Tuesday, August 13, 2013


I'll confess, I'm a dialogue fan. I think that may be one of the reasons I love Joss Whedon's _______ (fill in the blank, Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Avengers, Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog...) is that each of his characters' dialogue sounds like that character.  It would be hard to interchange a Buffy line with a Spike.  From catty to sweet, from snarky to  funny...he's got it all.  As a writer, one of my favorite parts of writing is the dialogue and the bonus is that I get to add the little internal bits, which I think can really enhance the flow.  

Take this scene from Steamed: A Maid in LA Mystery.  Poor Quincy's just
accidentally cleaned a murder scene and is about to be questioned by the cops...actually by one specific cop:

<<“What’s your name?” I asked. “I don’t like referring to you as Detective Parker. It reminds me that you want to send me up the river. Or is it down the river?”

“I don’t want to send you in any direction on any river. To be perfectly honest, I want to finish this interview, clear you, then get as far away from you as I can.”

“Yeah, men tend to have that reaction to me.” He hadn’t told me his name, and I wasn’t about to ask again.

I had my pride.

We drove a few minutes in silence.

I jumped when he said, “It’s Caleb. You can call me Cal.”

“Cal. That’s nice,” I said.

It was a good solid name. The name of someone you could count on.

“You can call me Quincy,” I added.

“I’d planned to.”

That was sort of rude, but I didn’t comment on his lack of manners. Instead, I asked the question that had been burning away at my brain. “Hey, Cal, do you know if California has the death penalty?”

“What?” he asked. He took his eyes off the road and glanced at me.

“Watch the road,” I scolded. I didn’t need a traffic accident on top of everything else that had happened today.

“I mean,” I said, when he’d turned his attention back to the road, “I just want to know if you convict me for murdering Mr. Banning, am I facing life in prison, or death row? I already know that if I go to jail I’ll end up tattooed like Uncle Bill. I’m thinking a unicorn...a permanent statement of my innocence. But I’m not sure a unicorn tattoo would age well. What do you think?”

“Listen, lady—”

“Quincy. You were going to call me Quincy, remember?”

“You are not going to jail, Quincy. You are not going on death row. And you are not getting a tattoo, unicorn or a skull and cross-bones. You’re going for pasta. My buddy makes the best in LA. You look like crap. I’m going to feed you and then you’re going to tell me everything you can remember about Banning’s place. Then I’m taking you home and hopefully that will be the last you hear from me.”

“But about the death penalty?” I pressed.

“Just sit there and be quiet will you?”

“First you want me to talk, then you want me to shut up. You need to make up your mind.”

He didn’t respond to that. He just made this strangled, growling sound.

“Do men have PMS? If so, I think you’ve got it. I recognize the symptoms. Short tempered, surly. You have those two nailed.”

I haven't written anything in first person for a long time, but I love the intimacy of it. I love that in addition to the dialogue, she adds her own point of view to each conversation.  Quincy has really become a three-dimensional person.  Someone I can imagine having coffee with!

So do you have any writers, tv, movie or books, whose dialogue really works for you?  



Pat Cochran said...

Dialogue is important to me. If it
doesn't flow well, I'll finish the
book, but I may not read that author
again. Enjoyed the example you sha-
red with us!

Pat C.

HollyJacobs said...

Wow, there was a major glitch. I couldn't post on this when it went up, but got on today! Just wanted to say, thanks Pat. I'm glad the blog made sense to you and that you liked the example!