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I am reading the Hunger Games and it is written in the first person. However I came across this sentence:

“I dismissed myself,” I said. I remember how I promised Prim that I really would try to win and I feel like a ton of coal has dropped on me.

— Collins, Suzanne (2009-09-01). The Hunger Games (p. 106). Scholastic Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Was this a mistake or is this a writing rule that I did not realize about where using said is actually better than I say?

Adding additional text for people who have not read the Hunger Games to get a better idea what I am talking about. Also corrected my mistake of writing "I says" instead of "I say" sorry about the lack of carriage returns:

    “What about my family?” I say. “Will they punish them?”
    “Don’t think so. Wouldn’t make much sense. See, they’d have to reveal what happened in the Training Center for it to have any worthwhile effect on the population. People would need to know what you did. But they can’t since it’s secret, so it’d be a waste of effort,” says Haymitch. “More likely they’ll make your life hell in the arena.”
    “Well, they’ve already promised to do that to us anyway,” says Peeta.
    “Very true,” says Haymitch. And I realize the impossible has happened. They have actually cheered me up. Haymitch picks up a pork chop with his fingers, which makes Effie frown, and dunks it in his wine. He rips off a hunk of meat and starts to chuckle. “What were their faces like?”
    I can feel the edges of my mouth tilting up. “Shocked. Terrified. Uh, ridiculous, some of them.” An image pops into my mind. “One man tripped backward into a bowl of punch.”
    Haymitch guffaws and we all start laughing except Effie, although even she is suppressing a smile. “Well, it serves them right. It’s their job to pay attention to you. And just because you come from District Twelve is no excuse to ignore you.” Then her eyes dart around as if she’s said something totally outrageous. “I’m sorry, but that’s what I think,” she says to no one in particular.
    “I’ll get a very bad score,” I say.

Collins, Suzanne (2009-09-01). The Hunger Games (pp. 106-107). Scholastic Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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closed as off-topic by tchrist, Mari-Lou A, FumbleFingers, Matt Эллен, aedia λ Apr 24 at 22:26

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Yes, it should be "I say." It's either a typo in the printed version or a conversion error. –  F.E. Apr 19 at 21:50
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@RegDwigнt On another screen, I'm looking at what appears to be a digitized page of the novel, and a few lines above the one in question is this "Nothing. Or I don't know. I walked out after that," I say. -- The page is full of dialogue, all written in present-tense narrative mode. This is from prose in a novel. –  F.E. Apr 19 at 21:55
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Looks fine to me. First person past tense. Probably reciting a story or reminiscing. @F.E. Beat me to it! And I didn't read his comment properly (considering it's 30+ mins old)... –  Tucker Apr 19 at 22:28
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Whatever. If a native speaker wrote and published it, it's silly to think they made a grammar mistake that a beginner can spot. Much more likely is what happened here -- a beginner has been taught a confusing and incorrect "writing rule". There are no English rules for sequence of tense. No matter what your teacher says. –  John Lawler Apr 19 at 22:34
2  
This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a one-off editorial error. –  Mari-Lou A Apr 20 at 18:22

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Yes, you are right. Your example -- “I dismissed myself,” I said. -- has an error in it. It's either a typo in the printed version or a conversion error. It should be: “I dismissed myself,” I say.

Your example comes from a novel that was written in First-person present-tense narrative mode.

On another screen, I'm looking at what appears to be a digitized page of the novel, and a few lines above the one in question is this:

  • "Nothing. Or I don't know. I walked out after that," I say.

That page is full of dialogue; the prose on that page is all written in present-tense narrative mode.

You've added more of the prose into your top-level question post. The additional prose confirms that your example text is prose from a novel using present-tense narrative mode.

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