Tuesday, September 23, 2008

6-Day Power Outage (and Dialogue)

Last week was really interesting: six days without electricity. I'm really thankful that it was not hot and muggy, as is usually the situation in southwestern Ohio at this time of year. The power was knocked out by the extremely power wind storm that hit the Midwest in the aftermath of hurricane Ike. (I've not experienced winds like this since I was in the middle of an F5 tornado in 1967.)

My Acer laptop was good for about 90 minutes, fully charged. So I spent the evenings (and most of the days) reading, mostly by candlight. Burning two 79-cent candles for four hours is just a bit cheaper than batteries, but I used both candles and battery-powered flashlights at different times. (Tip: When you're forced to use candles, set up a white backdrop behind them, to reflect light onto your reading material.)
During the reading marathon, I finished off two of Elizabeth George's longer books: With No One as Witness and What Came Before He Shot Her. (The latter is in sequel to the former, written to show what led up to the main event in the former. Excellent idea.) Both good stories, but I was bothered by some of George's technique, perhaps because I was paying closer attention with nothing else going on while I was reading, and no real breaks. What bothered me was her dialogue technique: she uses 'way too much dialogue out of quotes and summary dialogue (as opposed to direct quotes, with quotation marks).
Examples (not quoted from the book):
"Do you have a candle?" Megan asked.
He pulled one out of his coat pocket and informed her that he had a few. Even though he gave her one, he noted that he didn't really want to give the taper to her.
She asked, do you have a candle?
A few, he replied. Producing one from his coat pocket, he added I don't really want to give you this, but I will.
Or, as one of her chracters might say, "Summat like that." She doesn't do this in her earlier work, which reads better because of it. It's nice to experiment, but guess I'm old-fashioned because as a reader and editor I'd rather see more conventional dialogue technique. But I do recommend both books.
Check back tomorrow for more adventures without electricity, and another commentary on writing technique.
Copyright © 2008, Michael A. Banks

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