Monday, January 28, 2013

Talkin' Heads #30

TITLE: Missing Cat
GENRE: YA fiction

“I, for one, need coffee,” David said. “Before I fall over, I must have a good cup of coffee. No gas station coffee or fast food coffee... a good local coffee shop.”

“Tall order, there, fella,” I said. “But I think our most excellent driver deserves a little coffee. So fire up your phones. The first one to find a local coffee shop doesn’t have to pitch in to pay for it.”

“David, we’re going to a latte trouble for you,” I quipped.

“There are grounds for that,” he retorted. “I am robust and flavorful.”

“I might say you’re automatic drip,” Paige came back.

“Oooh,” Em said.

“Good to the last drop,” Hadley added.

“Now you’re perking me up,” David said. “Can I have a little sugar with that?”

“I can’t keep up with you guys,” Max said. “You just espresso yourselves so well.”

“We can’t seem to filter out the bad jokes,” I admitted.

“Yep, this round’s definitely gone to pot,” Paige muttered.

“Got one!” Em said. “Coffee, Coffee 2.8 miles away.”


  1. Silly, but funny/quirky and you get a sense of the variety of characters. You don't get a feeling of the setting from the snippet, but as part of a larger novel, the fast-paced back and forth conversation would move a scene along well.

  2. The puns are cute, I think this could work well for some fun back and forth between the characters. For the first few lines, the word coffee is used about five times. I'm wondering if this is intentional, but even so, it feels distracting. Condensing this gives the same effect, IMO:

    “I, for one, need coffee,” David said. “No gas station or fast food coffee... but a good local shop.”

  3. Uhm... yes, the puns are cute. However, there are too many tags: quipped, retorted, came back, added, admitted, and muttered. A simple said works best, but it's better to use beats. I realize you have several characters talking all at the same time and you're trying to differentiate each one, but varying your tags isn't helping.

    Instead, I would suggest showing each character through action rather than use a tag. End the line of speech with a period, close the quotes, and then say something like: David winked at Paige. Or: Max crossed his arms and grinned at David. That will let readers know how said what without a tag calling attention to itself.

    It's often said by some writing teachers that no more than two characters at a time should have a conversation because the confusion of who speaks, and who's POV it is, can be jarring to the reader. Personally, I think you can have 3 or 4 characters in a scene if it's done well. Even so, limiting the number of characters to two is the best option, and the others can certainly still be in the scene, but take their turn talking so the reader only has to follow the conversation of 2 at a time. Really, it's all in how you handle it. Good luck!

  4. I really liked the puns too. And the very contemporary use of the smartphones to find the nearest coffee shop. I would second Karen's advice on how to make this multiple person conversation work.
    But back to the puns: If these are teenagers talking, I wonder if you could embed the puns in the dialogue with more youthful language. Since some of the puns use old references (good to the last drop), I wonder if kids reading this would relate. I dunno, these characters all sound a bit old to me, not like kids. Maybe more like, "Nah. You're so totally automatic drip," or "Dude, you are good to the last drop,"

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  6. I loved this! I thought it sounded like a conversation my teenage brother and his friends would have.

    I can understand the point made about the tags, but I personally thought you varied them just enough.

    I think you juggle the multiple characters really well and I don't have any problem with this many talking at once because you do make it clear who is saying what.

    A couple of non-verbal actions like Karen suggested might be good, but I think too much action would cause the snappy movement of this to drag.

    The one thing that I would fix is the second and third paragraph being spoken by the same person. It reads a little oddly to me. Maybe have one of the others start the pun fest? Or, if you want the MC to begin it you might want to add another line between the serious line of asking them to research coffee shops and the first pun.

    Overall I really enjoyed this exchange!

  7. I am clearly in the minority, but I did not like how long the punning went on. It stopped the forward movement of the story.

    Two or three quips would be funny, give a feeling for the group dynamic, and keep the story moving.

  8. I thought it was a cute exchange. I'm having trouble with these, because we don't know the context at all.

    I do agree with the commenter above, there are too many "quipped," "admitted," "muttered."