Evolution of a Writing Style: Quotation Marks

Quotation marks

Quotation marks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy (Photo credit: alessio.sartore)

Sometimes on Xanga people would comment on how I don’t use quotation marks.  That is intentional.  It wasn’t until I read Cormac McCarthy that I realized how superfluous quotation marks are and that anyone who has mastered the basics of writing dialog can do without them.  McCarthy always writes in 3rd person, and it’s easier to do without them in 3rd.  It’s a little harder in 1st, which is what I use almost exclusively but in 1st it can be done.  As far as the reader is concerned it’s usually just a matter of getting used to it.

McCarthy doesnt stop there.  He omits apostrophes in common contractions that everyone knows such as dont, cant, wasnt, and so on.  He said he doesn’t like those little marks cluttering up the page.  I dont know about that but I do know it makes for a cleaner, more stark style of writing, which is nice if your style is minimalist like mine.

I took it even further.  In deciding to invent a style of writing for the internet I started using common internet acronyms such as IDK, WTF, IRL, TMI, and so on.  I used email style as a model for taking it further, the kind of careless writing people use when they’re in a hurry.  I used convenient misspellings such as “thru” for through, although I know how to spell.  And for another iconoclastic touch I dont capitalize “I” unless it comes at the start of the sentence.   In addition to writing in first person I wrote in the present tense, which gives an immediacy to writing that holds suspense very well.  I’d get comments such as, “I felt like I was right in that room.”

Sometimes after years of writing fiction you figure out how to do it right in a flash of inspiration.  The author of Bridges of Madison County had such a Eureka experience and went on to write more.  I’m not comparing myself to him but I understand what happens.  That summer I went on to finish an autobiographical novel and then the Dana series as well as Since Yesterday, Axel’s Travels, some others.  Suddenly, liberated from stylistic conventions I became prolific and wrote more than i’d have thought possible.

Not everyone likes this style of writing but it grows on you until you feel like why doesn’t everyone do it this way.  And any fiction writer who wants to try it will find it easier than it looks.  

Labor Day in Southern Indiana

Two Weeks Ago:

My car is parked outside the living room window.  I just happen to glance outside when I see this guy who looks to be a high school kid looking inside my car windows.  He never actually goes inside it but he is looking hard at my car, which is over 25 years old.  His back is to me.  This behavior is so over the top even for a kid that I am about to go out and say something when I decide not to because I want to see what he will do, how far he will go.  Finally he walks away but he sure was there a long time.  I’m glad I never went out to confront him for the vague possibility that it could have been a setup where his friends, hidden where I wouldnt see them, all jump me while he goes in my place and ransacks it.  I finally discard this as farfetched.

My ex tells me he was probably looking for loose change or cell phones, and there arent any in the car.  But if he were just a dumbass kid why not just see if the door were unlocked (it was unlocked ) and then go inside and ransack the car, since he had gone that far anyay?  That raised some troubling possibilities.

My ex tells me he was probably just a dumbass kid looking for loose change or cell phones.  But it keeps troubling me is why he never just opened the car door.

BTW I now always lock the car.  At my old place across town I never did because it wasnt necessary. But I do think he may be a school kid because I have never seen him on the street during school hours.

He always goes down the street to a park where half the town goes during the hottest part of the evening.  He is always talking on a cell phone and I consider another possibility: that he could be a minor league dope pusher that the cops let operate in return for being their snitch.  Now that actually makes sense.  Still another that makes sense is that he is actually an undercover cop.  That would explain why he didnt go into the car: unless he sees something in plain view before he opens the door it would be an unlawful search and any case they tried to hang on me would be summarily dismissed.  Any cop knows this.


I have been in Indianapolis with my ex all day and it’s almost seven.  I have told her about the little bastard and as she pulls up she says: Is that him?

Who?  I say.  Where?

Him!  She says, pointing.

I look at him for a moment and say, Yes!  That’s the little son of a bitch.

He could be just a retarded boy, she says.

I remind her that i spent most of my professional life working with retarded people and I never saw one who could walk like that.  Of course that doesnt mean there isnt one.

I think he’s a retarded boy, she says.

Bullshit!  He’s a police spy/snitch at least, and probably a police officer.

You’re wrong, she says.

Fine.  I’m wrong, I say, face palming.

But I know I’m not.


I realize that all that I hate about my new place is that first, it’s on the other side of town, of less than 10,000.  The crappy side.  The other is that this new place is right on the street.  My old place was set back off the road, had a carport, and was surrounded on three sides by a vacant lot.  I’m having to deal with things I havent for many, many years.  That’s the reason this new place is making me nuts.

Be safe this weekend, everybody.—–Troy 


Future Past

Bitterness, Gothic Despair

Steaming in the summer air

Choking from this room’s gaslight

That keeps away the viscous night


Brown fog of a winter dawn

Ground glass guards the winter lawn

From the withered loins of time

Out slides the evil of springtime


Where oh where’s my time machine?

Is it gone or just a dream?

U wanted the Cen19

When things are worse than they seem


Call it back, U rusty fool

The thing is nothing but a tool

Take it back to Future past

When all mankind’s extinct at last

Notes From the Wasteland

Late June.  The brutal, dangerous summer heat has not gotten here yet but it will July 1st, when I’ll have to move, schlepping heavy things from my old place and then another dozen trips across town with junk i can move in my own car.  I wont move out till July 4th.

After I sign the lease and get the keys my new landlord introduces me and my ex to my across the street neighbors.  We talk for a minute or two politely before we get in the car and leave.

After a couple of minutes my ex says, That old bat is a nark.  You know that, dont you?

It was pretty obvious, I say quietly.  And that old bastard she was sitting with too.  Her BF or whatever he is.  I guess they have nothing else to do but watch everything that happens on that street.

Then be a good boy, she says.

I’m always a good boy, I say.

She looks at me and laughs.  You don’t even know how, she says.

Then i’ll be a bad boy privately, i say.

If they saw your Che Guevara poster they’d bust you.

It’s going on my living room wall.  If somebody comes in and sees it and doesnt like it they can go fuck themselves.

You’re a menace, she says and smiles.  You and your smart mouth.


At this point I thought it was just those two old farts.  I sure didnt feel like I was being watched.

Now, only a month later i know I am.  I’ve heard people say they know they are being watched even if they can’t see it.  I never knew what they meant but I do now.  It’s an uncanny feeling that is really creepy.  And it’s not just those two across the street.

As i am writing this a cop car creeps along.  How many times has he done that in the last hour?

Notice I never said anything about conspiracies, or that people are plotting against me.  But I know I am being watched.  As a former Mental Health Professional I know that if I can just ask myself if this is all in my head or not I’m okay.  And my honest answer is that I don’t think it’s in my head.

Here comes Five O creeping along again.  Is he looking for somebody?

For the last four years I lived across town.  It never felt like this.  Nobody gave a shit.   I guess they were all about 100 years old and didn’t  much give a shit.  At this new place I sometimes need a late afternoon quart of beer but I have to put it in some kind of box.  Otherwise the neighbors will tell the landlord I’m a drunk.

Such is life in the People’s Republic of Paranoia.




The wind of death is closer here

A breeze, the loss of someone dear

All U think is all just lies

A misplaced coin and someone dies


A blackened moon where nothing lives

A pressure valve where something gives

U cant go back, it’s much too late

So hang yourself or sit and wait

Roswell 60: Valenti and Topolsky


The night is cold and colder and a fog moves with menace in the streets.  Malefic stirrings underfoot.  A foul breath rising visibly from pierced sewer grates.  Topolsky prowls the back alleys, fighting panic.  Homeless faces in the steam from the sewer vents.  Feral cats, bowbacked and starving.  Wet asphalt and gothic night terror.  From the shadows a sorry-looking, raggedy kid says, Smoke on the water!  As she passes.

Fuck you! She  hisses back at the scabrous leptosome.

This is all strange, they are so strange.  When you’re strange faces come out of the rain.  Faces look ugly when you’re alone.  This from Jim Morrison and the Doors.

Was she followed or not?  When she decides no one is watching she discretely breaks and enters the house of Sheriff Jim Valenti and waits for him.


When he enters he doesnt see her even though she is sitting in the shadows right in front of him.  When he sees her he flinches momentarily before he says, You left without saying goodbye, Ms. Topolsky.

She says nothing.  When she steps into the light Valenti says, U look awful.  RU okay?

She removes her hat and says, I will never be okay again.

RU here to tell me about it?

I’m here because they wont listen to me.

Who wont?

Max.  Liz.  None of them.

Then you’re finally admitting the FBI is investigating this case?

It’s much more than that, she says.

You look like you could use a drink, Suzanne.  Why dont we go…

No!  Everything stays a secret now.  I’ll never make it out of…

Make it out of what?

Did you really think you could kill Hubble without sending up a red flag?

What do you know about Hubble?  He demands.

He was a UFO nut.  They all get tracked.  He found out about Max and you killed him.  You’re protecting that kid, arent U?

Why dont you start at the beginning?

She says, When my cover was blown I was sent back to Washington.  That’s when I found out about the Special Unit.  Alien hunters.

In the FBI?

Yes.  I was the first agent to make contact with the subject.  I spent 4 weeks being debriefed by the Agent in Charge.  His name is Pierce.  And after what he did to me I’d hate to see how treated an enemy.  When it was over he told me I was theirs for life.  You never get out of that unit.

Sounds elite, he says.  So what’s the problem?

The problem is they kill people and no one can stop them.  And that is not why I joined the Bureau.

So the FBI thinks Max Evans is an alien?  Why dont they swoop in and pick him up?

Why havent U?  She says.  No solid proof?  Fear of how he might retaliate?  He’s not the only one, you know.

This is getting far-fetched, he says.

Hey!  She says angrily.  Your name is on that list and you wouldnt be the first person he’s destroyed over this.  I’m trying to save your life but if you dont want my help…She trails off and makes for the door.

Hey wait!  He says.  Maybe we can get you some help.

U cant!  It’s too late for that.  And if you dont believe me why dont you ask your friend Agent Stevens what happened to him when he tried to get out?  Pierce made Stevens an example to the rest of us.  Please get them to trust me.  All of them.  It’s the only way.

And with that she vanishes out the door and into a suddenly lily scented night.

Roswell 59 Three and Three


What’s wrong?  I say to Liz.

I talked to Topolsky last night.

You met her?  I say in agitation.

I thought I was meeting U.

She tricked U?

Stop it, Max.

What?  Dont U see what she’s doing?

Max, I really think we should just trust her.

She’s not trying to help us.  Stay away from her.

It’s not just about you guys anymore.  We should have a say in it.  Because all six of us are on that list.

What list?



Later.  All six of us meet beneath an overpass outside town.  A scene lifted from Breaking Bad.

She wore a wig, huh?

Alex, she was so scared.  I’ve never seen anybody so scared.

Have you looked at me lately?  Alex says.

Dont U get it?  Michael cries.  This is exactly what she wants.  She’s spooked you.  And now she’s waiting 4U2 deliver the three of us to the FBI.  They want three little gray aliens in a cell to experiment on.  U know that!

It’s not 3 and 3 anymore, Michael, Liz says.  It’s all six.  We need to start making our decisions that way.

There’s no decision 2B made, Izzie says.  We trust no 1.  Never have, never will.  Do U think U can even begin to imagine what it’s like to be one of us?

Izzie, I say helplessly, Liz does have a point…

There’s a hunter out there, Izzie says.  Who do you think he’ll be coming for first?

There is no hunter out there, Michael says.  This is insane.  Cant you smell a setup or am I the only one thinking straight?

Let’s put it to a vote, Maria says.  Do we see Topolsky again or not?

I say we meet and see what she has to say, Alex says.

I say we stay away, Izzie says.

I agree with Isabel, I say.

You know my vote, Michael says.

I think we need to meet her, Liz says.

I think we should stay away, Maria says.  If you feel that strongly about it who are we to tell you what to do?

Why did U vote not to see her?  Michael says.

I just want this to be over, Maria says.

They know where we all live, I say.  They couldve gotten us all any time they wanted but they havent.  It’s a war of nerves but IDK what kind of long game they’re playing.  Whatever you do, do not panic and leave town.  It might be the excuse they’re looking for.  That’s why I voted no.  I think she’s trying to spook us.  It’s Topolsky’s move now.


Roswell 58: Topolsky

At the Crashdown Maria is setting a basin of dirty dishes on a counter top when she sees a guy with a bouquet of flowers motioning to her.

I got a delivery for one of the waitresses, he says.

Really?  Maria says, gushing in spite of herself.  Is it for me?

Parker, the delivery man says.  Liz Parker.

Maria says, Oh I’ll take those, as she grabs at the flowers.

You’re Liz Parker?  He says skeptically.

What’s the matter?  Maria says.  Dont I look like a girl who gets flowers?

Your name tag says Maria.

Give me the flowers, she says as she extracts them from his grasp.  And no tip for you!

He gives her a poisonous look before he slouches away.

Hey, Gidget, Maria says to Liz.  U got some flowers from Moon Doggy.

Maria sets the flowers down and Liz starts to open the envelope to see the card inside but Maria is looking rudely over her shoulder.

Dont, Maria, Liz laughs.

Liz sees something written on the card but it isnt  Max’s handwriting.  It’s printed in block capitals and says: Meet me at Chow’s in an hour.  Come alone.

Liz is troubled about this.  She can see Max sending her flowers but not quite this way.  The writing is definitely not his.  Maybe for some reason the florist wrote on the card for Max.  And she is uneasy because of the state of flux everything is in right now.  But this sounds urgent.  And there’s the admonition to come alone.  Somehow that is not reassuring.

He wants me to meet him at Chow’s in an hour, Liz tells Maria.  Chow’s is where we had our first date.  Max just gets more wonderful every day!

Mr. Wonderful, Maria sighs hatefully under her breath.


In an hour Liz is at Chow’s, dressed to the nines.

Hello, Liz says to the girl.  She guides Liz to a seat with a great view of an aquarium full of tropical fish.  And she has a view of the front door so she can see Mr. Wonderful himself come in.

Before Liz can see her, Suzanne Topolsky sits down heavily on the seat facing her.  Topolsky’s blonde hair is tucked beneath a curly Bob Dylan wig.  Topolsky’s eyes are hooded and bloodshot, her demeanor that of a trapped, cornered animal.  Half resigned and half truculent, like someone about to be executed.  She continues to scan the room like they taught her at Quantico.  Her conspiratorial aspect wavering on the psychotic.

Dont look around, Topolsky says.  Smile like you’re happy to see me.  Stay focused, Liz.  It’s the only way we can all make it out of this alive.

Why RU following me?  Liz says.

You can ask questions all night or U can listen 2 me.  Maybe you’ll save all our lives.  You’re smart.  And I know U can keep a secret.

In spite of herself Topolsky moves her head casually and scans the room.  She says, I dont think they know I’m here.

Who is they, Liz says angrily.

The people I work for.

Yeah, yeah.  The FBI.

It’s more complicated than that, Topolsky says in a whisper.  Her face is a study in unfettered agitation.  She turns around and sees a man in a suit with sunglasses on even though it’s dark.

I’ve learned, Liz.  I have seen things that no one would believe.  I can hardly believe them myself.

Where have you been all this time?  Liz demands.

In hell.  And I’ve come up and out to warn U.  There is a hunter.  An alien hunter.  He’s part of a special branch within the FBI.  Even the president is need-to-know.  U understand what I’m saying?  This hunter answers 2 no one.  He’s different from the others.  He’s smarter, more obsessed, more relentless.  And he will stop at nothing to get what he is looking for.

Who or what is he looking for?

Max Evans.  And anyone the hunter thinks is involved with him.  All six of your names are on that list.  You have to believe me, Liz!

I believe U, Liz says softly.

Topolsky looks back at the man in the suit and sunglasses and sees that two more thugs have joined him.

We cant be seen together, Liz!  U understand?  Tomorrow night meet me in the alley in back of the theater downtown.  Be there at eight o’clock.  I’ve got to go.

And with that Topolsky rises and hurries toward the kitchen so she can leave by the back door and get away from the men.