Monday, January 28, 2013

Talkin' Heads #27

TITLE: Bernie and Charlie talking
GENRE: Murder mystery

Bernie Robertson, the main character in the murder mystery is visited by her estranged husband Charlie who is asking for money. Charlie and Bernie married when Bernie got pregnant. Their baby, Jimmy died, but they have a two year old Miranda.

He shuffled around, not willing to look me in the eye. “A man needs a son, Bernie, someone to carry on the family name.”

“Carry on what family name? It’s not like we’re royalty or anything. And what noble attributes would you have your son carry on? You haven’t held a job for more than two weeks in all the years we were married. You want a son that will be as shiftless as you are?”

He stiffened and I could see anger in his face. “I didn’t come here to argue, Bernie. I just wanted to talk a little bit.”

“The only thing I want to talk about, Charlie, is money. We have a daughter that I’m raising on my own. It would be nice to have some help with that.”

We were standing in front of the open door to the apartment. He pushed past me and I followed him inside. “Charlie,” I said. “In less than two months we will be divorced. I don’t want you here. I can call the police and have you thrown out.”

“Don’t do that Bern. Please. I just want to talk. I was a sh**** husband and a bad father I know, but will you give me five minutes?”


  1. I can really feel the tension in this scene - to ramp it up a bit more, perhaps a few hints about Bernie's body language?

    I suggest you condense the "Carry on..." paragraph.

    At this point in the story, does Bernie know Charlie has come to ask her for money? If so, her bringing it up doesn't sound right (it would be more like: how can you ask me for money when I....)

    I'd expect more of a reaction when Charlie pushes his way inside. Does Bernie try to block his way?

  2. I like the tension in the dialogue, but I'd suggest cutting some of the exposition a bit-- let their words show their emotions more. And I agree that there should be more of a reaction when he pushes inside-- maybe push back or something.

    I like the opening lines-- but I'm a little confused as to why he mentions a son. Maybe it's just because this is an excerpt. I do like Bernie's response to him after he says that.

  3. For the most part, this really works. However a few tweaks could make it better, like cutting out some extra words such as "not willing to look me in the eye" might be better as "not looking me in the eye." "Not willing" is presumptuous on her part. She can only observe what he does, not what makes him do it.

    The paragraph about carrying the family name could be condensed. And she sees anger in his face, but what does that look like? Maybe describe that anger, like his face reddened with rage, or a scowl pinched his brows together and she recognized his anger. Something along those lines.

    Does he push, or shove? Sometimes just the choice of words is a good indication of the character's behavior. Maybe he shoved his way past her and she stomped in right behind him. That would show they're both pretty worked up. And why doesn't she just say get out? "I don't want you here" is rather tame for the heated conversation they're having.

    The rest is great. Good job!

  4. Very easy to envision this scene. The dialogue establishes the conflict that moves these characters forward. I am wondering if he is just a louse trying to con his way back or if there is something more here. Nice.