Conver(Conversation)sation

I love dialogue, good dialogue that is. I try to keep it interesting and realistic. I like to avoid droning, dull, stiff and pointless conversations. But what if a wee bit of pointless is necessary? What if it could be a foreshadow or just fun?

After looking at trivial conversations and removing the repetitiveness of it, I look at the logic and make sure it’s not to dry. So the dialog is okay, but what if it’s still dull or not going anywhere? It’s time to pop a little extra something into the conversation.

I don’t do this often if at all. If I do, it’s for a foreshadow or to highlight the characters personality, history or inclinations. Sometimes to show a characters quirks. What I’m talking about is conversation within a conversation. We’ve all done it and all been witness to it. It happens more often than people realize.

For example:

“The workload seems double lately. Everyone’s on vacation all at once.” Dale wiped mustard from his chin with a paper napkin.
Scott shook his head. “I’m sick of covering for Sasha. Her vacation was over a week ago.”
Dale scowled. “It’s weird, frosty knickers didn’t mention to anyone she was planning a vacation.”
Amber looked up from her lunch. “You mean the impromptu vay-cay that just happened to be right after Clifton gave her the mystical pink-slip file?” She looked at Dales confused face. “Remember Troy?”
Dale nodded. “Yeah.”
“Mmm.” She swallowed the large sip; the straw flicked from her lips. “He got the file and a month later.” She slammed her palms on the diner table. “Gone.”
Scott shoved a french fry in his mouth. “Same happened to Gale and Peter too. Both fired after about a month.” He furrowed his brow while chewing. “Or quit. Not sure which.”
Dale tilted his head. “Huh. So where’s Clifton then? He’s M.I.A. too.”
Amber picked up her half eaten burger. “Ooh maybe they’ve run off together. A tropical tryst getaway.” She took a big bite, chewing while watching Scott think too hard.
“Valery says vacation.” Scott looked at his two friends. “But her behavior and tone say otherwise.”
Amber set her burger down, picked up a couple fries and dipped them in ketchup. “Probably because she know’s the ice princess and creepy Clifton are stooping it on the sly.”
“Frigid remember?” Dale stole a fry from Amber’s tray and she playfully swatted his hand. “She probably took time off for stress. Poor crybaby’s been wigged out and acting crazy lately. Miss glacier could use a good stiff one on hot sunny beach if you ask me.”
Scott thought back over the timeline as Amber and Dale laughed heartily. A vacation made sense. However something was niggling at his mind. Something wasn’t quite right.

Originally it was just a conversation about Sasha being gone too long on vacation and it coinciding with the boss Clifton’s disappearance. I added the side story about the file since at this point it hasn’t come up in a while.

It could be as simple as this:

Valery tapped her toe impatiently as Scott scanned his email. “No, sorry. I have no idea. It wasn’t sent to me. Clifton was the last to have the file.”
She huffed. “Great and he’s not reachable. I need that dammed file.”
Scott shrugged. “I know his passwords. I can unlock his computer for you.”
Valery narrowed her eyes at him.
“It’s no big deal, he asked me to log in about a month ago.” Scott nodded. “This HR guy came in for a meeting. Clifton was running late and wanted me to show him a list or something.” Scott shrugged again. “Guy was super creepy, kept looking at you and Alice and stroking his chin. Anyway he took a printout and left before Clifton showed up.”
Valery scrunched her eyes tight a moment. She was one to cling to rules and regulations as if they were law. “I really do need the file.” She gestured for Scott to go to Clifton office. “What if the password was changed?”
“Clifton is an idiot, ah…” He cleared his throat. “I mean, he never changes them.”

Subtle or not, a side conversation within a conversation can add a hint or foreshadow in a way that isn’t glaringly obvious. The side conversation can be pointless too, if that’s the case I’d make sure it’s humorous or showcases a characters personality.

My advice about conversation within conversation.
If you run into a conversation that needs a little something, like a small dash of salt in chocolate chip cookies. Without it they are too sweet. I forgot once and they weren’t horrible, but the cookies were definitely missing something. Stick a small side story or conversation in the middle of a conversation if it can help.

-Sheryl

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It’s a love hate sort of thing

I spend a lot of time talking about feelings. How to show them instead of just tell them. That’s because the books I’ve loved the most suck me in and make me feel. However, there are times when showing an emotion can get lost if the context is missing. If I forget to set up or keep up the scenario it can be misread or taken, well a whole other way. Ideally, this would be part of a bigger picture, but what if it’s not?

 Balor put his hand on Sasha’s shoulder as she backed up into the counter.
“You need to leave.” She squeezed her eyes shut. She barely knew him, this can’t be .
His fingers brushed the side of her neck and she whimpered.  “I’ll teach you a thing or two.” Balor’s deep voice made her lips tremble. “Teasing me at the bar.”
“I didn’t mean to.” Sasha had barely looked at this man.
She spent most of the night trying to ditch Valery and Anne. She gasped for air as Balor gripped her Stylish“>stylish pink shirt in his left hand and brought his other hand up to her clammy neck. She moved her trembling fingers behind her reaching for the counter.

The door flew open and Balor let her go.
“What’s going on here!” Cal advanced on Balor fists clenched, he swung hard and fast at Balor, the sickening smack of fist to jaw made her flinch as Balor hit the floor.
“Did you follow me too?” Sasha’s legs wobbled.
“Dammed right I did. I saw this scum follow you out of the bar.” 

That’s not much to go on, so what did you take from it? What emotion was being shown through Sasha? I put in all the correct emotional responses in, I didn’t cheat. Yet it wasn’t clearly showing what I wanted. Still even in that scrap, the reader should know what’s going on.

What was really happening.

Balor put his hand on Sasha’s shoulder as she backed up into the counter.
Screaming was pointless nobody would hear.
“You need to leave.” She squeezed her eyes shut, she barely knew him.

His fingers brushed the side of her neck and she whimpered.  “I’ll teach you a thing or two.” Balor’s deep voice making her lips tremble. “Teasing me at the bar.”
“I didn’t mean to.” She had barely looked at this man, she spent most of the night trying to ditch Valery.
Cal was the one that made her laugh; he made her feel alive again.
She gasped for air as Balor gripped her stylish pink shirt in his left hand and  brought his other hand up to her clammy neck. She moved her trembling fingers behind her reaching for the counter as he raised his fist to strike her. If she could reach the knives, she might survive this.

The door flew open and Balor let her go.
“What’s going on here!” Cal advanced on Balor fists clenched, he swung fast and hard at Balor, the sickening smack of fist to jaw made her flinch as Balor hit the floor.
“Did you follow me too?” Sasha’s legs wobbled.
“Dammed right I did. I saw this scum follow you out of the bar.” Cal pulled out a badge and a pair of handcuffs. “Detective Cal Thorne.”

Taken out of context or not shown properly you might think that the first attempt was a romantic interlude and a jealous lover. However, her emotional responses belonged to Terror. The reason I brought this up was that I was reading a book this summer and set it down. I didn’t get back to it for a while and when I picked it up, what I read didn’t make sense. It was a large block of a chapter missing specific content. Sure, it was there but not right away. I had to go back a couple of pages to get the right feel and read it again.

In the grand picture the creepiness of Balor following her is clear as is his initial and violent contact when she gets home. But what if you had set the book down and couldn’t get back to it for a while and tried to pick up at that point?

My advice about showing feeling without context.
Put it in even if it’s subtle and just a little. For example, love and hate can be similar in select action tags.  You don’t want someone’s intense fevered stare of hate to be read as an intense fevered stare of love just before a fist fight, that might be awkward.

-Sheryl

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