Friday, January 18, 2013

It’s That Men From Mars Thing Again.
Description and Dialogue...
Who Uses It Best?

This story, I believe, was written by a man, at least the author’s name suggests it was. However, with the use of pen names back then, it could have easily been written by woman. Who knows? Tell me what do you think?

By Berton Braley
The Munsey
September, 1911

“FUNNY, isn’t it, how all this fluffy stuff gets the men?” said David.               

“Does it?” Ella asked.

Ella was not at all fluffy. Her hair was a soft brown, with a coppery sheen, but it was straight and severely simple in its arrangement. Her gowns were severely plain, her features severely regular, her temperament severely intellectual. Her eyes, however, rather belied all this severity. They were very bright, and there was an impish little gleam in them.

“I should say it does!” David asseverated. “Put an ordinary man up against a pretty little thing with cuddlesome ways and beseeching brown eyes; and if she lets a stray lock of hair brush his face, or her hand linger in his, or if she looks up at him out of wondering and apparently adoring eyes, or waxes enthusiastic over his bigness and strength or cleverness — why, he forgets that she can’t cook, forgets that she, can’t run a house, can’t talk sensibly, can’t do anything worth while. He simply falls for the fluffy stuff, and there you are. I never could understand how a little powder and rouge and hair-dressing and kittenishness can make a grown man act like a silly child!”

“Yet the kittenish girls get a good time out of life, and seem to make men just as happy as the wiser ones. In fact, the wiser girls mostly stay single,” said Ella.

“That’s because most men are romantic nincompoops,” David growled. “They make marriage a matter of sentiment instead of sane choice, and they never learn any better.”

Ella gazed thoughtfully  out of the window. David gazed thoughtfully at Ella. She was a thoroughbred, he knew — a true, able, and noble woman, fit to be any good man’s mate, and just the sort of girl he should marry. He and Ella hadn’t any nonsense about them. They would certainly hit it off together.

Yet he didn’t propose. His mind approved and every consideration urged, but something seemed to hold him back. He could think of no one whom he liked and admired more; but though he had come tonight determined to ask her, he hesitated.

“David,” said Ella suddenly, “when you were a little kiddo, did your mother ever kiss a scratch on your hand and make it well?”

David nodded,

“Great imagination I had in those days,” he said. “All rot, of course!”

Ella made no direct answer. She continued looking out of the window.

“David,” she went on, after a little pause, “do you know that it’s three years since I went to a dance? — and I went with you the last time. That’s a long while ago, David.”

“Yes, but think of the real solid talking and reading and thinking we’ve done together in those three years,” said David. “That’s better than whirling around with feather-brained boys and fluffy girls who don’t know anything.”

Ella smiled.

“Then I sha’n’t see you at the dance tomorrow night?” she said. “You’d rather be reading a good book. I, however, am compelled to go with a young man who dances divinely, they tell me, and who rather prefers fluffiness. I shall have a perfectly horrid and dull time, of course, but I shall try to get through it.”

“Young Howard?” queried David.

“Yes,” said Ella.

“Light-weight, but not a bad sort. Hope you enjoy yourself.” David took his hat. “By the way,” he added casually, “it may be that I shall look in during the evening. Sister says I’ve got to go. Suppose you save the eleventh and twelfth for me?”

“All right,” Ella agreed.

David gasped with amazement and admiration. He wouldn’t have known Ella. He had been hovering about ever since the fifth dance, but he hadn’t been able to get a glimpse of her in the crowd. Now he had located her, in the midst of a group of young men. Her hair was put up in some shimmery, soft, new way; her lips were scarlet; her cheeks flushed pink; her shoulders looked 1ike marble.

David caught her eye for a second; she smiled brilliantly at him, then swiftly turned to her laughing group of admirers. David felt as if a door had been slammed in his face. He repaired to the smoking-room, where he sulked.

After interminable years his dance arrived. Ella, in an indescribable gown of filmy something or other, stood up as if ready to dance. David shook his head.

“No,” he said. “Let’s talk.”

“I’d rather dance,” said Ella. “It’s a sin to waste music like this, and the floor is wonderful!”

She took two or three graceful steps.

“But I don’t dance, you know,” David protested.

“You used to,” said Ella; “and I believe that you’ve forgotten how. Come on!”

His arm slipped about her waist, and they swung into the waltz.

“Why, it’s the old ‘Dream of Joy,’” said David; “the best waltz of all! Do you remember, we danced it three years ago, and you said you’d rather waltz with me than eat — and then you ate twenty-four olives at supper!”

“All fluff and frivol, David. I wonder you remember!”

“Remember! I remember every word you said that night. I remember—“

Ella chuckled.

“How many,” she asked, “of our serious and valuable talks in the three years since do you recall word for word?”

David grinned sheepishly.

“Not one,” he admitted.

Ella smiled again, a very wise and tender smile, but said nothing. When the music stopped, she looked up demurely at David and cooed:

“David, you’re just as perfect a dancer as ever! I had almost forgotten how big and strong you are, and how you used to plow through the line — and how you used to sail through the jam of dancers on hop nights.”

She lifted her eyes adoringly to his. David beamed, and led Ella out into the moonlight.

“How is it,” he asked, “that you are so radiant to-night? Your cheeks are so red—“

”Rouge!” said Ella.

“Your lips so brilliant—“


“Your hair so soft and shimmery and elusively fragrant—“


“And your gown—“

“Frivol and fluff !” said Ella. “You hate ‘em. You don’t see why men fall for them.”

She shot him a warm, sweet, shy glance that was half challenge and all lure. Her shoulder touched his, a wisp of her hair blew across his face. She sighed deeply, and in some magic way seemed to snuggle closer to him without really moving at all. David’s arm closed about her waist.

“Ella,” he tensely whispered, “you’re a witch! You’re a positive darling, and you’re driving me distracted. When are you going to marry me?”

“Marriage should be a matter of sane choice, not of sentiment,” quoted Ella, nevertheless settling comfortably back against that encircling arm. “David,” she went on, “you’re a fraud! I’ve been sane and sensible for three years, and you just wouldn’t propose. You’ve talked philosophy and politics and common sense — but you never talked marriage until to-night. And to-night you fell for the ‘frivol and fluff’ that they all fall for; and I’m glad of it, because it proves you’re a regular man!”

“Anyhow,” said David, “ I love you, frivol and fluff and all. This would probably be a poor world without it. Ouch!”

For he had scratched himself slightly on the queer bracelet which Ella wore.

“Oh, did it hurt?” Ella asked solicitously.

She examined the tiny scratch gravely. Then she bent over and kissed it.

“That makes it all well,” said David; “but I’ve got an awful scratch on my lip!”


Cute story, huh? Would you agree that it could have been written by a man? Did you notice the short choppy dialogue, quick description, and almost male-like humor? I especially enjoyed the first three paragraphs after the scene break where David watches Ella at the dance. It’s all in his view point. Did you notice how David described Ella’s gown? Quick, to the point and definitely male.

What I also liked about this 1911 story over most of the 1800s stories I’ve shared so far is that in Frivol and Fluff we have been given more character-driven dialogue and less author intrusion.

Yes, I know, the author still tends to tell the story but Berton Braley made use of a lot of vivid, active, picture-like words which helped me feel like I was actually there instead of being told a bedtime story. I kind of call this a Show-telling way of writing. It’s a lot like we see today in novels. For me, it works.

However there was one aspect of the author’s writing which didn’t work for me. It was the overuse of dialogue tags, especially with using the word ‘said’. After a while I wanted to say, “Enough, all ready, Mr. Braley. There’s only two of  them talking. I think I can follow along without all the extra help, thank you very much.”

Come to think of it, even in today’s stories, the overuse of dialogue tags, tends to make me it done by...ahem...a Mars...or a Venus romance writer.

Until next time...Happy Writing!