Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dialogue, a New Twist on an Old Dance

With all the time and effort you put in, trying to capture the essence of dialogue in order to be able to write it in your own creations and teach it to students and clients,you had not thought this before.  This enables you some expressive dialogue of your own.

"All this time.  What were you thinking?"

What you were thinking is that you had to be vigilant about rough edges in your own dialogue, because yours was still giving off the tell-tale signs of conversation.  What you finally thought was to announce to a class at USC one Tuesday afternoon, a tad more emphatic and deliberate than your normal presentation, "Dialogue, you see, is not to be construed with conversation."

Standing at the coffee truck during break time, debating on the wisdom of a coffee truck cinnamon roll, you were approached by a student who told you, "I've never seen you as pissed.  Which writer wrote such bad dialogue that you went off like that?  I hope it wasn't one of us."

You felt compelled to tell him the truth,  You were speaking with such emphasis to make sure you remembered.  And yes, you were a bit miffed with yourself for failing to see what had become so apparent to you.  Dialogue gives the impression of  conversation, but the occasions in published literature or commercial fiction are rare when it sounds conversational.

A number of years later, during a break time, a pleasing and talented young woman said, "If I get you correctly, the trick is to make 'Fuck you.' sound conversational and to make "Hey, how's it going?' sound like 'Fuck you.'"  You were not surprised when she began to publish on a regular basis.

In what appears to be a continued reason why you should continue teaching and taking on editorial assignments, while in the act of preparing notes for a lecture on dialogue to a class of promising beginners in which there is one student, not yet thirty, who is well ahead of the class learning curve, you came on a formula that had the same effect on you.  You wrote two words, separated by an equals sign.  Dialogue, you wrote, = Action.

Two ladies seated at a nearby outdoor table in the Lucky Llama patio, while being served their coffee, asked the waitress, hitching their heads toward you, "Is he always like that?" The waitress, who certainly has occasion to know you, smiled.  "Occasionally a bombast.  Otherwise, quiet and thoughtful.

In retrospect, you think what you said as you were making the connection was "Eu-fucking-reka." Your outburst could also have been "Fuck, yeah."  You are known to have said either in moments of extreme regard for the universe.

When delivering your mini-sermon to the intended audience, you were further motivated to add to the picture the analogy of dialogue being like a pair of dancers, each bringing to the scene ability and style to articulate his or her individual self, also accomplished enough--or not--to produce a chemistry one person alone cannot project.

Dialogue may be the equivalent of Fred and Ginger, dancing, which for you is a delightful picture of sinuous, joyful pushing, pulling, skipping, competitive interaction.  Not all exchanges are so exuberant or sophisticated.  Someone may be getting his toes stomped on, or someone may be trying to escape a disadvantage.  

However instructive it may be to describe dialogue as confrontational or founded in irony, dialogue should be seen as the same sort of action an actor presents whether registering a facial emotion, hesitating in the wording, or combining the delivery with another, competing action.

If your living quarters had a bathtub, you think you'd draw yourself enough to lower yourself into, perhaps with a book and a cold beer, the better to celebrate your Eureka moment.

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