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Thread: "Moans" or "Says"?

  1. #1
    Dario D.
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    "Moans" or "Says"?

    Hi all. I wanted to ask for your opinions on something. In my novel, I frequently use the word "moans" in the following ways:
    - "Mmmm," she moans, "What time is it?"
    - "I didn't know what to say," she says, then she moans sadly...

    - Feeling touched, they both moan...
    - "Mmmm," she moans with delight, "That's beautiful."

    So, I was just wondering if you think "moans" is the right word, or if it means something else to you. Someone here at home commented that every time they came across the word "moans", it bothered them, and thought it should be replaced by "says."

    So, some instances would become:
    - "Mmmm," she says, "What time is it?"
    - "I didn't know what to say," she says, then sadly adds, "Mmmm."
    - Feeling touched, they both say, "Mmmm..."
    - "Mmmm," she says with delight, "That's beautiful."

    What do you think? When you read it here, does it sound right? To me, personally, it sounds perfect in the former usage, but I'm not everyone, so I need to check what other people think.
    Last edited by Dario D.; 02-16-2007 at 10:10 AM.

  2. #2
    Mr. Invisible
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    I'm not quite sure what some of these moans have to do with the rest of the dialogue....but, just some thoughts.

    If you've already shown us in dialogue the "Mmmmm," I don't think you need to then tell us in the dialogue tag that the person moaned the "Mmmmm" - it's a given.

    "Mmmmm." It felt great laying in his arms, but the annoying voice in her head reminded her about work. "What time is it?"

    "I didn't know what to say. I ended up standing there shaking my head like an idiot and making a strange sighing noise as if that would somehow comfort him."

    "Ahhh," they said in unison, as they looked at the little puppy in the window.

    "Mmmm." A hint of a smile played on her lips. "That's beautiful."

    Just some suggestions....take 'em or leave 'em.

    Good luck with your writing.

  3. #3
    The moving hand, having writ... AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    To me, moans are made with closed or nearly-closed lips and therefore the word's ineligible as a synonym for said. Besides, you're being redundant if you give us the moan sound effect Mmmm, then tell us a character moaned it.

    In general, the more dialogue attributes/tags you can eliminate, the better. See My-Immortal's examples for how.

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  4. #4
    this is me - is that you? Mae's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by My-Immortal View Post

    "Mmmmm." It felt great laying in his arms, but the annoying voice in her head reminded her about work. "What time is it?"
    I agree with this suggestion ( as this is what your first sentence implied to me) .... and I learned something too!

    Perhaps everywhere you find a moan/noise you can ask yourself "why", and then include as was done by Immortal?

    Keep writing!

  5. #5
    Dario D.
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    Thanks, but I'm really less interested in adjusting the prose, and more interested in knowing if the word "moans" stumps you in the above usage. The problem is whether or not it's the right word for the mentioned actions.

  6. #6
    AKA: "Gums of Steel" Tiger's Avatar
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    I usually don't care for mixed verbs. "Moan," "groan," or "gasp" aren't synonyms for "speak."

    That's just my opinion.
    growl. snarl. etc.

  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin wendygoerl's Avatar
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    In some class or book in my past, I heard/read that ''said'' is an invisible word: you don't notice it when it's there, but you DO notice when it get substituted with a ''more specific'' word. My personal rule about said-alternatives is: if it adds meaning (you know more about what's being said than the stuff inside the quotes tells you), use a said-alternative, otherwise leave said alone or get rid of it entirely. (I'll often have my characters do something between breaths so I have an excuse to tell the reader who's talking, rather than ''he said/she said'')

  8. #8
    Crypto-fascist Soccer Mom's Avatar
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    Moan is a word that I would use sparingly. Mmmmmm isn't a moan. Moans are more of an Ohhhhh. Mmmm is more of a yummy noise.
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  9. #9
    Have you JHS today? JenNipps's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wendygoerl View Post
    In some class or book in my past, I heard/read that ''said'' is an invisible word: you don't notice it when it's there, but you DO notice when it get substituted with a ''more specific'' word.
    Ditto.

    In the examples given above, having "moaned" as a subsitute for "said" actually draws attention to it. And not in a good way.
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  10. #10
    Megalops Erectus Silver King's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dario D. View Post
    Thanks, but I'm really less interested in adjusting the prose, and more interested in knowing if the word "moans" stumps you in the above usage. The problem is whether or not it's the right word for the mentioned actions.
    Whenever I hear someone moaning in real life, it's either from sheer ecstasy or pain. When used as dialogue tags, moans often come off as sounding forced and unnatural.

  11. #11
    Dario D.
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    I see. So, would you say that "says" can easily replace most "moans"?

  12. #12
    Infuriatingly Theoretical TheIT's Avatar
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    Yes, IMHO use "said" rather than other dialogue tags. "Said" is invisible.

    Here's a link to other discussions on the topic. Go to entry #3 on Dialogue Tags:

    http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=35603
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  13. #13
    defying grabbity Thump's Avatar
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    Depends on the genre you write in If it's erotica then moan is fine
    Quote Originally Posted by Phaeal View Post
    I'd say the main lesson to take from Stephen King's working life is: He's never stopped working. He's written sober. He's written drunk. He's written while recovering from horrendous injuries. He's written while working maggotty laundry jobs. He's written on long after he could have snuggled down into his royalties for the rest of his life.

    Damn good lesson, that.

  14. #14
    Mr. Invisible
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dario D. View Post
    Thanks, but I'm really less interested in adjusting the prose, and more interested in knowing if the word "moans" stumps you in the above usage. The problem is whether or not it's the right word for the mentioned actions.
    Sorry...didn't mean to imply that you had to adjust your prose.
    Simple answer to your question: 'moan' was redundant in the first example, awkward sounding in the second example, okay in the third example, and had a feel of 'telling' rather than 'showing' in the fourth example.

    Good luck with your future writing endeavors...


  15. #15
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    If you say she moans, it could mean she's just an unhappy person and moans about everything. I'd use it as a touch of characterization.

    "It's raining again," she moaned.

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