21 alternatives to “say” or “said”

alternative speech verbsWhen describing speech in creative writing, it’s tempting to rely on simple verbs like “to say”, but while this can keep your text fairly neutral (and I would never advise consistently using different verbs just for variety’s sake), you may want a few alternatives to keep things interesting – and to add a bit more depth to described speech. The following article was a vocabulary building list that I produced for my English Lessons website, which seems pertinent to post here too. With, of course, some different examples. So if you’re looking for a range of different meanings and emotions when describing what someone is saying, try a few of these alternatives to the verb “to say”:

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Cutting out words to improve Mad Max’s summary

mad max fury road summaryI don’t know who’s responsible for the summary of Mad Max: Fury Road that’s currently loitering on the film’s IMDB page, but it’s got too many words and reads like someone’s trying too hard to sound dramatic. It may be that some random Joe has written this summary, someone with nothing to do with the film itself. Or it may be the production put it forward themselves. Whatever the case, it’s a good candidate for improving. So here’s a little challenge – can this descriptively over-the-top summary be improved simply by removing some words? Have a look below, and you decide: Continue reading

A Time to Curse: When is it appropriate to use swearwords in creative writing?

swearwords in creative writingA while back, I took all of my most complete manuscripts and, for curiosities’ sake, tallied up the number of swearwords in each. I made an interesting discovery – that the new novels seemed to have increasingly higher number of swearwords, and, rather surprisingly, my most light-hearted and least violent novel had the second highest total. As I am now re-editing that novel, Gun City Bohemian, for publication, I thought it a prudent time to step back and ask why these patterns emerged – and to muse on appropriate levels of swearing in creative writing in general. Continue reading

How to use the past perfect to build effective narratives

past perfect narrative useGetting back to some gritty basic English grammar, it struck me that it would be useful to publish some of the tips from The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide to help with general creative English writing. Though aimed at foreign learners of English, these fundamental building blocks of the language offer some handy tips for anyone trying to master the craft. For example, a solid understanding of the past perfect can be essential to building an effective narrative. The past perfect helps to create atmosphere, feeding new information into a narrative at crucial moments. Continue reading

Apocalyptic prophesies in history: the madness of the crowd

apocalyptic prophesies

Every wonder what it was like when people started raving about the end of the world before the age of the internet? Well you’re in luck. On behalf of my post-apocalyptic books website, I’ve been doing some research into apocalypse fears through history, and happened upon a rather interesting book called Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions: The Madness of the Crowd. This tome was written by in 1841, by a Scottish journalist named Charles Mackay, and chronicles a massive number of events driven by the popular delusions of the crowd. Haunted houses, witch-hunts and economic bubbles especially feature – but the prophesies are especially interesting. Here’s a summary of a few from the chapter:

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Brighton’s Victorian sewers: what lies beneath the city

brighton victorian sewers

It’s a commonly known fact that the most interesting places in the world are underground. In some cases, this is because nature sneakily creates vast, weird and wonderful formations of rock and water and whatnot beneath us, unseen. In other cases it’s because man has built impressively intricate subterranean structures that most people don’t even know are there. The latter is the case for Brighton’s Victorian sewers, spanning some 44 miles of tunnels, leaving the hapless souls above clueless as to their existence. Southern Water are noble enough to trudge through with members of the public from time to time, however – so I got a look at what’s down there. Continue reading

How long does it take to write a novel?

dostoevsky, novel, film, how long does it take to write a novel,I’m so used to this question by now that I usually just reply ‘About four weeks.’ Because that is the simple answer. I can look at the average amount of time a first draft takes, and that is, for me,  how long it takes to write a novel. But there is a much more complicated answer, because the question is in fact not how long does it take to write a novel, but how long does it take to finish one. And that is where the real variety seeps in. Continue reading