RARA-AVIS: he said, she said, or was that something else?

From: Frederick Zackel ( fzackel@wcnet.org)
Date: 10 Feb 2000

When I interview Elmore Leonard a couple of years ago, he told he he only uses the speech tag "said" in his books. He likes the look of the word, that it doesn't interfere with what information needs to get said in the dialogue, and all that. But he also told me he likes starting off the sentence with "he said", as in
    He said, "Get in the car." By beginning the sentence with "he said", Leonard makes sure that the reader knows instantly who is talking. Leonard also likes to have more than one
"he saids" in a paragraph, for the rhythm that he has set up. Leonard told me about a feud he had with one copy editor at the publishing company who refused to accept Leonard's "stets." But then Raymond Carver was the master of multiple "he saids" in a paragraph.

Speaking of adverbs ending in "-ly" (okay, so I'm playing catch up), I used to complain to students, "What do you mean, a house sat quietly at the end of the street? Did you ever hear a house sitting loudly at the end of the street?" Until one wise-acre wrote about "the house that sat loudly at the end of the street where the rock and roll band lived."

A PI writer friend of mine just emailed me to tell me about his original Christmas story he sends out every year to old friends. He writes, "You'll get a kick out of this though: sent (Name withheld), an editor/friend at Doubleday a copy of my annual Christmas story, the one I sent you. Signed to him and everything. So guess what I get back in the mail? Right: the story and-you guessed it-a rejection letter from THE EDITORS. Some days..."

So tell me more about Miss March. In like a lion and out like a lamb?

Best wishes

Frederick Zackel

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