Christopher David DiCicco writes minimalist stories. Work in Superstition Review, Bartleby Snopes, Litro, WhiskeyPaper, Literary Orphans, The Cossack, Psychopomp, and Five Quarterly, and other fine publications. Visit www.cddicicco.com for more published work.
I recently read a draft of a colleague’s story. I was thoroughly enjoying the tension, the mystery, the literary craft of the tale – until, a third of the way into the story, the focal character began to speak.
He was an old man from an English country area, and the writer had him using the idiomatic expressions of his class and county in a manner she later assured me was authentic: her great-uncles had spoken exactly that way.
Not only did the character speak entirely dialect expressions, he also said exactly what one would expect him to say in his situation – his dialogue was made up of clichés. A fiercely independent old codger, he was refusing to go into a nursing home, and constantly made statements like ‘There’s life in me old bones yet’. My colleague reminded me that people do speak in clichés quite a lot: they’re the expressions that spring to mind because we’ve heard them so often. The dialogue, she insisted, was ‘realistic’. She’s probably right.
The problem is that, as a reader, I was jarred out of the ‘reality’ of the story the moment I began to read this character’s dialogue. My suspension of disbelief was shattered;