A friend of mine is a big Biggles fan and recently lent me a couple of books to read. The language is wonderful, and I love the way the author paints a picture, but there are some things about the writing style that really date the books.
The first thing that struck me was how long the sentences were. I was forgetting what we were talking about by the time we got to the end of them in some instances. This just shows how lazy I’ve become with my reading, so I was glad to get some practice in.
The next thing that struck me was how politically incorrect the books were, on more levels than I want to get into here. So we’ll just leave that alone.
The third thing to strike me, and strangely enough not until I was some time into the book, was how rarely the word ‘said’ was used. In the first three pages people chipped, returned, added, answered, stated, inquired, whispered, queried, ejaculated, muttered and even averred (I had to look that one up), but no one ‘said’ anything until page 12. Page 12!!!!
One of the early ‘rules’ of writing that I learned was you should try to use ‘said’ as much as possible because all the other options just get in the way of otherwise good prose, and the eye easily slips over the word ‘said’. I diligently went through all my stories and axed my answered’s and quelled my queries, replacing all with a nice soft ‘said’.
So did it irritate me when I was reading Biggles? Yes, a bit, but not as much as when I’m reading a modern story and someone does exactly the same thing. I guess it was just the style of the day to replace ‘said’ whenever possible and I was being more understanding, but when did that style change? More importantly –why?
Why was it determined that said was bad once and good later? Who decides on all of these rule?
‘It makes me want to break the rules,’ declared Natalie.