Why H P Lovecraft Couldn’t Write Dialog

Stephen King - Writing Is SeductionLovecraft was, by all acccounts, both snobbish and painfully shy (a galloping racist as well, his stories full of sinister Africans and the sort of scheming Jews my Uncle Oren always worried about after four or five beers), the kind of writer who maintains a voluminous correspondence but gets along poorly with others in person — were he alive today, he’d likely exist most vibrantly in various internet chatrooms. Dialogue is a skill best learned by people who enjoy talking and listening to others — particularly listening, picking up the accents, rhythms, dialect, and slang of various groups. Loners such as Lovecraft often write it badly, or with the care of someone who is composing in a language other than his or her native tongue.

—Stephen King
On Writing

5 thoughts on “Why H P Lovecraft Couldn’t Write Dialog

    • There’s different kinds. Wilde and Thomas Love Peacock wrote terrific dialogue that was basically just characters giving fun speeches; it read/sounded nothing like how most humans talk. (Although it may have been how those two talked!) Woody Allen’s dialogue is very funny when it sticks to privileged people; when he tries to write working characters his fear/loathing is horrid.

      So I imagine for you it’d be a matter of determining where your strengths were.

    • I suppose it depends upon your form of shyness. It offers lots of opportunities to listen. I think King overstates. But I thought it was an interesting observation.

  1. Of course, Lovecraft’s stories are 80+ years old (published March 1922 to December 1936. Couple that w/ his deliberate use of old-fashioned archaic language, and one would accept and even expect a degree of stilted dialogue. Far more than would be acceptable in a modern story.

    • Sure, but Poe’s dialog is excellent. All writers have their strengths and weaknesses. I’m not sure if it’s in the quote, but King notes that Lovecraft seemed to be aware that he wasn’t good at dialog. Then again, maybe he wasn’t good at writing dialog because he wasn’t much interested in it. King isn’t an oracle. And he’s making a broader point about how one would go about becoming a good dialog writer.

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