To contract or not to


By ‘contract’ I mean shortening a word, not a contract you sign. I hadn’t thought of the identical spelling until I wrote the blog title just now.

So I have finished editing my novella for the first time. As I went through it I decided to have no contractions in the narration but to keep them, of course, in the dialogue, unless there was a particularly well spoken character. Now I’m not so sure. The narrator is the main character. He’s American, in the late ’50s, mixing most of the time with lowlifes and the cops. Surely then he would think in contractions? Would he really be thinking in full sentences with perfectly formed words?

I think the reason I edited the contractions out of the narration was that I was worried the story might come across as being too too informal, too aping of the ‘hard boiled’ PI form which is so copied and in some areas so derided. I didn’t want the story to become too much like one man’s long moan about life and its trials and tribulations. But will it sound too formal now, and at odds with the dialogue?

I had a glance through a compilation of Raymond Candler stories and was quite surprised to see he used a mix in his narration, some words like ‘had not’ contracted to ‘hadn’t’ and others not. It doesn’t seemed to have harmed his sales. I think I will have to read through my novella again and make up my mind one way or the other.



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