Discon nected Dialogue: Part One



The temptation for new writers to answer every question raised in a fictional dialogue with a perfect, clever, instant response is very strong. Chuck demonstrates how this flattens the energy of a scene and what to do instead.

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Phil Sykora's picture
Phil Sykora from Stow, OH is reading Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck October 8, 2014 - 6:06am

Bret, I think what's happening in that exchange is that a character responds with an "A Response" but the character who started the conversation answers back with a "B response," kind of answering the sub-text that asks: "Do you think I'm funny/witty?"

In other words, I think it's a different way of saying the same thing.  Or a different way of bending the rules to accomplish the same effect.

Pretty Spry for a Dead Guy's picture
Pretty Spry for... June 5, 2012 - 12:54pm

I don't think wittiness necessarily stops the energy.

For instance:
"How's the weather?"
"Smart ass."
"Sorry. Didn't know I was your meterologist."
"I was just trying to be polite."
"See how that turned out?"

I could go on.  In this example, tension is actually created by the witty remark where there was none before. Maybe people are more talkative where I'm from, but they'll find something to say even if the question's answered. Did Speaker A really want to know the weather? Did Chuck's father really want to know if those presents were fragile? People talk just to talk all the time. Only having such dialogue would make for boring fiction, but it's realistic to depict some people as witty, others as having their moments, etc.

In a similar vein, the terseness with which the second speaker answers the first in the initial dog example could be used to show emotional distance between the characters. Perhaps the wife walks away wondering why her husband refuses to connect with her.