Let’s Talk with Terry Odell

When Can You Ignore Convention? by Terry Odell

Authors are readers. I belong to a book club and their choices normally force me out of my comfort zone because my reading tastes lean to mysteries of all kinds. (I consider romantic suspense in the broad scope of mystery.) However, the ladies of Book Club tend to come up with a much wider variety of genres and topics, and I’m usually game to try them. Usually.

I confess, I didn’t read Hamilton when that was the monthly pick—one thing I’ve learned is that I’m not under any kind of obligation to finish a book just because I started it—and I read the first couple of pages of that one and decided I had better things to do with my time.

The next month’s pick was a memoir, and I found it interesting that I was one of the few who took into account the author’s writing over the plot. After all, she didn’t make the story up, but she did have an obligation to write it well. She had a co-author and you’d think between the two authors and the editor, it would have been stronger.

The most recent club selection was Literary Fiction, another genre I tend to avoid. Although the book (Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles) is highly acclaimed, I found the “beautiful” prose to be distracting. And, as is often the case in literary fiction, the conflict and stakes don’t matter the way they do in commercial, or genre fiction. Not a page turner, in other words.

But what really got me was the way the author (and his editor and publisher, obviously) decided there was no need to follow traditional conventions of dialogue.

I won’t go into detail, but the rules say when someone’s speaking, you put that stuff inside of quotation marks. For example, “Let’s go shopping,” Mary said.

And if Mary keeps talking, you use quotes again: “Let’s go shopping,” Mary said. “There’s a sale at Macy’s.”

This book however, uses dashes—Dashes—to signify speech, and if a character continues to talk, there’s not another dash to clue the reader in. And in the narrative, the author also uses dashes, which have nothing to do with dialogue. You can see what I mean in the image for this post. (click to enlarge)

It’s driving me nuts.

What about you? Do you care about authors changing the rules?

Have you read any books that violated convention? Did it bother you?

<> And while you’re here, remember to enter our Gift Card Giveaway which runs October 1-18, 2018. Click HERE! <>