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.  


My Favorite Science Fiction Movies

  1.   2001   (1968)
  2.   Interstellar  (2014
  3.   Omega Man   (1971)
  4.    Arrival   ( 2016)
  5.    Contact   (1997)
  6.    Jurassic Park   (1995)
  7.    The Butterfly Effect   (2004)
  8.    AI   (2001)
  9.    Solaris   (1968)  This 1968 version is the original movie with subtitles.  A remake was released with George Clooney and Natascha McElhone in 2002.  The later version is watchable but nowhere near as good as the original 1968 film.
  10.    Alien   (1979)


I was staying out of trouble

But you rewrote the rules

And rising from the rubble

Were your necessary fools


Youre on my mind as I walk this crooked road

Hiding from seekers of what i have to hide

I cant climb the wall with this heavy load

And I slip and fall back on my side


You’re in my heart

But here’s a moat I cant cross

And I’ll never get another start

So I’ll swallow yet another loss


U were tall, your hair black as midnight

When we kissed in brown, baroque autumn highlights

As the dead leaves blew in the cold

When we were only eight years old


Geese fly south so they wont die

My heart flies east and so will I

Though the highway’s a slurry of sand and dirty snow

My place is always with you so i gotta go


The snow’s coming down in Highlandtown

Ice skaters weave and juke and then fall down

In Dundalk the tree’s a hundred feet high

And tomorrow I have to leave you again.   WHY?

The Dark and the Park

Staying here or leaving is the hardest part
Living or dying some night here in bed
Staying safe in the walls of the heart
Or working everything in my head

Lying awake in the dark
The moon’s gaze mocks me
Scary as nighttime in the park
But here in this room i cannot be

So i get dressed in this room
Cussing the things in the dark
Though I might be doomed
I’m gonna walk in the park

Ode to the Beast

Here’s the Scrotum of the opera
Disguised as Jean Valjean
The boxcar he came outta
Spews X Rays on the lawn

The power of Christ compels him
To keep an eye on the Holy Land
In case things there go sour
Things you’d never understand

He says there’s no future
Just a soiled and ruptured past
The present is unsure
And we aren’t meant to last

That drowsy beast is slouching
But the Scrotum’s in the gym
So the beast turns left at Chunking
Away from Bethlehem

Author’s note: For the inspiration for the last verse I am indebted to WB Yeats’ 1919 poem “The Second Coming.”

Country Song

Each day I drive by the house where she used to be
It’s empty, cold and dead inside like me
The window’s bolted tight, a spider web’s on the door
As the dreary summer rain begins to pour

Darlin, you sure fucked me up bad when you left me
I know i cant love a memory the rest of my life
But you see Darlin
My life ended when you walked out that door
So I guess I’ll get my guitar
And write a song called You Broke my Heart so Fuck You

She Aint coming back
And my whole world is black
Aint nobody here
But just me drinkin’ beer

Heavy pedal steel ending