On Dialogic Consistency In Fiction

If, in your fiction writing, you can describe something in but a single word, sentence or paragraph, but choose instead to write in excess of the requisite amount for the task-to-hand, pause to consider precisely why. There are, sometimes, good reasons for writing in excess of the amount for the task-to-hand, but if due consideration of the reason(s) for the length of one’s writing is not paid, one places oneself in danger of waxing unduly wordy and this, in turn, can entail a whole host of additional problems (such as the inducement of bordem to the reader through repition, given that the more you describe a single, discrete thing, the more likely you are to repeat yourself and at a certain point this becomes superfluous; for instance, there are only so many ways to describe the roundness of a ball and, generally speaking, a limited need to do so).

One example of such a exception would be what I term dialogic consistency, by which I mean: writing in keeping with the verbal style of a particular character (such as a loquacious individual). The principal of dialogic consistency can best be described by an illustration; let us turn our attention to the cover image, which contains two figures, from left to right: a chic woman and a suave man, respectively. Let us call them Stacy and Sven and let us further flesh out the characters by attributing to Stacy a extremely loquacious, easily-distracted and gossipy turn and to Sven, let us attribute the faculties of precision and focus in combination with an extreme stoicism. In this example, when writing both of these characters in conversation, from the above descriptions alone, one would write Stacy in a far more wordy and talkative way (because Sven is by nature, reserved).

The best test of a writer’s dialogic consistency can be found in whether or not the reader can differentiate characters in conversation by their dialogue alone (without the writer telling the reader who is speaking, either directly or indirectly). Let us use Stacy and Sven to illustrate.

“Oh, hey, hey, come here – I almost forgot to tell you. Kelly is pregnant. I know right. Totally out of the blue. But Joey doesn’t know so… don’t tell him or anything. Ok?”

“My lips are sealed.”

“Ok, good, so anyways… Why do you look so glum?”

“I don’t like keeping secrets.”

Now from this brisk exchange alone, after some comparative study, we must determine whether or not the most average of readers would be able to pick out which speaker is Stacy and which is Sven. As you likely were able to tell, the first speaker is Stacy and the second is Sven; this process will, of course, be made easier on less discerning readers in a lengthier text where the speakers are referred to (at least once) before speaking, in some variation of the form: Stacy, whirled around around the corner, squealing with glee, “Oh, hey, hey… etc”.

The Respect Demand, Or, How To Refute Yourself Without Realizing It For The Sake of Appearing Non-Partisan

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Consider this most common of political responses.

“I don’t agree with your argument, but I respect your opinion.”

Scarcely has there been a more popular and simultaneously ridiculous statement made in the whole history of modern American discourse than this one. Yet, it is one that you, whoever and wherever you are, have doubtless heard a thousand times over. It is a tempering tactic utilized primarily by political Centrists (or those who are aping as such), and may also be heard a great deal by the acolytes of individuals who proclaim themselves to be “Freethinkers,” or, “Rationalists” (which usually do not use the word to denote the philosophical school). But it is wholly wrongheaded, given some contingencies, for if the opinion which one respects is inexorably tied to the argument that one disagrees with, and one does not respect the argument then by parsimony, one cannot, also, respect the opinion. If, however, the opinion is suitably disconnected from the aforementioned argument than the equation swiftly changes.

That is to say, if [the argument] is not equal [congruent] to R [your respect/admiration] but IS equal to O [the opinion informing A] and A = O then so R MUST also = A. And yet it fundamentally cannot because, though A = O, R cannot equal A, and thus one reaches a inescapable logical impasse. The equation is self-refuting.

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There are also other linguistic formulations very similar to the aforementioned such as, “I respect your opinion but I disagree.” This presents a slightly different problem and thus a slightly different solution but the core of the issue is still quite the same which is that in the effort to appear polite, one dons a mask of fawning adoration and pretends of the man or woman who stands in starkest opposition before him as if they were some esteemed colleague when in reality nothing of the sort could possibly be any further from the truth. If one disagree wholeheartedly with a position then one clearly has no respect for it and if that same position informs a suitably portion of the personality of the person who is holding it then that same person is also, not worthy of respect. What people mean, if they were being truly honest with themselves, is that they do not respect opinions they disagree with but rather that they respect the rights of others to have them. This too is a vexed question, for “rights” in any objective sense do not exist. All rights are merely those with the ability to crush you restraining themselves and their like cohorts from doing so. Accepting this, one should have no respect for rights, either, but rather, one should have respect for the powerful whom are cognizantly self restrained.