What writers need to know from Elmore Leonard

How should writers end a characters line of dialogue?

Writing ‘he said,’ or ‘she said,’ all the time is boring right? If a character asks a question, one can write’ he asked.’

Or if a character is mad, one can write ‘he angrily said,’ or ‘he exclaimed.’

How about uttered, vocalized, announced, answered, responded, replied, remarked, conveyed, added, stated, declared, mentioned, added, disclosed, imparted, revealed, averred, professed, claimed, expressed, proclaimed, assured, protested, or . . .

I can’t recall if I used words other than ‘said’ in my books “Loonies in the Dugout,” or “Loonies in Hollywood,” I probably did, but I hope sparingly. I don’t want to break Elmore Leonard’s rule of writing. He said to never use anything other than ‘he said.’

When you think about it he is right. The reader needs to do some work and should know the characters state of mind by the scene and description of what is going on. I get annoyed when a writer uses a word like ‘responded’ because obviously the character is responding. If you look at the list of the substitute words above, they all modify what is being said, so why not just use said to begin with and not try to be cute or clever because the reader will only get annoyed, insulted, or both.

If your story is in the first person. like my e-novels above, then it is appropriate to use, ‘I said.’

“But other than he or she said or I said, we need not use anything else, and that’s all I have to say on the matter,” I said.

 

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