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Myth Weaver
Went looking back but did not find a thread dedicated to this...What is your sense of using contractions in your prose?

Use it everywhere...narrative portions and dialog, or dialog only, or narrative only?


If the story gets threaded through 3rd person limited, I may use contractions in the narrative in keeping with the POV character's use and idiolect. If it's 1st person, very likely. If it's 3rd omniscient, only where it feels clunky to utter each word completely.


toujours gai, archie
It really depends on the tone I'm trying to set. I write historical fiction, so I'm keenly aware of this. In general, I keep the narrator's voice more formal, so no contractions (I do slip up. Or down. Sometimes I slip down). Were I writing something like modern urban fantasy, the rules would be different.

By having the narrator's voice fall somewhere in the vicinity of neutral, this leaves me free to have some characters use contractions and others not, which helps make each distinctive.


Myth Weaver
For myself, while I use contraction more frequently in forum posts, I dont really use them in the real world. And dont use them in my formal prose. For the narration, I avoid them. In dialog, only if the character is well versed in the language spoken (many are not speaking their native language).

For me, it is about the tone, and the sound the story makes when I am reading it in my head. Contractions in the narrative sounds too personable to me, and disrupts the epic tone I am wanting to achieve.

But, the editor tagged me and said, use contractions. And I am like---they dont fit. The Voice of the story is not one of two people chatting in a room, its is one with a rhythm and cadence. It does not speak in an informal way.

So...I said...Okay, I will use contractions if Tolkien did. But you know what? He used them in dialog only.

I don't wish to over-rule the editor. They said so for a reason. But...I am questioning their fantasy chops. And particularly, their epic fantasy chops. So, I am not sure if I will do this or not. I almost feel, I would rather reword the whole sentence than simply use a contraction to improve the flow. Could be I am all on my own with that, but I think probably not. In other stories I might use them more, but the tone in those would be different.


toujours gai, archie
I would come back to the editor on this. I would lay out my own reasoning for using contractions as I did, then ask why the editor is recommending this particular change. If you still disagree, say that. Most editors will respect the author's choice, even when they think it's a poor choice.

And I would ask further about tone. Sometimes--not always, but sometimes--the editor says to change a thing but that one thing really plays into a larger criticism. Check to see if there isn't something more in play here about tone.

Mad Swede

Contractions are a very useful tool in writing.

I don't know if you've ever listened closely to a not-quite-fluent foreigner try to speak your own language. If you have you'll know that often they don't use contractions very much and that their speech is somehow a little formal and stilted. When writing dialogue I use the lack of contractions and a slightly formal style as a way of showing that a character is from somewhere other than the place where they are now.

When it comes to the narrative it depends a bit on writing style. I use contractions in those situations where the events are being seen by a character and the character is reacting mentally in some way. Then it becomes almost stream of conciousness writing and in that situation, contractions are fine. If I have my character reading some formal notice, or seeing someone being charged by the sheriff or whatever then the prose is more formal. In short, my use of contractions in narrative depends on what I am trying to convey.
Where a sense of place is incredibly important, ie. in The Grapes of Wrath, or Trainspotting, the reader gets the accent strongly through the dialogue, but in a fantasy setting I think that it can become overused if the writer isn’t careful.

It might be one character at only one point in the book who speaks in a strong accent or dialect that can come through the dialogue, otherwise making the dialogue understandable and universal to a greater or lesser extent is probably the best bet so the reader can concentrate on what is probably already a fantastical read. Just my opinion as a reader, but so far I have applied this general rule in my own writing, but I can see how easily it can become almost a black hole.


Went looking back but did not find a thread dedicated to this...What is your sense of using contractions in your prose?

Use it everywhere...narrative portions and dialog, or dialog only, or narrative only?
I'd usen't as much if it didn't sound so smoothn't without'em. So I'll use'em whenever it's smoothn't.

L.L. Maurizi

I tend to avoid contractions in the narration, but I use them in dialogue.
There are exceptions though. If I feel that a sentence or a passage is too verbose, or it reads exceedingly unnaturally or heavy, I will use contractions in the narration too, albeit sporadically.

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Depends on the POV we're writing from. Some use contractions, others are more formal. We even have at least one character who doesn't even swear.

I know, right?

We write very close 3rd person limited, so the narrative changes, and this change is mostly reflected in the tone of the inner monologue, which is basically just the narrative with a slightly fancier name. Slightly. I'm not terribly creative. :D

We actually have a couple of passages that give a good example of this change in tone. They're the blurbs for our next two offerings, and when they came out it honestly surprised me when the second character popped up and totally hijacked things.


All the Devils

The Demon Lord Arariel whispered in Winter’s ear. “The hilarious part is that, even when he kills you, it won’t help him. He missed one. There is another Mulcahy by blood out there in the world. This is all for nothing.”

But demons lie…

Winter's family continues to grow, both literally and figuratively.

The Agones, the ancient preternatural gladiatorial games, are coming to Seattle… and so is Winter Mulcahy at the request of one of the world's most powerful and ancient vampires. Her lover Alerich Ashimar is also set to compete, and she wants to be there for him. To be successful, she will need to navigate deadly politics, deadlier sports, pregnancy, family secrets, nagging addiction, and the tidal waters of love. But this time, she won't be alone.

And that could be the biggest risk of all.


When the Cat's Away

So… there was a polar bear roaming the forest that draped across the shoulders of Mount Tamarawas. Sure, no problem. Nine-feet tall and liked to eat people. They could have it taken care of before the others got home from Seattle on Monday and totally look cool doing it. Even with the baby.

Except it wasn't a polar bear.