Thursday, September 1, 2016

“But That's the Point!" She Exclaimed.

Having received certain feedback on my writing this summer, I was moved to pen the following scenario:

Critic:  I see you have quite a few exclamation points in your work.  For instance, this line here:  "'I didn't hear that!'"

Author:  Oh, yes.  That's the male main character fighting with the female main character over the antagonist's intentions.  I put that exclamation point there to show how upset and annoyed and disbelieving he is.

Critic:  Well, you can't have it.  It's lazy.  Show his mood some other way.

Author:  Oh.  (Thinks).  How about, "'I didn't hear that,' he fulminated"?

Critic:  You can't do that, either.  "Fulminated" is what's known as a "said-bookism."  They're always bad.

Author:  "Shouted"?  "Exclaimed"?  "Scoffed"?

Critic:  No.  Stick with "said" and maybe "asked."  Otherwise the speech tag draws too much attention to itself.

Author:  Really?  Well, okay.  I'll try again.  "'I didn't hear that,' he said defiantly."

Critic:  (Holding head in hands)  Oh, no, no . . .  You just used an adverb.  They're even worse than exclamation points.

Author:  (Nonplussed)  Could I say something like "'I didn't hear that,' he said, his spluttering voice and red face betraying his angry mood"?

Critic:  No way.  You've got adjectives in there.  Three of them.  They're lazy, too.  And three nouns.  Didn't you read that article that said nouns don't do anything?

Author:  I guess I missed it.  And that's too long anyway, especially if I have to do it every time.  I'm way over the word count for my genre as it is.  (Considers.)  So what's left, verbs?  That gets me back to something like, "'I didn't hear that,' he spluttered."

Critic:  (Sighing prodigiously.)  Didn't you hear me?  No said-bookisms!

Author:  But then--- oh, I have an idea!  Oh gosh, sorry, I used an exclamation point there, didn't I?  Anyway, maybe I could get the meaning across by inner monologue?  Like this:  "I didn't hear that.'  How dare she imply I wasn't paying attention?"

Critic:  Oh, my goodness.  Inner monologue is Telling, not Showing.  And I heard those italics in there.  Whatever shall I do with you?

Author:  I'm sorry.  It wouldn't work anyway--- this scene isn't from his point of view.  (Looks frustrated.)  But--- but--- if I can't use exclamation points, or adverbs, or adjectives, or nouns, or inner monologue, or any speech tags but "said" or "asked," how am supposed to communicate how he's saying this?

Critic:  Why do you need to communicate how he's saying it?

Author:  Because if I don't, the reader might think he's admitting he wasn't listening.

Critic:  What's wrong with that?  Don't you want to let the reader bring his own interpretation to the work?  It's the modern thing to do.

Author:  The Post-Modern thing, you mean.  To heck with it!  I'm leaving it with an exclamation point.  It's clean, it's efficient, it does the job I want it to do.

Critic:  (Robotically) You can not do that.  It is bad, lazy writing.  It is immature.  I will have the Writing Police on you, just see if I do not.

Author:  Not very passionate about it, are you?  So why should I be?  See you around!

Critic:  Aaaaaaahhhhgggggghhhhh.

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