Wednesday, February 8, 2012

An intro to character using only dialogue

Today is the second day of the I'm Hearing Voices blogfest. We are supposed to use only dialogue, but I couldn't figure out how to do that. So I hope mostly dialogue works. Anyway, here's my less than 250-word attempt at it:
“Sorry.  So, why does warm water freeze faster than cold?” Brianna asked him.
“It’s spread over a huge surface area; this causes it to experience intense evaporation which creates an endothermic chemical reaction.  Think rapid cooling that forces a bond with the existing surface area.”
She turned to the counter, “I’ll take one ‘Eggs Melissa’ and I’ll pay for whatever he’s having.”
“—oh, you don’t have to do that,” Jordan said.  “I’ve got money.”
“I know—I just want to.”
The clerk rolled his eyes.  “Want the Sunrise again, Jordan?”
He nodded yes.
Brianna passed over a $20 bill and while she waited for her change, she glanced over at him.  “Is that a good sandwich?”
“Yes. W-well…I’ve tasted it before and it’s delicious, but it really isn’t for me.  I buy one for my boyfriend so he’ll have something to eat when he wakes up.”
Brianna raised her left eyebrow.  “You—have—a—boyfriend?”
“Yes.”
She nodded her head in slow motion and muttered, “Awkward…” They stepped off to the side to wait for their orders which were being freshly prepared.  He thought he should have said something but was at a loss for words.  “So…,” she said, beginning again, “would you like to trade phone numbers with me?  Cornell is a gargantuan campus and it can be difficult to meet people when you’re on a busy schedule.  I thought maybe we could catch a snack sometime…you know…on the quad?”
I'm pretty sure I failed this exercise because I included non-dialogue tags to give me direction. But, without those, it just became talking heads. And I can't stand talking heads. But, I think you can tell a lot by the characters from the dialog which may have been the point. I have no idea actually.

51 comments:

  1. Yeah, suck it Pagel! Come on you can't have actions and stuff in the dialog. That's cheating! Disqualified!

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  2. Interesting exchange. It brought out unique qualities from both of the characters.

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  3. I liked this exchange, Michael, especially when Brianna said: "You--have--a--boyfriend?" Looks like someone got the wind knocked out of them. LOL

    Great job!

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  4. I enjoyed reading this. The dialogue was very natural. I also feel you portrayed much about the characters in a short piece.

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  5. Ooh I really liked it! I felt like I really learned a lot about the characters in such a short passage! Great job :)

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  6. I now am moving Grumpy up to the top of My Enemies List, even above people who claim they don't watch TV.

    I don't think it's cheating to use some nondialogue in a dialogue piece. But, then, I also wholeheartedly support lying, so welcome to the Dark Side, Michel Offutt, Sith Lord.

    As usual: A brilliant piece of writing that leaves me waiting with bated breath for the actual book. Of course, I haven't worked out in a while, so "bated breath" may just be "the effects of having eaten, for dinner last night, pizza with a side of pizza."

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  7. I think the diaglogue is great - and couldn't have been without the non-dialogue you added.

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  8. Very cool. Loved the 'awkward' line :)

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  9. This is engaging and very well written. And as far as 'tags', if its body language, it's dialogue. We speak through our actions as well as our words. I have action in mine as well. Excellent dialogue!

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  10. I like non-dialogue tags myself, not too many, but enough so that I can see where the characters are. This was perfect - imho :)

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  11. Nice that she still wanted digits after all the awkward.

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  12. Not sure what the exercise was, exactly, but I got a real sense of characters. Good stuff.

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  13. I prefer this to talking heads, anyways. :)

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  14. I love writing dialogue but I'd have a very hard time writing a scene that was nothing but dialogue between two characters. I think you did very well.

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  15. Interesting exchange. Was it the first time they'd met? It certainly seemed like it. It had an awkward quality, especially when Brianna asked Jordan had a boyfriend.

    Excellent stuff!

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  16. @Grumpy: "First" really isn't all that great on a small blog like mine but whatever. How rude of you to call out Pagel since you won his contest and he gave you free stuffs. Way to go ingrate.

    @Miranda: Thank you.

    @T.D.: Thank you.

    @Brinda: I was going for natural.

    @Jess: Really? Awesome. You made my day.

    @Briane: You really do love to see yourself talk in written form, don't you? Narcissist.

    @Morgan: :)

    @Tonja: I agree.

    @Kelley: haha

    @Dianne: I just can't do talking heads.

    @mshatch: me too.

    @Matthew: I know right!

    @faraway: The exercise is to introduce two characters using only dialogue.

    @Emily: Me too.

    @M.J.: Thank you.

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  17. you did great! and i only read the quotes. it gave me all the details i needed =)
    good dialog speaks for itself, ha!

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  18. I think you did a great job, enjoyed reading it, and I liked both characters.

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  19. Cheater!

    I ignored your dialogue tags and beats anyway. Wow, so she still wanted his number anyway.

    Either she wants to just be friends, or she's one of those girls that thinks she can "change" people.

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  20. I've read others with tags too, so your okay. ;)

    I'm a fellow campaigner in your group.

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  21. Writing dialogue only is really hard! I didn't quite manage it either lol, and I also dislike talking heads!

    You did a good job of showing off the characters' personalities though, I really enjoyed it!

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  22. The writing coach I'm working with keeps telling me I need more dialogue tags. I keep asking her if she's confused about who's talking. She says no, so what's the problem?

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  23. ooh i liked this!
    And i obviously cheated a bit by color coding mine. But it was my b-day and i was lazy.

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  24. Hi, this is Munir over here at Focus. I am not able to leave a comment as myself for some reason.

    Brianna sounds very skeptical and rude. How ever for slow reader like me just dialogue may not be enough.

    Thanks for the cheers for Giants. We needed some happiness and the business that the parade brought to the city. A lot of nearby counties go to NY City to do business, however small the business may be, Giants brought an extra buck for them when they came back victorius

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  25. Didn't fail at all Micheal. I love it. Those fun, awkward moments reveal so much. Great job.

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  26. I enjoyed it! I totally wanted to read on. :)

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  27. You did a good job... the tags were few and short... worked for me. I got a feel for the characters:)

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  28. I liked this dialogue exchange. The "You--have--a--boyfriend?" It felt natural with an unexpected twist. I actually prefer non dialouge tags. Good job.

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  29. I think Grumpy just goes around trying to get first comment on every blog. That's his goal in life.

    And I think Pagel isn't limited to the written word. He is, after all, a lawyer. He gets topaid to talk in front of people.

    That's good little bit of interaction there. I'm guessing you don't like Hemingway? He would go for pages without any sort of dialogue tags. I hated that crap.

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  30. I like that she wants to give him her phone number anyway at the end. It speaks volumes about her. It was an informative exchange. I like some action, etc ... with the words, too. I liked it.

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  31. I thought it was great and it made me want to know what kind of friends they will be.

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  32. hey, I thought it was pretty good. I can't stand talking heads either, but for an exercise it might be fun to try.

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  33. Nice dialogue. A whole scene with no tags or narrative action would be dang hard to write.

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  34. My immediate thought was that if I was Brianna I would've been like, "Damn it, I really needed that sandwich money to pay rent!" ;)

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  35. As in, after she learns he's got a boyfriend. yeah :P

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  36. The end totally caught me off guard. I felt just like Brianna. Not a fail at all! Great job, Michael :)

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  37. I just read the dialogue and you can gleam so much just from that. Sure, in a novel you need all that stuff but if your dialogue is standalone, you know it's good.

    Another thing that helps is only to have a conversation between two people.

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  38. I love the "You have a boyfriend" line. It was a great twist on things. I feel like I got a good sense of the characters too.

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  39. Hi Michael. I so agree about talking heads.The tags do help it flow. I wrote in my entry that disemboided voices in a white washed room can seem weird, unless the conversation sets the scene (without being chunks of exposition). I enjoyed your dialogue.

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  40. Fortunately the non-dialogue police are taking a break at the donut shop. Tags are hard to get rid of even in an exercise like this. I liked it.

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  41. Meh, tags, no tags, whatever. I loved this. I've been where Brianna is - except I didn't ask for the phone number :-)

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  42. I read this one AFTER your subsequent post about the piano. I liked the dialogue better. As for the "rule" about dialogue, only, don't worry. The only rule that matter is, does the audience get the story?

    This exchange tells the audience much more about the characters and moves the story ahead much further than the piano scene.

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  43. You cheated!

    A lot of people recommend the exercise so we get used to how powerful the words can be, rather than relying on tags to give tone and visual clues. But I know what you mean about talking heads.

    Did you read Jess's entry? She did a great job!

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  44. Love the punch in the gut line! Apparently I'm not the only one. :)

    Have you seen that clip with the floating heads and they sing about not having a body to the 'If you want my body' song? Oh my gosh! It's freakin' hilarious!

    And ya, this exercise was for fun. Like really, you wouldn't do just dialog in a real book, right? This was just to get to know the characters through what they say. Purely a voice thing. (And to drive everyone crazy. mwhahahaha!)

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  45. Awkward was certainly the right expression :) This was a nice introduction of two characters. I learned a lot about them from this exchange.

    I know what you mean about needing some tags for direction. I had a tough time not putting them in myself. And, I wasn't sure that was the point of this exercise until I saw so many others without the tags.

    This blogfest kinda hurt my head :)

    .......dhole

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