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.  


The Lizard

I’m talking to a lizard

Who dont know what she is

She thinks that she’s a wizard

Because of her relatives

The Earth is flat she says to me

And it’s gonna end next week

You’ll be struck dead over by that tree

There goes your lucky streak

Her friends come walking over

Here’s the Hunchback of Notre Dame

Einstein runs for cover

They all think he’s to blame

Now they’re busy hanging Darwin

Cain and Abel pull the rope

It’s Ezra Pound’s last bargain

T. S. Eliot’s smoking dope

They take away my codeine

And tell me i’m gonna hang

For being an old dope fiend

Before the church bells rang

I just did get away in time

With the help of Stagger Lee

Got my ticket and i’m line

The Titanic sails at three


Hummocks and swales grow sere and brown

Walking home when the sun’s gone down

Provenanced in ashes and grief

The heart recedes like an autumn leaf


Everything is new tomorrow

But tomorrow is yesterday

Contained there an ashen glow

Of a bang that happened long ago


Now there’s snow on the roof and the chimney’s cold

And the bones feel the logic of growing old

But my shoes are laced and the treadmill’s on

And the night’s resolution is already gone


In the long summer morning

I will come for you

So that you will see in the silvered light

What you thought forever gone

Is it sunlight is it shadow?

Or just dappled light through the bracken?

You will see a face

A baby’s face

It will be my face

It will be

The face of death

I am addressing you

And you will understand

This House

Snakes in the attic

Rats down below

My mind’s erratic

When the insects show


They get on my face

They get in my eyes

They want this place

To tell its lies


The walls are sweating

The draperies alive

This house is not forgetting

That here i cant survive


I wake up in a trash can

Cant live here any more

And i stumble across the grass

On my way to the liquor store


Some kind of war’s coming

There’s blood on the tracks

As my mind is going

And not coming back


Too old to remember,

Too tired to care

In an institution

But IDK where


These walls are talking

Screaming at me

You’d better start walking

When they cannot see


Outside is a river

Swollen with rain

God’s an indian giver

So flush me down the drain


The Earth is Flat in Indiana

Not too long ago I was talking to a friend of mine and .somehow we got onto the subject of science.  After a little pause he said to me that he’d found somebody who believed the Earth was flat.

You must mean a creationist who believes the Earth is 5,000 years old, i say.

No!  He says emphatically.  This guy believes the Earth is flat!

Was he just pulling your appendage?

No, he says, shaking his head.  This guy believes it because the world looks flat so it must be flat.  I just didnt know what to say to that.

Was he psychotic?

Not as far as I know.

Then dont engage him, I say.  The more attention he gets the worse he’ll get.

I promptly forgot about it until weeks later when someone else told me he knew a guy in his home town who seemed otherwise normal except he was convinced the world was flat, and there was a government conspiracy to cover it up.  Here are two people who dont know each other who have independently surmised that the Earth is flat.  I dont know if this a sign of the times or a commentary on how poor the education in this state is or what.  I just dont know.

Sometimes I listen to conversations going on behind me in the checkout line.  After hearing one I decided to never listen again.  This one may not seem as egregious as the flat earth but it is bad enough.

One of these hayseeds behind me said he wouldnt drink milk from the stores because he was worried it was spoiled and he might get food poisoning.  So he decided he was only going to drink milk right out of the cow because it was safer.  After all, he went on, there is “too much government inspection,” which, according to him, is the real problem.

Just in case nobody knows it, when milk comes out of the cow it is at its most dangerous.  Tuberculosis, Listeriosis, Salmonella, E. Coli, just to name a few.  That’s why they pasteurize it.  Heating milk below boiling for about half an hour kills all the bugs just waiting to maybe kill you.  Such things I learned in grade school so I guess I’m being naive about what adults should know.  At least here in what they call Kentuckiana.

And I dont know what else to say.  Sometimes I have to get on here and bitch and blow off steam when these things get to me.

Good Day.

Sunday in Scottsburg

There is a real criminal element in this town.  Not like the mob.  More like the hard core dopers in Breaking Bad.  Because this is a small town instead of a city there’s not the violence that was in that show and I have never felt at all threatened since I moved here, so it doesnt matter to me.  I first became aware of this after the drug bust in February of last year and when I listen to people talking in the stores around here I notice everybody has a daughter or son or parent or spouse that’s in the joint for dope charges.  I dont know why this town and not one a county over, but this place is what it is.

A few weeks back someone asked me when I was going to write another Dana story because he thought Dana was “epic.”  I didnt think anyone used that word in that sense anymore but I thanked him for the compliment.  And I told him there wouldnt be another Dana story because I was done with that bitch.

So of course a few days later an idea for a Dana story insisted itself into my mind, one that will never be written because of technical problems with it and because I dont feel up to it.  But the idea was that some time after Erik was forced into being transgendered by his bitchwife Dana, he finally gives up and leaves her.  A few years later he finds out he has breast cancer from the estrogens he had to take.  After a double mastectomy it spreads to his lungs and he only has a few weeks.  He doesnt want to die alone so he comes home to Dana and asks if he can come back and die at home.  Will she let him or not?  That’s the hook.

The problems with writing this are formidable.  I have many readers here at WordPress that didnt know me at Xanga, where all the Dana stories were written.  It would require flashbacks and I hate flashbacks because I dont like writing about events already written about and telling the story of what led him back to die with Dana that havent been written about.  Besides, it slows the story down.

It’s intriguing though.  All the stories have been about Dana.  Flamboyant, outrageous, larger than life, crazy as a shithouse rat.  Erik has always been just a narrator that talks about what it’s like to live with her.  And how he cant live without her.  But this one is about Erik.  Erik, Living and Dying, I would call it.  But I feel too sick to write anything as chalenging as that.

But I’ll feel better tomorrow.  That’s when I can get my pain medicine refilled.  When I take some life really doesnt feel so bad.  But Dana is in the past and will stay there.