The elision of a proper name or place with a series of dashes.
"At the beginning of July, during an extremely hot spell, towards evening, a young man left the closet he rented from tenants in S------y Lane, walked out into the street, and slowly, as if indecisively, headed for the K-----n Bridge."
--The first sentence of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
This one has always puzzled me. If a real place, why not name it? If a fictional one, why not give it a fake name? The best answer I have for this little convention is that it signals the line between fact and fiction. To give the name of a real place pulls the narrative toward fact, imposing restraints that the author might not want (for example, does Dostoevsky want us to be thinking of real St. Petersburg locations with such specificity? How does that change our experience of the story).
Conversely, creating fictional places pushes the story away from reality. The psychological realism of Crime and Punishment, and our visceral reaction to it, might be broken if we know that such and such a place doesn't really exist, reminding us, by proxy, that neither do these characters or actions.
In a way, the Dostoevsky Dash is a kind of Schrodinger's Cat for fiction: it allows the novel to be both fact and fiction at the same time.
All entries in The Dictionary of Fictional Techniques are original to The Reading Ape, unless otherwise cited. (This means that they aren’t ‘real words,’ so don’t use them in your freshman comp essay)
Previous entries in The Dictionary of Fictional Techniques:
The Generalized Categorical
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