Sunday, April 20, 2014


Last night I watched the short after-show feature with the cast of "Doc Martin" and was struck by how inarticulate the actors were when they did not have a script to read from. Even Caroline Catz, the splendid British actress who plays Louisa Glasson, emitted a hail of "likes" and "you knows" and "ums" in her banal and quite forgettable responses to questions from the interviewer.

But why should we expect actors to be any better than us ordinary folks at unscripted remarks? We don't speak in shapely sentences and paragraphs, either. Our sentiments always emerge lumpy and rumpled, like unmade beds of the mind.

Every writer of fiction faces the dilemma: Do we render human speech as it actually is in all its messiness, or must we nudge and polish it into readable form?

We need some of the former to set off speakers from one another, to give them individuality, but a little of that goes a long, long way. Too much of the latter makes them sound cookie-cutter indistinguishable.

Writing dialogue isn't easy.


  1. I certainly agree with your comments, Henry. When I took public speaking in the military, they kept an "uh" count on all of our presentations. It became a habit that I have a tendency to be aware of how many times a speaker says uh during the course of a speech. For that, and other reasons, there are some politicians that I just cannot stand to listen to.

    How are you, by the way. Retirement appears to agree with you.

    Larry Crovo

  2. Um, what, like, good to hear from you, Larry.

    Retirement's the best job I ever had.