Writing dialogue without quotation marks?

QuestionMarkWoman1922

I just finished the novel Benediction by Kent Haruf. This was only the second book that I’ve read from the modern era that did not use quotes to set off dialogue. It wasn’t totally foreign to me but, to be honest, I wasn’t aware that there were a number of authors doing this.

The only other book that I’ve read, written in modern times, that used this quoteless dialogue was Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which I loved. It was a work of speculative fiction so I assumed that her lack of quotes to delineate dialogue was part of her intention to create a certain atmosphere. I accepted it and really enjoyed the story. I thought the lack of quotes gave it a very internal feeling.

I thought the lack of quotation marks in Benediction was difficult to follow at first but I was soon okay with it.  Again, I thought it gave the novel an internal feeling or perhaps even a timeless feel.  It was as if I were looking at events that happened through frosted glass.

I wondered why someone would choose not to use quote marks to delineate dialogue. I did a quick search online that led me to an article from Lionel Shriver on the Wall Street Journal site where I learned that a number of modern authors, including James Frey, Kent Heruf and Cormac McCarthy, are popularizing the trend.

Shriver contends that “By putting the onus on the reader to determine which lines are spoken and which not, the quoteless fad feeds the widespread conviction that popular fiction is fun while literature is arduous.”

Here’s one of my prime problems with it. I have no problem reading dialect and dialogue without quotation marks. I’m a very fast reader and can adapt. However, I know people who simply cannot read dialect, such as Mark Twain. Their brains simply don’t translate the written word into sound in their head. I believe that writing is about communicating. Anything that gets between the reader and the story inhibits that communication. Now, I know that not every book is for every reader but, as writers, shouldn’t we be trying to communicate in the most clear manner possible?

I also came upon a an interview Cormac McCarthy had done with Oprah some years ago in which he says that the intent is to make the reading easier, not harder. “If you write properly you shouldn’t have to punctuate.”

He does concede that “You really have to be aware that there are no quotation marks to guide people and write in such a way that it is not confusing who is speaking.”

I think that is a rather large challenge and whether writers who write without quotation marks live up to it is another matter altogether.

I took this issue to my writer’s group last night. One of my group contended that a good story will not be brought down by poor grammar or punctuation. Another member said she wouldn’t be able to get past the first few pages. Yet another threw something on the floor in disgust and said that it was sheer laziness on the author’s part.

I think I will personally continue to use quotation marks in my writing, but I won’t reject a book just because the author does not use them.

What do you think? Were you aware of modern authors writing books without quotation marks to set the dialogue apart? Do you enjoy it? Do you do it yourself? I’d love to hear some more perspectives.

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The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron to Unleash Your Creativity!

Thomas Cole

I’m very excited. On Thursday we had the first meeting of a new group at my library that are devoting themselves to doing the 12 week course in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron with Mark Bryan. I was planning on 12 people but two extra showed up . . . and two more plan to join us yet!

We’re calling it Creativity Unleashed!

There are some people who have done this before, like myself, who are really excited about the possibilities. I did this ten years ago and it helped me get writing every single day, feel more balanced by releasing my anxieties on the page daily and curb that inner censor.

There are also people who have never done it but are creatively inclined and are looking forward to it. Then there are some people who don’t consider themselves creative but they’re willing to give it a chance. I hope it will pleasantly surprise them. I believe we are creating all the time, from a simple list . . .  to a meal . . .  to love letters.

My biggest hope for this workshop is that it will help me work through those last two chapters of Biomalware. Julia says, in the book, that you can’t keep putting down the same complaints in your morning pages without some kind of solutions presenting themselves.

Of course, finding time for three pages of long hand writing every morning can be difficult. She suggests setting your alarm for a half hour early. That sounds good right now.  However, that night, my daughter had a bad night and needed mommy at Midnight, 2 am, 4 am and she got up for the day at 6:55 am. I didn’t get to my morning pages until 3 in the afternoon.  (By then, I had a lot to say.)

The idea, however, is to get your worries and anxieties down on the page in the morning so you can be more productive the rest of the day.  I have no doubt there will be days I manage that and days I don’t. I will take what I can get.

There’s another reason I love doing workshops like this. Teaching someone else something they don’t know makes me feel competent when other areas of my life are making me feel incompetent. It’s very helpful. I sometimes forget I really have something to offer. It’s a good thing to get out of that head space.

I highly recommend this book to anyone out there, and I do mean anyone. You don’t have to be an artist. You could do the workshop on your own or  find some people to do it with you!

Have you ever used The Artist’s Way as a workshop for yourself? Alone or in a group?  How did it help you? Or did it?

Finding Your Best Time To Write

ManageYourDayToDay

 

I’ve been pondering how to find time to write, and my best time to write. I guess we all struggle with that. For me, the demands of being a mom with a full-time job and a long commute make it hard to get any time in, let alone my best time.

For me, part of it is just staying in that creative part of my brain. I frequently refer to this as story brain, keeping the story I’m working uppermost in my brain as I go throughout the day, focused on the story even though I’m doing other things.

Sometimes I worry that doing that makes me less present in my life but I can clearly remembering sitting in my camp chair outside this summer while my daughter played on her swing set and I wrote in my journal, both recording the moment and coming up with a piece of the short story I was writing. So maybe it isn’t staying in story brain but just creative mode. It definitely feels different from normal, going about the routine of the day, brain.

Another part is scheduling. My husband gave me a book for Christmas that he heard about on the Chiot’s Run organic blog, Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind. It’s a collection of essays on the topic, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei. I’ve started reading a bit of it every day. Just the simple admonishment to do the thing that is most important first in your day instead of trying to get all the other little things out of the way first, is so obvious and yet counter to my typical thinking.

I can definitely say that I’m actually a morning person. Oh, not that I want to get up in the morning, but when I do get up early, in the neighborhood of six o’clock, I find myself feeling better and being so much more productive. When my daughter was going to sleep at midnight and getting up at 9 am with her father, I couldn’t do that. I was lucky to get myself to work on time. I love having my husband on first shift because it means I can get to bed earlier and get up at 6 am. I know it won’t last but I’m loving it and plan to make the most of it.

My challenge then is to make time for the morning pages (doing The Artist’s Way with a workshop group) and then write creatively. I can get up and do the morning pages then write in my head on the way to work and just use the voice recorder to catch anything I’ve worked through enough in my head to bother recording. That’s my best plan so far. Otherwise, I’m just going to have to write at night, which is fine but it’s definitely not my best time to write or my most creative. I’ll just have to edit more.

What are your challenges? How do you get your writing in? What’s your best time to write?