Writing Dialogue

There’s this odd word gnomon in James Joyce’s story “The Sisters” which is used in the mathematical manner: it’s a way of knowing a physical void by what is visible. That returns to that notion of understanding ourselves as creatures of change: not full and certainly not complete.

A writer once pointed out to me the gnomon is a way of writing dialogue, too. Truest dialogue always reflects the sub-story of what we’re not saying. We live in worlds of stories we create: the spoken story we share, and then all those winding sub-stories beneath.

Isn’t that partly what makes us so infuriating to each other at times, and, conversely, also so intoxicatingly fascinating? Behold, then, the strawberries, the nasturtiums, sun rising through a scrim of fog, the Milky Way arching through the black of a moonless night – this exquisite world we inhabit – and us, with our endless stories…. essence of our humanity.

 If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.

–Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

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first berries from our garden

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