Writing Conflict Dialogue

We’re all writers of our own stories.  What we say is often not as important as what we do.  Just like real people, your fictional characters have thoughts and reactions to stimuli.  Events mold them just like they do you.  When you talk with another person what they say and do affect what you say and do and vise versa.  Today, I’ll cover two aspects of conflict, the physical and the verbal.  Both aspects play an important role in fiction, be it science, fantasy, crime, romance etc.

When you are in conflict with another person you wouldn’t just say that you’re angry, you would act that out.  In fact, just saying your angry is never enough is it?  You don’t just say your angry.  You may explain what it was that just pissed you off, maybe you throw or hit something, maybe point aggressively or stab your palm with your index finger when making each point and that usually gets the message across immediately. So, why would your characters be any different?  The action of stabbing your palm with your finger, and raising your voice at the same time is the physical aspect.  Take the following two passages as an example:

Edward had tried to be patient with the man, but his insistence that something be done ‘right now’ was starting to grate on his nerves until he couldn’t take it anymore.  He interrupted the man.  “You pathetic little excuse for a man!  You come in here with your holier than thou bullshit and expect to be taken any other way but as the complete asshole you are.  Get the fuck out of my shop before I call the cops!”

Edward had tried to be patient with the man, but his insistence that something be done ‘right now’ was starting to grate on his nerves until he couldn’t take it anymore.  That was when his hand slapped down on the table, making a resounding smack that stopped the man in mid sentence.  “You pathetic little excuse for a man!”  His next line was delivered with a sneer and an accusing finger.  “You come in here with your holier than thou attitude and expect me cowtow?  Get the fuck out of my shop before I call the cops!”  His other hand was already going for the telephone handset.

We have two examples above.  One is okay, but the other is much better.  In the first example, we have an okay statement but little description of the actions that would accompany it.  Although, the narrative somewhat supported the statement the actions of the character were completely absent.  I notice this type of failure often in all forms of fiction.   

In the second example, the visual we perceive in our minds pulls us further into the story.  Now we can see and hear how upset Edward is with the man.  We have actions that support his statement.  This is how it works in reality and this is how it should work in your fiction.

In the first example we have a bit of profanity.  Edward swears three times in that short statement.  Doing this relies too much on the profane and distracts from the story, the statement and the dialogue.  It ruins the flow.  Yes, people swear in real life and sometime even more often than in the example, but relying too much on such elements shows immaturity in the character and the writer.  

The rewrite has only one swear word.  It’s usage is only once and at the end of the statement.  This way you still retain the attention of the reader, still effectively have Edward express himself and provide an impact at the end.  Of course you could simply use other words that are borderline profane; like bloody, hell, heck etc. and that would be the writer’s choice.  Bear in mind, that even borderline profanity can still take away from the flow of the statement even though they aren’t outright swear words.

Arguments will happen on occasion in real life and they will not often be an organized exchange of ideas.  Those involved have vested interests at stake, from personal philosophies to money, power, prestige etc.  Writing an immersive argument can be a tough concept to get one’s head around.  One only needs to keep in mind that an argument is never tidy or pretty.  It’s a mishmash of contrary ideas, opinions and observations.  One hardly ever gets to say everything they want to, even if it is a calm exchange.  Let’s use another example:

Klara tried to calmly rebut Albert’s statement.  “I don’t know about that, Al.  We have several instances in the last week where the police have beaten down a suspect before realizing they got the wrong person.”

“Oh, here we go with that old trope.”  Albert raised his voice in ridicule.  “I’m getting real sick of you liberal sheeple constantly blowing things out of proportion.  The cops have a tough job.”  He waved a hand to the side, as if brushing away her argument.  “So what if sometimes someone gets abused a little more now and then?  They’re cops, man. They put their lives on the line every day.  Just don’t resist, and you’ll be fine!”  

The above example is short and tidy.  It gets the information to the reader in an efficient manner.  Except that it is not realistic.  It is not realistic because it is short, tidy and efficient.  When writing an argument between characters I would advise an effective use of interruptions.  Because that is exactly how we humans argue in real life.  Let’s read an enhanced version of the above exchange, only we’ll add in that interruption factor.  

Klara tried to calmly rebut Albert’s statement.  “I don’t know about that, Al.  We have several instances in the last week where the police have beaten down a susp-”  She stopped in mid gesture, having been interrupted by Albert for the third time during that meeting, with her mouth still held at the ‘p’.  Her arms dropped to her sides, as she mentally rolled her eyes.

“Oh, here we go with that old trope.”  Albert raised his voice in ridicule.  “I’m getting real sick of you liberal sheeple constantly blowing things out of proportion.  The cops have a tough job.”  He waved a hand to the side, as if brushing away her argument.  “So what if sometimes someone gets abused a little more now and then?  They’re cops, man. They put their lives on the line every day.  Just don’t resist, and you’ll be fine!”

The young reporter patiently waited for Albert to finish.  She wasn’t going to lower herself to the same level by interrupting him back.  She simply picked up exactly where she was interrupted.  “-ect before realizing they got the wrong person.”

“What the hell are you talking about?  You’re not even making sense!”

“That’s because you weren’t listening.”  Was Klara’s calm reply.

“Oh, I was listening, you just weren’t saying anything I haven’t heard before a million times!”

In the enhanced version, we see an interruption of Klara’s statement.  Yes, we could have made her interrupt Albert in turn, or even raise her voice to talk over that interruption.  This would depend on how you wanted to present Klara.  In this version I wanted to depict her as a calm reasonable person facing a less than reasonable person.  This could very well have played out where Klara was just as emotionally invested as Albert appeared to be.  The result would have been much more messy, much more heated and perhaps much more interesting to the reader.

Moving on we instead have Klara pick up exactly where she was interrupted.  This is a character trait I decided to throw in that doesn’t necessarily add to the plot, but does show her to be an interesting person instead of just another party in the argument.  It also shows that she is quite used to being interrupted.  It bothers her to the point that she used this technique to gain a sort of moral superiority over Albert.  And perhaps there is some hope that he would realize that he did interrupt her and adjust his behaviour.  Again, that would depend on what led up to the argument, what their relationship was, and what the goal of the argument was in the grand scheme of the larger story.

Albert, was clearly not listening, as is often the case in such a scenario.  After people watching for decades I have learned that it is quite common for one or all parties to no listen and just watch for an opportunity to interject with their own opinion.  I show this as the case with Albert when he asks what she was talking about after she pauses in her statement until the interruption is over.  To Albert it is a half sentence and really doesn’t make sense because he really wasn’t listening.

When we have Klara reply, calling him on the fact that he wasn’t listening, we now reinforce the fact that Albert wasn’t listening.  We also show that Albert is actually a bit of a dick.  The example finishes when we slam home the fact, by having him retort with the conviction that he felt he knew what she was saying anyway, so he didn’t need to allow her the respect of finishing her sentence.

Peace, and good writing!

Broka Pack I – Planets

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Broka Pack I – Vessels

These images are on an open use policy.  Meaning that you are allowed to use these images without monetary compansation as long as you provide credit.

Fictional Planet of Larry’s Favourite Science Fiction Game Found

History has again been made today as the Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes teamed up to discover planet Reach from the game Halo: Reach. The news especially hits home for Larry Buzby of Regina, Saskatchewan. “It was a dream come true. Who knew that after a few days of playing this game that I would see it become a reality!?” Says a teary eyed Larry, who just purchased the game at a discount from a local second hand gaming shop. “I remember a YouTube video that covered the discovery of Gliese 581 g and many of us gamers hoped that it was this very planet. Some jackoff kept ripping on us for being stupid, but who has the last laugh now!?” Added Larry, 25 who currently resides in his mother’s basement.

SpaceX CEO and Entrepreneur Elon Musk immediately announced plans to send an advanced destroyer to the newly found world within the next 50 years. When asked how he would develop the fusion reactor used in the game, as well as the SPARTAN-III Mark-V armor, he simply winked and said, “trust me, we got this.” And when asked how he would get the funding for the research and development for, what he now calls the Halo Project, he stated that he was sure all the Halo gamers would pitch in a hundred bucks each. “Hey, if they’re willing to pay 80 bucks for a game, how much do you think they’ll kick in to actually become a part of it becoming a reality?”

When we inquired about this with Larry he enthusiastically stated that he would gladly volunteer to be the first of the crop of soldiers making planet fall. “Sure, I may have to lose a little weight, first…” he smirked and patted his beer gut, “… but I’m sure Elon would let me slide on the requirements, especially since I’ll be dropping 200 bucks on it.” That’s the spirit, Larry… you can’t keep a good dream down.

Woman Gets Hired by NASA After Reply to Facebook Post

Forget about applying for employment at prestigious NASA using the NASA site careers section. Amy Kudough did it simply by posting a reply to a recent article posted on NASA’s Facebook page. The young ambitious woman had only just posted her desire to work for the the US government agency when they replied directly to her message. “I felts that if I expresses my wants they would hires me. I’m very happys!” States 83 year old Amy.

In a phone interview with NASA career specialist Andre Mills explained why they bypassed their stringent requirements. “It was very clear that this young woman’s ambition alone was all we needed. We didn’t care that her english sucked potatoes, or that she wasn’t even a US citizen or even that she hadn’t yet even applied to a US university for a useful education in aerospace.” When we asked about how this affects future hiring practices, Andre answered matter-of-factly. “The fuck are you talking about? Hiring practices are meant to be bypassed, that’s why we make them. Look, if we kept stuck on wanting people to be properly educated in order to work in the aerospace industry the unwashed masses would never get a shot. It’s only fair that we forget all about the protocols we put in place over decades to make sure the right stuff is acquired.”

Other specialist high level careers, including the president of the United States, are now starting to follow NASA’s example and have begun employment drives on social media sources such as Twitter, Couch Surfing, Bebo, Sport Lobster and Tea Party Community.

Local Man Now Believes In Flat Earth After Being Called ‘Sheeple’ On Facebook

In a turn of events that can only be described as momentous a Regina man who long supported the idea of a spherical earth is now a staunch supporter of an earth that is flat. The reason? He was called “sheeple” on the popular social media giant Facebook. The white male, age 52 and a blue collar worker, chooses to remain nameless due to the embarrassment that he admits is too much. “It’s just too much for me. I don’t want my entire family to be caught up in what is clearly my own failing.”

When asked what it was in the comment that convinced him to make the change he replied, “it was the word ‘sheeple’.” The word is commonly used by addle minded flat earth believers who commonly comment on NASA articles on Facebook and is a contraction of the two words ‘sheep’ and ‘people’. “Until then I had no idea that being smart and supporting science and discovery was where I went wrong. It’s clear to me now… I was such a moron that it was sickening,” he states. When he was asked what his initial reaction was he responded matter-of-factly, “I vomited… a lot. I couldn’t eat for days. Now I know,” the man explained, while tearing up, “that being an ignorant, stupid, jackoff who posts poop emojis on NASA articles is good and proper. I will never go back to being reasonable and logical again.”

Local Geek Gets Offered Job as Accuracy Technician

The next time you critique Star Trek watch out. Recently a local geek was offered the first Accuracy Technician position at the Star Trek Useless Facts Foundation. The organisation has opened it’s doors to those whom they see as the most proficient in advising others how little they really know about the popular TV show. When approached by the foundation Malcolm Benedict jumped at the opportunity stating, “I was both surprised and honoured that I was their pick. At first I thought it was nasty joke. I mean, my non-geeky friends are always about the gags at my expense. After a bit of research and an interview I am now making money doing what I was always doing for free.”

When we interviewed Admiral Armand Hammer, president and founder of STUFF, he explains the importance of getting Star Trek facts straight. “I mean, c’mon… there are people out there confusing Star Trek with Star Wars, creating fanfiction with no regard to canon and no respect for the hard work the rest of us put in to maintain some semblance of consistency.” We mentioned to the Admiral that even the writers of Star Trek frequently get things wrong and his answer was surprising. “Fuck’em… fuck the writers, they obviously don’t know shit and will write whatever they fancy at any given time. The foundation’s goal is to supply filmmakers with the next generation of good writers and advisers that the franchise deserves.”

Other positions yet to be filled are, Useless Facts Adviser, Worthless Knowledge Archiver and WTF Physics Coordinator. So, the next time you post any comment about the Star Trek franchise on social media, be on the watch for Malcolm, for he’ll burn you. “Actually, it’s `they’ll buuurn ya’, from All Our Yesterdays of the original series. Please use a little effort, okay?” Says Malcolm. Good job, Malcolm. You finally found your niche.