he has them in his possession?
Attributions are a good case in point.
Authors fall into two attribution camps.
One camp believes the words he said and she said are invisible tags readers pass over without noticing them. They serve the purpose of adding clarity to the passage, to allow the reader to keep her place in the dialogue without thinking about which character is speaking.
The members of this group also agree almost universally that he said and she said are the only tags a person should use and anything beyond them is superfluous.
How about the other camp?
The authors in that group despise attribution tags and avoid them like the plague.
I mentioned a few days ago a writers conference I attended last weekend. During a presentation, husband and wife authors Caryl and Ron McAdoo mentioned that they have a rule that they never use more than two attribution tags PER BOOK.
See what I mean?
I’m talking dyed-in-wool attribution haters here.
For Ron and Caryl the point is that the better approach is for the writer to clarify the passage so that the reader doesn’t need tags to know who is speaking. Also they said attribution tags jimmy with point of view.
I’m in Camp One on this one, and I’ll add one other thing.
Now that I am narrating audiobooks, mine and those of others, I find attribution tags helpful. For me they don’t interrupt the flow of the story, and they make it much easier for a narrator to distinguish between characters without having to employ extreme vocal shifts.
Plus, I love Robert B. Parker books, and he includes about a dozen he saids and she saids on every page.