Friday, May 1, 2009

Direction in Dialogue

Although I think dialogue is one of my strengths as a writer, I'm a bit leery of this encounter. Does it work? Is it realistic? (The characters are both high school seniors, one of whom is drunk, so I apologize in advance if the language is offensive). This is, of course, from my WIP.

Your helpful words and advice have already made me a better writer : )
“You’re a fucking idiot,” Roy said without preamble. He had waited until Christian’s coffee arrived before speaking; he was not without sympathy, irritated as he was. He’d ordered for both of them over Christian’s protest, eggs and bacon and home fries and toast.

Christian looked up. His face was white except for grayish smudges under his eyes. His hands shook. “About what?”

Roy ran a hand through his hair. “You just told a bunch of people what’s going to be the hottest gossip since …”

“Since that scene at prom last year? Since your freshman year fiascos?”

Roy took a deep breath, refusing to take the bait. “Playing the asshole doesn’t work for you, man.”

“Didn’t you just say I’m an asshole?”

“I said you’re an idiot. You’re not an asshole.” He paused. “Although Susy might disagree.”

“I don’t see what’s so wrong about it. I mean, people are going to notice at some point.”

The waitress appeared out of nowhere, placed two plates on the table then disappeared. Christian looked at the food in front of him, and his face turned green. “Go to the bathroom, man,” whispered Roy. “Get it out of your system.”

Christian nodded and almost ran for the restroom. Roy had the waitress bring a large water and refill Christian’s coffee and his own Coke. He charmed her into locating a couple of Advil. When Christian returned, he was calmly spreading strawberry jam onto his toast.

“Never again,” Christian whispered as he sat down.

“Okay, eat one piece of toast to start with.”

Christian shook his head. “I can’t.”

“You need to or you’re going to be in fucking agony tomorrow.”

“I’m already in agony,” Christian muttered, but he picked up the toast and started eating.

“Now drink some water.”

“I can’t.” He saw Roy’s look of impatience and took two sips.

“Is that settling?”

Christian smiled ruefully. “For now.”

“Okay, take these.” He handed over the Advil. “With the water. Alcohol dehydrates people; that’s really what a hangover is. The more water you drink tonight, the better you’ll feel tomorrow. Although I think ‘better’ is going to be relative.”

“Do I really need to eat? Just looking makes me want to …”

“Work on the toast,” Roy advised. “You’ll be glad you did.”

“There’s a certain irony to the fact that a guy who’s never had a drink is suddenly the hangover guru.”

Roy looked relieved; Christian was sounding suddenly more like himself. “What can I say? I’m observant.”


  1. Works for me. Might add some olfactory details so we feel his queaziness even more. :)

  2. Hello! - it's 2:30 AM and wasn't expecting that opening line. I'm awake, now! :)

    I like the pacing. Only suggestion I would make is to "dumb down" your language. "Fuck" and "agony" wouldn't typically be used in the same sentence by the same person. Maybe something like "You need to or you'll be in the fucking ditch tomorrow."

  3. The pacing and the words seem fine, though I'm not familiar with current US teen speak and the scene itself works.

    If you're feeling a bit 'leery' about it, then maybe you shouldn't add it to the WIP. No sense in including something that makes you, as the writer, feel uncomfortable.

    One thing I do with scenes like this is cut and paste them onto a separate document to use or not as I feel later. The theory being that if the scene is important, I'll remember it and bring it back into the book and if I forget about it, it's probably not needed anyway.

  4. Now I am hungry for bacon and eggs!

  5. Honestly, the language stopped me from getting into it. Some people it wouldn't bother, some it would. For me, every swear word was like a blazing neon sign. What is important is whether or not this piece is true to your characters--who they are, how they think and act and speak.

  6. Well-done!!! Dialogue is indeed a strength for you! And I love the twist at the end...makes it more intriguing!

  7. KLo, I think this is good. Even though the swearing may put off some people, I think the dialogue flows really well in this scene. And I like the pace of the scene. It held my attention & I would read on.

    I would take Martin Willoughby's advice & cut and paste it into another document until you're absolutely sure you want it in your wip.

    I haven't been in high school in around 20 years and I know teenagers are A LOT more mature these days so I don't think they would be too put off by the language. As for their parents, well, that's a different story. . . .

    So overall, I'd say this scene works.

    Good luck with your wip!

  8. I know I'm late, but if you're interested in my was pretty good. I would, however, lose the educational "Alcohol dehydrates people; that’s really what a hangover is." Sure it's (mostly) true, but it sounds off to me; it sounds like the writer is trying to teach the reader or show what the writer knows (not saying you are, just what it sounds like to me).

    Also, regardless of whether the profanity is offensive (isn't it supposed to be? :)), the conversation would be completely unrealistic if absent.