Dialogue: Wednesday’s Workshop

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Dialog / Dialogue

The Tuesday night writing group that I meet with is very small. It currently consists of four members (Chuck, John, Kevin, and Roger), though it was larger. Several members dropped out for sundry reasons, but we four get on well and we have continued our Tuesday sessions for a long time now. We usually concentrate on discussions, sharing ideas, and encouragement rather than on anything else. We also share work in progress by e-mail for commentary online and we throw out current writing difficulties for discussion by the group. We also indulge in other activities. For example, on Monday last, John, one of the group members, visited me at home and kindly showed me how to process a manuscript for publication on Amazon’s CreateSpace. This was a first for me, though John, a very accomplished writer, has some twenty novels published in this fashion.

I thought it might be of interest to set out elements of the discussion that took place yesterday evening at The Second Cup Coffee Shop. Here are the notes, slightly amplified, that I sent round the group.

  1. We began by asking Chuck if he had benefitted from the previous week’s conversation, when he had set out a problem situation from his novel that we had all explored. He outlined briefly how he had responded to our suggestions.
  2. He then noted that some people can write dialogue with ease, others can’t, and illustrated this with info from a workshop he had given in which 13 of the 14 submitted manuscripts were narratives without dialog, and only one contained dialogue.
  3. This led us in several different directions and we opened with using telephone messages as a means of conveying information and also as a back up to “mysterious” dialog –can you hear both ends of the conversation?
  4. This in turn developed into texting and tweeting and electronics and from here we talked about the potentially deleterious effects of social media on conversational skills, and hence lack of dialog in society.
  5. Computer techniques and knowledge at a cross-words + game play + thought play + voice interaction to rival or replace writing novels came into the conversation and we added some comments on writing by dictation and computer transcribing of voice.
  6. The question of the historical development of the Dialogue form was opened: can Plato’s dialogues be considered monologues since many of the responses to Socrates are of the ‘yessir, nossir, three bags full sir” variety. We talked about creating action via dialogue and compared the modern newscast to the Medieval visitor who tells his audience what happened ‘over there’ and answered questions set by them. We also mentioned some dialogued novels of the 15th 16th C.
  7. The transition of the Quixote from single character (I, 1-5) to double character (the rest of the book) and the important role that dialogue played in the development of Cervantes’s novel also came forward. This led to the use and development of dialogue in other novels. We discussed dialogue on TV with reference to As Time Goes By and the Midsomer Murders. We discussed dialogue as a composite of what is said, how it is said, how it is delivered, and we emphasized the importance of timing of dialogue.
  8. We ended with a brief discussion of the age effect and development of narrative and dialog in children, especially in light of the effects of electronics on young developing minds and the substitution of screen for dialog.

Kevin was absent last night, but John and Chuck agreed to contribute a paragraph each in which they show their use of dialogue. I have added a poem in dialogue, just for the fun of showing a different usage. These are by no means state of the art models of how to proceed. They are examples of the type of work we are doing. Electronic links follow each example where appropriate.

Chuck Bowie: Steal it all.

“You know you got off lucky, Hendricks. It would have been so much easier, and given me so much more pleasure to have put the two slugs through that melon of yours. Now, get up. I want your seat.” While he spoke, he drew the blind closed. Walking over to the side of the small room, he turned off the ceiling light, leaving them with just the desk lamp to view one another.

Ace hauled his massive bulk out of the chair and shuffled around to the side of the office nearest the door. He eased into a dusty metal chair, taking care to avoid touching anything with his right arm.

“Tell me this.” Donovan waved his gun at the arm. “Why is it when a guy hurts his arm, he limps? I never figured that out.” This elicited another curse from Hendricks, and his attacker tossed him a roll of paper towels, which he failed to catch. Both ignored the useless roll as it found its way into a corner of the office.

“I’m very interested to hear your story, Ace. You’ve hurt a lot of people, some of them my friends. Want to talk about it?”

“You go square to ‘ell. My men’ll be here in a minute, and that’ll be the last of you, mate.”

Donovan shook his head.

“You have no more men. They’re all dead. Twelve separate industrial accidents, is how I heard it. Plus the scum you sent to kill Gemma. She weighs one hundred-fifteen pounds, by the way. Just before she killed him with her bare hands, he probably apologized to every woman and child he ever bullied. Nope, all you have left is that old

man, tied up by the garbage bin outside. And your millions. Um, nope, you no longer have that, either. Shit, you’re not really in good shape, my friend.

“But here’s what I can do for you. I can kill you, to save you the mortification of seeing your failure in tomorrow’s headlines. Is now a good time?”

Hendricks shook his head, unsure if Donovan was serious. The cloth around his elbow had darkened, and a drop or two had begun to puddle on the floor beside him.

“Okay, then. Here’s what I’m willing to do. I’ll name a name, and you’ll tell me the story. The more names you chat about, the longer you get to live.”


Buy Link for Steal It All:


John Sutherland: Convergence of Fates.

Before he drove off he decided to make another call. He’d better report what he had learned, to the Park Rangers in the Clark National Park. They’d had a bear go missing a couple of weeks earlier. The phone rang a few times before it was answered.

“Is Scott there, please?” Then, he recognized the voice.

“Melissa, it’s you” He identified himself. “Charlie Easton. Hudgin’s Mills. Remember that bear you told us to watch for, about ten days ago?”

He didn’t need to say any more, and nodded in response to her suddenly pointed questions, interrupting what he had been ready to say. Why anyone would nod into a telephone seemed a strange thing to do, but it was a reflexive action.

“It might be here. Hudgin’s Mills. At least, close to it. I just took two people into hospital. One of them had been attacked by a bear.” He listened for a while and responded as far as he could, giving her more details about his injuries.  She seemed satisfied that it had been a bear attack.

“Yes I can show you where I picked them up.” He listened further. “I don’t have a clue who he is, but I know the young woman. Susan Whitcomb. She’s….” Melissa seemed to know her, but of course she did; they were related in some way through her grandmother. He continued to nod.

“The Rollins road, ten miles out of town. The young man was pretty torn up, and bleeding like a stuck pig, but….”

Melissa cut into what he was saying and asked those questions important to her, getting the responses she needed to hear.

“It must have happened not long before I picked them up. Ten, maybe twenty minutes before. He was still bleeding. He didn’t say much, but he was conscious all of the drive in. I couldn’t see any injuries on her.

“It could be your bear. I thought I’d better tell you. From the looks of them, they should both be in the hospital for a day or two at least, maybe a week, for him, so you have time.” He listened further, and looked out at the weather.

“Rollins Road,” he repeated. “Where the river comes closest to the road and before it joins the main channel. Ten miles out, where it’s fordable. There’s only one place it does that. They were both wet, so they had waded across that river.”

He saw a flash of light and then heard a rumble of thunder about five seconds later (his subconscious told him it was about a mile away), and then responded again.

“I don’t know. You’d have to talk to him to find out where, exactly. You could probably follow his blood trail back on the other side of the river and find out, except for this rain. There’s only that one shallow place where they could have crossed, but it might not be passable by morning if we get the amount of rain they’re forecasting.

“If you call the Hospital in a couple of hours, they might be able to tell you something by then. Ask for Doctor Lewis. That young man I brought in might even be able to talk to you, if they let him. I’ll be home about midnight. You can call me there in the morning if you need my help to show you.”

From what Melissa said, Scott, her husband, the man to hunt that bear down, was already fairly close to Hudgin’s Mills on other business, so he’d be on his way as soon as she talked to him, and she wouldn’t be far behind.

“In the morning then.”

Charlie rang off, and decided that he should make one more call before he headed out.



Roger Moore: Monkey Temple.


Monkey FAQs
(with apologies to all those who draw them up
at their work place, knowing they will never be read)

“What news from the ark?”

“Only the dark waves pounding the hull, the wet winds blowing.”

“Who placed the whale ribs on this mountain
and called them a cathedral?”

“Sunshine blossoms through hollow vaults and shadows shimmer.
The day is striped across my back
and I bear its weight like a beast of burden.”

“When the anvil rings out, will the armorers appear?”

“When I snatched a blade of grass, its fine glass sliced my finger.
Yet, when I grasped the nettle, its swan-song perished in sunlight.”

 “Who will forge chains for sun and moon?

“The peregrine falcon slices my eye in two and I am a mole,
blind with a weather’s wind.”

“Who will carve a cell door for errant stars?”

“I snuffle round the tightness of the temple clock:
its legion of Roman numerals marches to the beat
of a dull, dry pendulum.”

“Why are there no birds in last year’s nests?”

“The ox tongue sandwich on which I snack
talks back to the lettuce and salt clogs the tomato.”

“Why are you avoiding these questions?”

“Speak up: the wind is high. I can no longer hear you.”

This Kevin Stephen’s  excerpt from DiAngelo: Revelations

“Can we talk Mel?” asked Caitlyn.

“Are we not? What is your mind?”

“I’m getting bad readings, like all the time, but you’ve been busy or gone for the last couple of weeks so I couldn’t talk to you.”

“Why not talk on our road trip?”

“Because. Everyone would think I sucked if I said that Tarot reading was confusing. Alex wouldn’t let me live it down.”

“Well, things are being… Vse ne tak. Crazy? For me lately. I have this moment. Ask your question.”

“For the last few weeks the Moon, the Hanged Man, and the Seven of Cups all came up in the same three positions, six, nine, and ten for everyone.”

“It is not impossible for people to be having same cards. Who is saying people do not have same outlook?”

“Well, in the last two weeks more than sixty people have had the same reading. You think that’s normal? I thought it might the sign of an impending natural disaster but then Roan came along.

“I thought the shared experience had passed when Roan pulled different cards but then he pulled the Death card in position nine time and time again. He even had that card face up when he drew a second copy of it. I didn’t have two Deaths in the deck but he really did look as surprised as I was. It had to have been a prank right? That’s what Fran thought.”

20 thoughts on “Dialogue: Wednesday’s Workshop

  1. This is an excellent piece. I have massive problems with dialogue, my characters all talk like books and sound pretty much the same. Also the problems of new technologies, including e-mails and text messages in a story, how to do that, it is part of life but it appears so trite and contrived. Anyway lots to ponder on

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Roger, I either didn’t remember your FAQs in the snippet of Monkey temple, or I am just reading them clearly for the first time, skipping from question to question, and then going back to read what I assume is an answer. It is all very thought-provoking. You shouldn’t do this to us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sometimes we see more clearly when we realize that others are reading what we are reading. Many of my revisions, made on this blog, have come from the realization that other people would see / read differently. The effect of your dialogue doesn’t change: your own perception of the technique has … it’s not really a dilemma, it’s more a question of what you wanted to do and whether you managed to do it. I think you did. The rest is choice and style.

      Liked by 1 person

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