Sunday, June 3, 2012


I hope my patient reader forgives my rather long silence on this blog. I won't bore with excuses or reasons, only that we have passed many milestones between the last time this blog was updated and now; although I am not home yet, my child is officially an adult and no longer a school going day scholar, an adjustment we haven't yet digested, a milestone greater than can be imagined.

However, what drives me to this space, to break through the internal torpor that inevitably accompanies the whirlwind of my child's bildungsroman, is the story.

My friend once said that my stories don't have dialogue. I told her that that was because dialogue exhausts me. I feel I must explain a little; maybe you, my reader, might suggest something?

I confess I have been taking the easy way out when I write my short stories, concentrating on plot and setting, even when the plot is character-driven. It is so much easier to describe, to sketch images, let gestures, moments, flashes of recognition speak, rather than trying to have the characters open their mouths.

After all, one can't just have the character spout any words! The character comes from a specific place, geographical, historical, social, and is subject to the spice that flavors that place; hence what she says must reflect both, her topography as well as her place in it. So as the writer, one must create an entire world behind her: construct syntax, decide on diction choices, imply inflections, work in syllable-stress, tone.

That is not all. Dialogue implies two people, and a large part of that is what is not said, the many miscommunications, the cadence of unspoken language, the rhythm of thought process, and most important of all, the coherence, since the reader must not be lost in the exchange between two characters operating from different frames of reference.

To that end, I have been trying to observe the way that people speak to each other, especially two people. Rarely do we complete sentences; rarely do we compose; mostly, we try to just catch the moment, hook it with a thought, a turn of phrase, a change in syllable-stress, so that the hooked moment can lead to what comes next. And so I see a chain of half-spoken sentences, expletives, and a whole lot of unsaid language underlining what is said, making the dialogue heavy, gravid with meaning.

And all this time, the one thing we seek to do is to convince.

How can I, as the story teller, weave all this in? How can I hope to convince my unseen reader, when most of what convinces cannot, should not be deliberately designed or composed?

Am I the only one who feels this way?

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