‘“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

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

        1. Oh – well, it was some time ago that I read it but The Garden of Eden certainly made a lasting impression on me. Both in terms of the craft with language / words and the emotion and idea of it. In fact, maybe I need to go and re-read that myself 🙂

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