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This Conversation Needs a Writer

with dad & the third wife

with dad & the third wife

“She’ll think you don’t like her,” my dad said.

I was on my way out the door. I had a date and I hadn’t had a date in a year. I bit the inside of my cheek. “What do you mean?” I asked him.

“A– will think you don’t like her,” he said. A– was his live-in girlfriend (and now she is his wife).

“She’ll think I don’t like her because I left my purse on the kitchen table?” I said. A– and I got along well. Everyday I reminded Dad of this.

“You don’t want her to think you don’t like her,” he said.

“What if,” I said, my stomach churning because I knew I was about to say something I wasn’t allowed to say. “What if my feelings were hurt because I wasn’t allowed to leave my purse on the kitchen table?”

My dad frowned. “That doesn’t make any sense. I just don’t want you to hurt A–‘s feelings.”

“Fine. I’ll be more careful. Now, I have to go.” I head toward the door.

“Don’t forget to tell A– good-bye.”

In my dress shoes I stomped through the garden, around to the back of the house, past the pool, and to the shed. “Bye, A–,” I said. She was watering flowers.

“Don’t you have a date?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Then what’re doing back here?” She shot water at her rose bushes.

“Dad, wanted me to be sure to tell you bye,” I said.

She tilted her head. “Why? What’s he thinking? You got a date–don’t listen to your dad.”

In your own life, what people really mean when they speak (and the words they actually use) can drive you mad. I thought I knew what my father really meant–prove to me you’re not going to ruin this relationship of mine like you did my second marriage. You know those veiled conversations you have with family that no bystander can grasp.

Maybe I was wrong about what he really meant. Not like I’ll ever know.

I love writing dialog in fiction. I know what every character means, and I can make them say what I want. They can be clever or obtuse. They can evade or be blunt. I can play with the line until it is missing just the right part to make the other character mad. Or fall in love. Or whatever I please.

I love power over words. Which isn’t to say I’ve come close to mastering that power, but I keep trying.

If you could hire any writer to write a dialog for your life, who would you hire? Do you think it would help to have a writer tell you what to say?

8 thoughts on “This Conversation Needs a Writer

  1. I’m not sure who I’d hire. I’d want to ensure that I was correctly construed all the times I wasn’t, though. That’d be “teh awesome”.

    Saying what you mean and meaning what you say sounds so easy, doesn’t it? I find interpretation tends to be the problem now, though.

  2. I think any writer could make a better job of it than I do. Even I could, or possibly: ESPECIALLY I could. ~Miriam

  3. I think I’d like Alice Hoffman.

    But I do have a writer telling me what to say… me!

    My best “conversations” always come after I’ve gone over and over an issue in my journal. Once I’ve written it out, I know what to say… know what to think, even.

    It doesn’t mean that the other party will listen to me. So I’d like to hire a writer to take care of the other party’s side of the discussion.

    Damn life for not being under my pen.

  4. It’s the rare writer who’s as direct as I’d like to be in real life. Authors make their characters mis-understand each other for the sake of tension and suspense, but there is so much of that in life as it is- I long for the direct approach. I’m working on it.

  5. Elmore Leonard.

    One of my favorite things he “taught” me about writing dialogue — I probably overuse it — is how often people leave off the first “real” word or syllable of a sentence when they’re speaking informally. Especially in exclamations like “What The hell you mean by that?” It borders on writing in dialect, which of course can be overdone, but it also “sounds” so much like real conversation that the reader (well, this reader) tends not to notice it.

    But writing dialogue never comes easy for me. It so often (at least to my eyes and ears) results in people who talk alike.

    Which, okay, many people do in real life, especially when they’re around one another all the time. But the differences in speech from one person to another run much more deeply than simple verbal tics (like saying “Goddam,” e.g., instead of “God damn” — a crutch for distinguishing the speech of two main characters that I leaned on all throughout earlier drafts of the WIP.) The differences are of rhythm, and simply what they choose to say vs. keep to themselves, and whether or not they interrupt themselves with digressions and little bits of stage business, and so on… all of which I find supremely difficult to capture without sounding artificial.

  6. If I could hire someone to write the dialogue for my life, I think it would be a lawyer with a recorder. Before Darc and I married, nearly everyone I knew accused me of saying things I never said, and denied saying things they actually did say. It made for a lot of frustration. It’s so much nicer being with someone who actually listens. 🙂

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