Talk Talk

June 6, 2011

A Writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.     -Thomas Mann

Yesterday had a great time at the Blazing Laptops Write-a-Thon to support San Diego Writers, Ink– the non-profit writing organization that I’m a part of. (you can still sponsor me! I really did write for 9 hours!). I’m offering a homemade collage postcard or collage book mark to anyone who sponsors $10 or more.

At the Write-a-Thon (which I did/teamed up with my BFF Kelli) I worked mostly on my novel. I did try a few of the prompts that were given out during the day but the bulk of my writing went to a new chapter. I drank a lot of coffee! Now that I’m off from teaching and have basically no real work for the summer (a good thing? a bad thing?) I’m ready to dive back in full time on the novel. As much as I had fun yesterday, I have to admit that being in a room full of people and trying to seriously write was difficult. I’ve always been one who needs quiet and my own space to write in.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being in the company of other writers and creative people, but I really cherish my office and how I can close the door and be in my own world in there. It helps that it has a terrific view of the Coronado bridge and some of downtown San Diego. I can’t remember if I’ve posted pics of the office here, but I’ll post some soon just in case.

The scene I was working on yesterday had several characters (most of them minor minor) talking– the main character of the book (or one of the main characters) was describing a scene where a bunch of Hollywood suits comes to his reservation to talk about the upcoming filming of a movie– and I realized that when I’m writing dialogue I need to ‘talk it out’ while writing, which was kind of hard to do in a quiet room of 20 people! I practice the dialogue that I write to see how it sounds, but I couldn’t really do that yesterday! arghh! I guess I’ve always done this but it seemed much more obvious to me yesterday because I couldn’t do it.

It made me think about writers who are good with dialogue– who are they?

I suppose Hemingway is considered a strong dialogue writer.

I like the dialogue in the new Nicole Krauss book, Great House, too. Though for me it’s always been about the interior monologues of her characters.

I’ve always thought Joshua Ferris was a master of dialogue (though he’s a relatively new writer).  Read his NewYorker story The Dinner Party to see what I mean.

Here’s an excerpt:

“They come in,” he said, “we take their coats. Everyone talks in a big hurry as if we didn’t have four long hours ahead of us. We self-medicate with alcohol. A lot of things are discussed, different issues. Everyone laughs a lot, but later no one can say what exactly was so witty. Compliments on the food. A couple of monologues. Then they start to yawn, we start to yawn. They say, ‘We should think about leaving, huh?,’ and we politely look away, like they’ve just decided to take a crap on the dinner table. Everyone stands, one of us gets their coats, peppy goodbyes. We all say what a lovely evening, do it again soon, blah-blah-blah. And then they leave and we talk about them and they hit the streets and talk about us.”

“What would make you happy?” she asked.

“A blow job.”

“Let’s wait until they get here for that,” she said.

She slid her finger along the blade to free the clinging onion. He handed her her glass. “Drink your wine,” he said. She took a sip. He left the kitchen.

He sat on the sofa and resumed reading an article. Then he got up and returned to the kitchen and poured himself a new drink.

“That’s another thing,” he said. “Their big surprise. Even their goddam surprises are predictable.”

“You need to act surprised for their sake,” she said.

“Wait for a little opening,” he said, “a little silence, and then he’ll say, he’ll be very coy, he’ll say, ‘Why don’t you tell them?’ And she’ll say, ‘No, you,’ and he’ll say, ‘No, you,’ and then she’ll say, ‘O.K., O.K., I’ll tell them.’ And we’ll take in the news like we’re genuinely surprised—like, holy shit, can you believe she’s knocked up, someone run down for a Lotto ticket, someone tell Veuve Clicquot, that bastard will want to know! And that’s just the worst, how predictable our response to their so-called news will be.”

“Well, O.K.,” she said. “When that happens, why don’t you suggest they have an abortion?”

He chewed his ice and nodded. “That would shake things up,” he said, “wouldn’t it?”

“Tell them we can do it right here with a little Veuve Clicquot and one of the bedroom hangers.”

“Delightful,” he said. “I’m in.”

The kitchen was small. He would have done better to remain in one of the other rooms, but he wanted to be with her. She was sautéing the garlic and the onion.

“He’s O.K.,” he said. “They’re both O.K. I’m just being a dick.”

“We do this, what—at most, once or twice a year. I think you can handle it. And when they have the baby—”

“Oh, Christ.”

“When they have the baby, we’ll see even less of them.”

“Holiday cards. Here’s our little sun-chine. See our little sun-chine? Christ.”

“You aren’t the one who’s going to have to go to the baby shower,” she said.

“How much you wanna bet they buy a stroller?”

“A stroller?”

“A stroller.”

“A stroller,” she said. “To cart the baby around.”

He put cheese on a cracker. “For to cart the baby around in, yes,” he said.

“And you, if you had a baby, there’d be no stroller, right, because it would be oh so predictable? Absolutely no stroller?”

But who else? Who do you consider a great writer of dialogue?

2 Responses to “Talk Talk”

  1. Tonya said:

    I love this short story so much, thanks for reminding me of it.
    And for what it’s worth, I do dialogue in the shower. I generally write filler, and then live with it for a while until it comes out real. For some reason I’m creative in the shower.

  2. rob said:

    Tonya! I do the same. Or when I’m driving– that’s why I have a pad of paper in my car attached to the dashboard.

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