Who’s talking?

I don’t have anything profound to share today (then again, when do I ever say anything profound?). I think tomorrow or whenever next I blog I will talk about rereading books, and revisiting books with a new perspective. But for now, I will just say that unattributed dialogue is a serious pain.

I’m currently reading Plato’s Republic for a class. No, I’m not the kind of person who reads Plato for fun. I’m writing novels about princesses, for goodness’ sakes! I’m much more likely to pick up a book with a dragon on the cover.

But I digress.

The Republic is actually a fairly engaging book, as “serious” books go, and I find myself getting rather drawn in to the dialogue. Then I discover that I’ve read four pages and no longer have any idea who’s speaking. The book is almost exclusively dialogue, with few attributions and no quotation marks. It gets rather difficult at time to keep track of who is saying what.

I find myself with a new appreciation for dialogue tags and quotation marks and all those wonderful conventions of our time. Yes, grammar and punctuation rules require effort to learn. But they pay off a thousandfold when your reader can effortlessly understand your meaning, without having to backtrack to remember who is speaking.

P.S. An aside: This is actually the basis for a very important plot point in one of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels (I forget which one…the second, maybe?) I’m not going to spoil it, but just say that I highly recommend the series to any avid reader or writer. They are engaging, witty, clever, and contain many inside jokes for those of a literary bent.

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