Monday, September 28, 2009

Too much talk

I looked at "The Savage Detectives" again briefly on Sunday, having bought a paperback copy of the novel to accompany my now-damaged hardback copy. As far as I could determine, there are no direct quotes in the entire second section, which takes 80% of the book.

Some of the chapters in the current novel I'm writing, titled "Knock Yourself Out," are written like this, and they're my favorite chapters. You know what the great thing is about forbidding direct quotes? It eliminates the long talky sections that mar my writing. Anytime I have an extended dialogue scene, it tends to get away from me. I can hear the dialogue and individual lines are good, but when there's three or four pages of talking, of clever dialogue, everything gets lost. For example, in the chapter I just finished, a scene at a party devolves into three pages of dialog, with a descriptive paragraph every ten lines or so.

It's a mode of writing that's always easy to do and dull to read. The first novel I ever attempted, which I titled "Us and Them," had pages and pages of this talk. I had seen it done in other books and it didn't seem to grate, so I thought it was permissible to do. But it just doesn't fit with the kind of book I want to write now.

When I wrote "How They Scored," I was able to alternate between direct and indirect quotes. I would have a long passage of narration, with indirect quotes if necessary, and then a paragraph or two of direct quotation, and then go back to indirect quoting -- all in the same scene in which one character was telling a single, long anecdote. It worked pretty well, I thought. I haven't been able to achieve this yet with my current project, though as I say, the chapters where I have no direct quotations at all are fine..


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