‘“Yes” and “No” are Less Certain than You Think…’

Beautiful in fiction.

‘You can use the same words to mean different things. This ambiguity adds layers to otherwise simple dialogue.

It creates a depth, with varying degrees of uncertainty – which creates a kind of tension that draws the reader’s attention.

Here’s a passage from For Whom the Bell Tolls

“How many people have you ever loved?”


“Not even me?”

“Yes, you.”

“How many others really?”


“How many have you—how do you say it?—stayed with?”


“You’re lying to me.”


Maria’s (the first speaker’s) feelings are obvious by her questions, but Robert’s feelings…Does he actually love her? How much? Is he lying? Are these lies for good, or for ill?’

Source: Hemingway’s 7 Tricks to Immersive Dialogue | P. S. Hoffman


His reward

“I cannot accept this, I will not be made happy by this. He rose to his feet suddenly, startling Lydia, who whimpered as he set her back down on the chair. Things were not as they should be—not remotely. He was a law-and-order man (Eddie often reminded himself ironically), and too many laws had been broken here. He withdrew, holding himself apart, and in swerving away from happiness, he reaped his reward: a lash of pain and solitude.”

(from Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan)

Start reading it for free: http://a.co/g5Lo86O [not an affiliate link – just a link]