Quote #10: Terry Pratchett’s travelling teachers

The Wee Free Men: (Discworld Novel 30)

The recent passing of Terry Pratchett prompted me to pick up The Wee Free Men from my bookshelf, where it’d been for a while, and give it a go. It was the first thing I read by Pratchett, and I must say I found much to love in it. Here’s a paragraph on the caravans of teachers that roam the book’s strange land:

They went from village to village delivering short lessons on many subjects. They kept apart from the other travelers and were quite mysterious in their ragged robes and strange square hats. They used long words, like corrugated iron. They lived rough lives, surviving on what food they could earn from giving lessons to anyone who would listen. When no one would listen, they lived on baked hedgehog. They went to sleep under the stars, which the math teachers would count, the astronomy teachers would measure, and the literature teachers would name. The geography teachers got lost in the woods and fell into bear traps.

Quote #9: Colin Barrett on dialogue

Colin Barrett, interviewed by the Paris Review (full text here) talks about what makes good dialogue:

I look at dialogue spatially, in terms of its placement on the page, the way it breaks up the otherwise solid blocks of text. The reader, in the corner of their eye, can see it coming, can anticipate a shift in rhythm and pacing, the speed at which their eye will move laterally and vertically along the page. In terms of making dialogue “good,” there has to be a rhythm, some sort of cadence. Readers will buy ornate or otiose phrasing if it’s biding by the flow in which the speaker talks. As a writer, don’t be stingy. Give the characters good lines, give them the best. Every so often you come across writers who give the omniscient narrator or diegetic voice these rich powers of articulation, but the characters all talk like dummies.