Thursday, March 31, 2016

Dialogue: The Conversation You Don't Say


Conversation is the sound two or more individuals make when they are getting along or trawling for a subject to engage. Sometimes when you are in a stream of conversation, you become aware of the easygoing, floating sense of the transactions, which you then try to liven up as much as possible with specifics as opposed to generalities.  

A variation on the theme of conversation occurs when one or more parties in an ordinary conversation shifts into some role playing status such as trying to impress the others with acquired knowledge or with opinion disguised as inside information.

Beyond the desire to convey information of moderate importance, the basic intent of conversation is to pass time, to provide a sense of good fellowship, or, out of boredom, to initiate an argument.

Argument is often the result of conversation between disparate individuals or groups, where a neutral observer might in fact be able to identify two or more separate streams of conversation. These streams are growing heated because the participants rise to the occasion by  becoming more vocal and quite possibly defensive in the presentation of their major thesis. 

Alcohol is often a lubricant for argument, oiling the irony of the respective forces, who persist in their own theme with little or no regard for the thesis of the others in the conversation, in fact often demonstrating their scorn.

A variation on the theme of argument is internal within one individual, who is also proceeding in the belief she or he is presenting a binary from which a decision is to be made. Such arguments often end when the individual is in actuality winning the debate and, angered at the weight of the argument, says "Fuck it," then proceeds to do what he or she wished to do before the argument began.

There are two or three reasons for argument, one more often than not forgotten is to pass time at a more interesting pitch than the time passing related to conversation. Argument is also a convenient form of establishing social rank and dominance, of getting one's own way, and foreshadowing future agenda.

Dialogue is the sound of story, expressing its various perspectives through a combination of pressure or tipping points. The basic source of energy in story is the outcome of conflicting agendas. What better way to propel story toward some necessary combustion point, say the end of a scene or chapter, than one of the forms of conversation or argument listed above?

Ending a chapter with two characters who believe they are in agreement but who convey to the reader a completely different circumstance will create the dramatic equivalent of producing an unresolved series of notes in music. The reader, requiring resolution, begins the next scene or chapter, which the alert author will have then resolved while in the simultaneous act of working on another unresolved chord.

Whenever you think or speak of dialogue, you are at some effort to broadcast how unlike conversation it is. Dialogue is confrontation of story points, made to seem as though two or more principal characters are having a conversation. Well and good; story is not Reality, story is internal and external jousting of theme, plot, and character idiosyncrasy, each making statements which the others override in defense of their own agenda.

In your early twenties, when you began reading Dashiell Hammett, John O'Hara, and James M. Cain, you found ample occasions to copy passages of admired dialogue into the notebooks you began carrying with you in hopes of being able to fill them with something significant. You were entranced with their dialogue and how much dramatic energy there was in nearly every exchange between characters. You were so impressed that you began trying to use dialogue in Real Time Life, only to be met with stares of incomprehension. O'Hara came the closest to producing dialogue you could use as conversation.

More often than not, dialogue does not work in Real Life situations any more than conversation works in story. Argument becomes the safe position by default.

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