Why I Don't Write Novels
“I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.” Steven Wright
I love novels. I love fiction. I have ideas. However, I have never been able to write convincing dialogue. It always comes out sounding like mine…stilted, contrived, nervous and halting. All my life, I wanted to be a writer. I could see the stories in my head but the interaction between characters eludes me. So, I have been relegated to the world of narrative. I can describe what’s going on in front of the character as long as that character is me looking at the world I have created.
I feel bad about it. “I coulda been a contender” but for the voices of interlopers in my universes. I could never talk to girls either and luckily for me, I met my wife at a loud party. By the time she figured out I was devoid of witty repartee, we were married. I can read conversation and tell the difference between good and bad dialogue. All of mine always fell into the bad category. It is hard to pull off a fictional storytelling conversation when knowing nods are at the heart of them.
One of the things I have considered was taking on a co-writer. Once, upon a time, I had this idea for a science fiction novel. I had character biographies, a plot, a storyline and visuals out the wazoo. The working title was “Insignia”. It was the story of an object headed for Earth, spotted by the Hubble Telescope. It was large enough to do some serious damage on impact and the story had to do with the Hubble taking a picture of a symbol painted on it. The government hid it from the public but amateur astronomers were sounding the alarms.
Anyway, it gets closer and just before it collides with the Earth, it changes course, whips around the planet and basically eats the International Space Station and its occupants. The book was to have three storylines interwoven. One was the intrigue surrounding the cover up. One was the astronauts, now stranded inside the object and the other was an astronaut who was taking a spacewalk at the time of the incident. This was before the movie “Gravity” came out. I did my research into the space station and even tried to contact a local astronaut for realistic information about how an astronaut stranded outside of pieces of the space station might get back inside to await rescue. I even had character names.
I tried to contact a local screenwriter about helping me with the dialogue, but I think she thought I was a stalker.
I have a couple of these started but unrealized novels floating around here someplace. I did write a couple of short stories, but they were single character or narratives as well. I think that writers who can write convincing dialogue can probably talk to girls too. I have always wanted to write screenplays as well. However, you can see my dilemma. What my frustration has done has made me very critical of dialogue when I read it. In my first and only creative writing class, the teacher told us to both read and dissect other author’s dialogue and to just sit and listen to people talk…another stalker alert. I find myself overthinking the dialogue in the fiction I read. This actually interferes somewhat with the enjoyment of the flow of the story.
I have to give other writers credit for making the effort. To me, dialogue is king and convincing dialogue is masterful. I wish I could write it like I would like to read it. I also recognize that I wouldn’t want to read it like I would say it. Stammering out words related to the weather is usually the best I can do in person. In a business setting I do all right but, that’s a different kind of speaking. I don’t understand the weather. Fortunately, I married well, and my wife can talk to anyone…endlessly. It’s a gift.
Phillip J Hubbell is a writer, project manager and job seeker living in the American Midwest. It will be cold here soon.