There is nothing worse than a drab, monosyllabic conversation. A parley with no point and no book gripping content. It’s like conversation for the sake of conversation. Page filler that is not going to get the pages turned quickly if at all.
I’ve mentioned before that conversations should have meaning to the characters and impact the story in some way to be effective. I’ve mentioned that showing emotion is important and so is including emotion in conversation.
The more personal the conversation the more emotionally charged it should be. I work hard to make that happen. On that note I like to throw the characters and the reader for a little emotional roller-coaster ride. No serious conversation or confrontation is limited to one or two emotions, they are fire, ice, steam and earthquakes from beginning to end. I try to have a point to the conversation, a reason for it’s existence.
This example of a roller-coaster conversation is a rough draft and not fully edited.
Amber crammed her hands into her jacket pockets and scrunched her shoulders against the cold breeze. Normally it wouldn’t affect her, but lately everything seemed to be different and not in a good way.
“That’s a mighty big frown. You didn’t like the show?”
Amber turned her head toward Dale. He was trying too hard. “It was okay. I just don’t think they deserved that huge standing ovation.”
His brow nit and he sneered. “So why’d you join in then?”
She shrugged her taught shoulders. “Dunno, didn’t want to look like a jerk I guess.”
They walked in silence, each lost in thought and the tension thick between them. By the time they reached her apartment, Amber was shivering.
“You coming up?” She unlocked the door.
Dale nodded and followed. They agreed to talk after the show. It would probably be a waste of time like all their other attempts. They ended up hanging out neither wanting to actually bring it up first. The second Amber had her coat off she went to find a sweater then to the kitchen to make a tea.
“Want one?” She held up a box of herbal mint tea.
“No thanks.” He looked around at the overly clean interior, Amber may be a lot of things, but messy isn’t one of them. “Where’s Bea?”
Amber filled her mug from the hot spout from the water cooler. “At her girlfriends. I think she’s moving out bit by bit. She just hasn’t said it outright yet.”
Tilting her head to the side she dunked the teabag to a steady rhythm. “Why do you think?”
Dale stared at the bobbing teabag. “Right.” He looked at her face. “So will you get a new roommate?”
“Yes.” She sipped the steaming tea. “In about seven months or so.” She laughed at his frown. “I can afford this place on my own no problem. I’ve been squirreling her rent away. Even on mat leave I can afford it fine.”
He followed her to the living area and sat on the couch bedside her as she pulled a blanket over herself and held the warm mug between two hands. “I’m screwed in the winter if I’m going to be this sensitive to cold.”
“My mom said you’ll be a furnace once you show.”
She glared at him her cheeks flushing. “You told your mom?”
“I had to talk to someone Amber.” He rubbed his face with his hands. “You’re not the only one freaked out you know.”
Amber looked into her mug, a few flakes of mint leaf escaped the bag and danced at the bottom. “Great. Did you tell her you knocked up the office slut?”
“I told her I got my girlfriend pregnant.” He held up his hand when her head snapped up and she opened her mouth. “But that we’re not serious and probably wont stay together. I thought it would be better for her to like you.”
“Thanks Dale.” She tried to smile and failed. “I think we can manage as friends.” She looked at him again when he snorted. “What?”
“Friendzoned. I don’t want to be just your friend Amber.”
“I know and I said I’d try Dale what more can I do?” She set her tea down on the coffee table.
“Try? Do? You’re not trying and you’re not doing anything Amber.” Dale shook his head and shifted sideways on the couch to face her. “I hate this, this.” He slammed his fist on the couch and she flinched. “Ugh. Do you think I like being the fool? The idiot that fell in love with a girl who only has eyes for the actual office slut?”
Her mouth fell open. Scott was perfect and she almost said so then closed her mouth. He wasn’t perfect by a long shot.
“God Amber you said you wanted to see if we can be a couple but you’re not emotionally available. You’re in love with a shithead who doesn’t deserve the time of day from you.”
She replayed his words in her head while picking at a loose string on the blanket. Her infatuation with Scott was superficial. She looked up at Dale, his eyes dancing, his lips pursed and the muscles of his jaw working overtime.
“Dale. I’m attracted to Scott. Less so lately, but I don’t love him as more than a friend or buddy or guy to have a crush on.” She blinked back unwelcome tears. “I don’t think I even have a crush on him anymore.”
“Then why not give me a real chance?”
Her eyes spilled over and she wiped her face. “I’m afraid of you Dale.” She wiped her face again. “Afraid you’ll make me love you then leave when it gets tough. Dammit I never cry, stupid hormones.”
Dale blinked at her. She did believe it, not because he’s given her any reason to, but because someone else had. Someone important. She had walls, big tall barriers that made her act and pretend to be easy going and happy-go-lucky regarding men and casual-sex relationships. It was all a facade. He shifted closer and pulled her into a hug until she stopped crying. “Want to know a secret Amber?”
She shifted back and nodded as he hooked a finger under her chin to force her to look up at him.
“I did a little happy dance inside when you told me about the baby and that you were keeping it.”
She furrowed her brow. “Why?”
“Because it meant one way or another you’d be in my life forever.” Dale leaned in and gently pressed his lips to hers, moving them lightly waiting for permission to continue. She moved her lips and set her hand on his bicep gently. Permission given. He pressed harder and she opened her mouth to his. A low noise of approval escaped his throat when her tongue flicked across his bottom lip and met with his.
In my opinion the better the ride, the better chance I have of keeping the reader at my theme park of a book. I wanted to show Dale’s commitment, Amber’s strife to change and that her transition is underway. I also wanted to give a bit more backstory to Amber and why she is who and how she is.
My advice about roller-coaster conversations.
Roller-coaster conversations are as enjoyable to write as they are to read. Emotional and pretentious characters can have the best unpredictable conversations. Let them be erratic and unstable, it’s really fun.
Some other conversational posts I wrote
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