Fillers

Because I am a writer, I listen more carefully than most to the way people talk so that when I write dialogue, it will sound genuine. The problem is that if I wrote dialogue the way people really talk, no one would read my work.

Americans I know load their speech with what I call fillers—words and phrases that add no meaning. The two most painfully obvious fillers are like and you know.

How often have I heard “So he’s like, you know, mad,” and “Well, you know, I’m, like, feeling threatened”? Like is also used in place of “said,” e.g., “So I’m like, ‘Why don’t you come in?’ and he’s like ‘Not now.’”

The irony is that my readers expect (and get) conversations that are clipped and economical. They are designed to push the storyline ahead and, often, to create tension that fillers would dispel.

I am often credited with creating realistic and believable stories. And, in fact, everything I write about in my fiction is events that really did happen. My work becomes fiction because I attribute the happenings to fictional characters rather than to myself or people I know.

Little do my readers know that I write dialogue far more direct and brief than any I encounter in real life. Amazing what writers can get away with.

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