‘How Not to Write Dialogue’ (2014)

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Trying to figure out how she got in without opening the door…

Fantasy probably features more misbegotten dialogue than any other genre of fiction. Maybe the hard-boiled private eye comes a close second. Or a fantasy about a hard-boiled private eye.

How Not to Write Dialogue

Suddenly the idea of a fantasy about a hard-boiled private eye is starting to look pretty good to me. I’ll betcha Anthony Boucher or Henry Kuttner could’ve done it standing on his head. “The dame came through my office door in a rustle of that fancy crinoline stuff like you see in the movies. Real class. But she didn’t open the door to come on…”

I mean, as long as we’re going to be writing bad fiction, it might as well be funny!

10 comments on “‘How Not to Write Dialogue’ (2014)

  1. One of my big gripes in “cozy” mysteries of the past ten years or so is that sometimes the characters use contractions and sometimes don’t — and in most of the cases where they don’t, no human being in my memory has NOT used contractions. To be sure, there’s a place for using contractions inconsistently — case in point: my previous sentence, in which I used the contraction “don’t” for a simple statement but avoided a contraction (“has not”) in order to stress a contradiction, contrast, or refusal. The characters in the mysteries I’m talking about just go back and forth arbitrarily. Of course, part of the problem lies with the copy editors, who should know better and should correct the inconsistencies and solecisms.

    (Gee, I haven’t been able to use the word “solecism” in a long time)

    1. “Solipsistic”? Let’s see … I think I last used it when I was teaching, and I retired in 2009. 🙂 Probably the same for “solecism,” although I think I may have used that one as recently as 2012 or so.

    2. I don’t think I’ve ever used “orgulity,” not even when I was teaching Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene” and dealing with Orgoglio in Book I. 😉

  2. Like that is good advice, Lee, really awesome. I bet I can knock the ball out of the park with that one, or maybe push the envelope to where my story will become a Hollywood blockbuster. But for real, you would think with all the people sending their stories to publishers the editors could find some pearls of great price.

    1. Inside info: Editors at big publishing houses are not what they used to be. A lot of them are only there because they’ll work cheap.

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