Old friends

I don’t use a lot of dialogue in my writing and wanted to explore this technique. Here I am attempting to develop a character entirely through snippets of conversation with others. As a start point I have set it out as a script. I am playing with words and would be interested in any constructive criticism you may wish to leave in the comments.

Nikki Young Writes

 

An unexpected meeting

Stan: Hey Mary, good to see you!

Mary: Hello Stan, how are you? I didn’t realise you were in town.

Stan: Yeah, just for a couple of weeks. Flew in yesterday. What’s that you’re doing?

Mary: Oh just you know, sorting out this thing for work. I need to be getting back to the office.

(Stan looks over her shoulder)

Stan: Oh, you don’t want to be doing that. Now you know that I understand this stuff and that’s not a good call. You should try that other thing there. That would be much better for you.

Mary: Uh, okay Stan, thanks for taking an interest. I appreciate your help.

Stan: No worries! Look, I gotta go here but maybe catch you later?

Mary: Sure, that would be good.

Stan: Okay, and you do what I suggested yeah?

Mary: Uh, yeah, thanks Stan. I’ll see you later.

Next day

Stan: Hi Mary, I thought I might catch you here. Hey, I bet you’re glad you didn’t do that thing. Went a bit pear shaped overnight didn’t it? I told you it wasn’t a good deal didn’t I?

Mary: Um, you checked up on that did you? Actually Stan I did do it, but you know, it’s not a problem, these things happen.

Stan: But why did you do it after I told you it wasn’t a good idea? Now look where you’ve ended up!

Mary: It’s okay. Hey, you gave me good advice. You were right and I was wrong; no big deal.

Stan: I don’t understand why you did the thing when I told you not to.

Mary: Well you know, sometimes I make a bad call, it happens in my job. Would you like a coffee?

Stan: Sure, thanks. Is that Ollie over at the table?

Mary: Yeah that’s him, you go ahead, I’ll bring your coffee over.

*

Ollie: Hi Stan, good to see you. How are you?

Stan: Oh, I’m fine thanks. Did Mary tell you about the thing she did?

Ollie: Um, I don’t think so.

Stan: She’s probably embarrassed. I ran into her yesterday and I told her not to do it. I have no idea why she didn’t listen. We’ve known each other years and she knows I know about this stuff.

Ollie: Well, she seems okay to me. Perhaps it’s not such a big deal?

Mary: Hey guys, there you go. Americano and Cappuccino.

Stan: I was just talking to Ollie about the thing you did. Why didn’t you do as I suggested?

Mary: I guess I just went with what I thought was best, should have listened to you my friend.

Stan: Well of course you should! I don’t understand why you didn’t.

Ollie: How was the show last night Mary?

Mary: Oh it was great. Jenna was there with her new boyfriend…

Later that day

Stan: Hey Phil, I thought that was you, do you mind if I join you?

Phil: Well hello stranger! Yeah sure, sit down, when did you arrive in town?

Stan: Been here a few days now. Just trying to catch up with a few folk. I saw Mary, tried to help her out, but she wouldn’t listen. You’d think she’d know better. I don’t understand why she wouldn’t take my advice, and now she’s got a mess to clear up.

Phil: I was talking to Mary earlier, she seemed chipper enough.

Stan: Making the best of a bad job I guess. She admitted that she should have done as I said, tried to make light of it. Typical woman, refusing to listen to sense.

Phil: Bit sexist there mate. Mary’s got a good head on her. She’ll have had her reasons.

Stan: She did this thing when I advised against it! Not showing a great deal of sense there.

Phil: Oh well, you did your best. What are your plans for while you’re in town?

A couple of days later

Ollie: I wish you hadn’t invited Stan. I’ve run into him a few times now, he’s obviously at a bit of a loose end. Keeps going on about that thing you did and how he is so in the right. Makes me want to clock him.

Mary: Is he still going on about that? I couldn’t really not invite him, not when he’s here in town. Just don’t tell him any of your business or let him give you advice!

Phil: He’s arrived. (waves across room). Alright there Stan, are you enjoying being back in the big smoke?

Stan: Hi guys, yeah sure. Mary, I’ve been thinking about that mess you got yourself into. You know if you did this and then..

Mary: Stan, it’s not a mess. It’s no big deal. I made the wrong choice but that happens sometimes.

Stan: Yeah but you should have done as I advised. Now, if you did this..

Ollie: Stan we are not here to talk business. Look, let’s find a table and order.

Stan: Okay sure, but if you just let me talk to Mary about this I can help her sort it all out.

Phil: I think Mary is capable of sorting herself out Stan. Come on, let’s go eat.

Stan: Guys, I know about this stuff! Mary should have done as I said, shouldn’t you Mary?

Mary: Look, I made a bad call but I’ve moved on. It happens. Now, what would you like to drink?

Stan: You’re trying to gloss over this, to pretend it didn’t happen. I can understand you’re embarrassed but I’m trying to help, if you’d just listen for once in your life.

Mary: Okay Stan, one last time. You were right and I was wrong, I’ve admitted that. I’m not embarrassed, it’s no big deal and I’ve moved on. Ancient history. Now please, let’s just forget it and enjoy our evening.

Ollie: Here, here!

Stan: You just can’t accept that you made a mistake can you?

Phil: For crying out loud Stan, will you shut up about this?

Stan: Why am I the one who is being shouted at? I’m in the right!

 

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6 thoughts on “Old friends

  1. Stan’s like an annoying old person who doesn’t let up! What’s his connection to Mary? It’s interesting that you never actually name the ‘thing’ that she did supposedly wrong. Now I want to know what it is!

    • They are all old friends. I wanted to concentrate on the characters rather than what exactly they were doing in this snapshot. I’m glad it has made you curious though. Thanks for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  2. I think that to really improve your dialogue you should try having it be the same length but just between two people and without any breaks. I did that once and it really improved the dialogue I wrote because when I read over it it was obvious when something stood out as something a person didn’t say. To completely eliminate everything but dialogue you can put “…” for pauses. It might be more challenging, but try putting everything in quotes too. Don’t put names next to the dialogue (obviously only if this is just two people talking) and see if you can keep a distinct enough voice that people won’t get confused after the initial “What up Bob”/ “Oh, sup Alejandro”.

    • Thanks for taking the time to read and give feedback. I can see that the script format wouldn’t work in a story. I find lots of dialogue between more than two people tricky to incorporate in under a thousand words, yet I know it can be a powerful technique in writing. I will bear in mind what you say and keep practising πŸ™‚

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