Be Clever … But Not Too Clever

 (Monte Dutton sketch)
(Monte Dutton sketch)

My father was a wonderful storyteller. I was probably an adult before I ever questioned their truthfulness. It seemed like my dad was either alone, or with a long-forgotten pal, when the miraculous events in question occurred.

They were almost funny. Among my friends, they became my famous, as did my dad.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

One of my favorite movies as a boy was The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, starring Paul Newman and directed by John Huston. The tag line on the movie poster, at the bottom, read, “If this story ain’t true … it shoulda been.”

Now I write stories that aren’t true but should’ve been.

At some point, while reading various works of fiction, it struck me that a lot of dialogue wasn’t true but should’ve been, but in a different context.

Sometimes characters are too clever. Their dialogue isn’t what they’d actually say. It’s what they thought would be clever later. How many times have you had some disagreement at a rental-car counter, or had trouble rebooking a flight, or showed up at a doctor’s office, only to find out the service scheduled wasn’t available for some arcane reason?

You stomp away, and, your mind ablaze, you think of something you wish you’d told that so-and-so.

Writers of fiction have the opportunity to do this. It’s just not often a good thing.

Writing fiction involves inventing a story and populating it with characters that the authors knows and is able to inhabit. It’s important to think the way they think and talk the way they talk, and not the way they wished they’d thought and talked later.

Some days are just mostly macaroni. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Some days are just mostly macaroni. (Monte Dutton sketch)

It’s hard to make a story interesting without at least one character who is clever. I recommend at least a quartet. If you write in first person, how can you write through the character of an oaf without being yourself clever?

This is one of the reasons I haven’t yet written a novel in first person, but I’m not against it.

The current project, Cowboys Come Home, has required me to cultivate some new skills. It’s in third person, but I’ve felt a need to write in character a bit in the narrative as well as the dialogue. The story is in 1940s Texas, after the end of World War II. I’ve got to be there, too. Being there has made this project more fun than I thought it would be.

 

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. I’m expecting to be given a release date soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time.

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. The Audacity of Dope was published in 2011, The Intangibles in 2013. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

My nonfiction, much of which involves sports, is on display here: http://montedutton.com/

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.

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