Word Placement

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I found the page layout and punctuation style of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen interesting.

It was difficult in the beginning. The dashes indicate dialogue but there were beats within paragraphs of dialogue, as indicated in the photo above.

Written with typical punctuation, first full paragraph in the photo would read:

“Having a kid like me was a nightmare for her,” I tell Gustave. Gustave’s an expert on nightmares because his whole life’s one. “Every day, she was thinking about all the different kinds of danger, and how to keep me safe.”

It took a while but I got into the groove after a couple of chapters.

I think the choice of the dash might be due to Jensen’s vision because I have read other British novels with what I would consider more typical punctuation. The dashes mute the dialogue somehow. Maybe because I’m so used to quotation marks, anything else feels quieter. This works well as the book begins with Louis who we learn is in a coma. His voice is internal.

Once we get to the chapters with Dr. Dannachet, changing the visual style would be too jarring. And the muted feel to the dialogue also serves his voice even though he is a more active character in the world.

Just goes to show you that writing is more than putting words on the page. It also entails how the words are placed on the page.

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