Say What?

Is it just me, or have you noticed the distinct lack of quotation marks in flash fiction and short stories appearing across the web. I think it’s a trend.

What’s up with that?

In a non-scientific survey conducted by me randomly surfing small press literary sites, here’s what I found in a few minutes, three examples:

I decided you were infinite by Grace Hobbs at the Corium website. There are two nameless characters and nearly the entire story is dialogue, but no quotation marks in sight. (I like the story by the way.)

One Way to Rio by Kevin O’Cuinn at the Dogzplot site (fantastic example of well written flash, and certainly worth a read) is a conversation between a woman auditioning to be a lead singer and members of the band. No quotation marks of any kind.

Euchre by Kate Petersen over at elimae replaces quotation marks with dashes at the beginning of the sentence. Well, that’s just downright confusing.

So, do you use quotation marks in your stories, or some other method of conveying dialogue or spoken words? If you don’t use quotation marks, what’s the reasoning behind your choice?


14 Responses

  1. Oy, the further degradation of language.

    as in all lower case letters with no punctuation marks and spell chuck for the birds

    • I wonder if writers believe it’s a modern way of expressing dialogue? Since so many people are doing it, and I can easily find examples everywhere, it’s not random.

      Part of me thinks it’s because we’re producing so much content online, we’re online ALL the time anymore…email, twitter, facebook or whatever, maybe our written formalisms are dropping away one by one. I honestly don’t know.

  2. Laziness! I see it too.

    • Laziness, really?

      I don’t think it’s that, I feel like it’s a conscious choice. I don’t think the people I cited above are bad writers, just the opposite.

      I’m just trying to get more inside the head of these writers to understand the reasons behind the choice.

  3. I use quotation marks in my stories to show that someone else is saying these words. Then I provide attribution to the author of those words. If you don’t use them, the reader might become confused and think that you said them. It’d appear you are taking credit for someone else’s words.

    • Hi Judy, I’m a bit confused by the last few sentences in your comment. Are you talking about using Quotes, or are you talking about writing dialogue?

      A quote would be:

      “To be, or not to be, that is the question.” – Shakespeare

      Using quotation marks is: “I’d like a side order of french fries,” Judy said.

      Thanks for the comment all the same!

  4. This may be some new literary fad that I am not up to the minute and hip enough to be aware of. I agree it is a conscious choice. But I’ll continue to use quotation marks until my English style guide tells me the rules have changed.
    I have, however, eliminated a lot of “he said/she saids” from my dialogue sections. I first noticed it in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and now see it more and more. If done right, it’s a lot cleaner. Done wrong – again the confusion.

    • Hey Wren, you make an excellent point. Even when quotation marks are used, it is more modern to leave out “he said/she said” or “Henry said/Maureen said.”

      Your comment leads me to think about a slightly different point, which is how some short stories use too much dialogue. It’s something I saw on the slushpile, whole stories of just dialogue and nothing else. Balancing the amount of dialogue versus description is important, and then layer in what you said…when you have the right amount of dialogue and you leave out the “he/she said” it can make the reading experience more fluid, I think.

      Also I hadn’t mentioned it before, but writers are using other tricks to avoid dialogue. For example, if I wrote:

      Cindy explained when she got off the bus, her umbrella wouldn’t open. She got soaked in the rain, and ruined her party dress.

      It shows that Cindy explained something to another character, and it condenses what Cindy said, but it doesn’t show the commentary as actual dialogue. I think this is another writing trend.

      • Hmmm…that’s interesting. I’ll have to pay more attention to that in terms of literary writing. Personally, I really enjoy dialogue, although I agree the balance needs to be there. I like the personal, in someone’s head feel of dialogue.

        • After I wrote my comment above, I also realized it gets into “show vs. tell” too. When someone writes “Cindy explained…” blah blah, you’re moving into show mode. And that’s a balancing act too in a short story because you’ve got limited space and the action needs to keep moving.

          As always Wren, thanks for your thoughts!

  5. The Kate Petersen example has some fairly strong precedents, James Joyce chief among them. In Ulysses, dashes indicate dialogue.

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