Thursday, March 9, 2017

Talkin' Heads (SFF) #10

TITLE: Aqueous
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Indigo and McKile belong to a secret group of mermaids who are struggling to find a way to stop themselves from transforming into mermaid form.  Often at odds, these two characters make a connection for the first time in this scene. 

Irritated, I walk to the kitchen. I open the fridge and examine the food. There’s plenty in here for a week. Maybe next time they need to refill it I’ll offer to buy. I open each cabinet, studying where the plates are, the mugs, the glasses.

“Beer stash is in the top right cabinet.” McKile leans against the door frame.

“Good to know.”

“Your parents really strict?”

I shake my head, opening another cabinet.

“So they let you drink and stuff,” he continues.

“My mom and I will have a glass of wine, yeah.”

“Ever had beer?”

“Yeah. But I don’t like it.”

“What about your dad?”

“Don’t have one.”

“Me, neither.”

I look at him, pausing in my cabinet rummage. “What happened?”

“Divorced. He battled for custody, but I’ll never know why. His interests included drinking and prostitutes, not kids.” He pauses casually, like he’s telling me what he ate last week. “Lived by the beach, though, and bought us all the surf gear we wanted. So in the end it worked out.”

“We? You have siblings?”

“Older brother, younger sister.”

“I always wanted an older brother.” I slide up onto one of the counters. “I’m an only child. Mom raised me by herself. I’ve never met him— my dad. I only just learned his name, actually.”

I don’t know why I’m telling McKile this.

“What a dick,” he says through a mouthful of raisins. “Leaving you and your mom.”

I can’t help but widen my eyes in surprise.

“What? You think I’m such an a**hole I'd defend your dad?”

“I don’t know. You’re always…”

“Such an a**hole?”

“Pretty much.” I grin, and to my surprise, he does, too.


  1. This dialogue flows really well. Even without any dialog tags, there is no real trouble discerning the characters. However, without a few tags, it feels a little like the scene becomes static/paused, especially at the beginning. The lack of tags feels more appropriate in the second half of the scene, but not so much in the first half (I just picture Indigo standing staring in an open cabinet).

    What may really help is a 'thought' tag. E.g.:

    "My mom and I will have a glass of wine, yeah." Where was he going with this?

    Otherwise, this dialogue is quite natural. Kudos.

    The only other quibble is McKile's "What a dick" comment. It felt like it comes out of nowhere based on the dialog presented. HIS dad's exploits are well described as boorish, but Indigo only says she just learned her dad's name and never met him. She never states that he left her and her mom or that she thinks negatively of him in any way. If she does have those negative feelings, Indigo needs to state (or imply) that so that McKile's response is more appropriate. Otherwise it feels like the "connection" that occurs between them is forced and unnatural.

    Overall, though, a very well written scene.

  2. The telling, in the first line, with ‘Irritated’ (which, I know, isn’t dialogue, but it’s something to keep an eye on with the emotional state of characters: showing is almost always better than telling (nothing is an absolute, of course). The set up, mermaids trying not to be mermaids, is interesting.

    You then have three sentences about having food. And utensils. I’m not quite sure why this is needed other than filler to get to the dialogue. Is there some more important information you can introduce about setting and/or characters here? Or is this some foreshadowing, in which case, feel free to ignore me (as always).

    With dialogue, which is what we’re here for, reading it out loud is a tremendous help. It’ll pop up issues like ‘my mom and I will have’ which is a bit clunkier than natural. ‘We’ll have’ would be more natural. And leads to the question from the other character ‘we?’ Which leads to more dialogue. Which is a good thing.

    Most people would use ‘fought’ in dialogue as opposed to ‘battled’ but this is a character choice, more than an author one: is using ‘battled’ something the character would say? If yes, keep it. If no, ‘fought’ is simpler and more natural for most people. Same with ‘his interests included’ which is wordy where ‘He was into’ might work (though avoiding ‘was’ is always good…when possible. Sometimes it simply is the best word to use).

    I’m not really sure ‘Mom raised me by herself’ is necessary, and it’s clunky.

    Finally, you have the word ‘surprise’ twice towards the end, which is always something to avoid.

    On the whole, this works. But there are some odd phrases which you’ll notice when reading them out loud. And some of the beats, about drinking and the surprise aspect, are questionable. I like the fact that you present a lot of information in here (about their drinking, and their childhoods/parental situations) without it feeling too much like an info dump. Cleaning it up a little will help with that. Good luck!

  3. Your dialogue sounds natural and is quite snappy, I like it. No over-use of speaker tags and it's easy to discern whose talking.

    The only things that tripped me up was after McKile admits he doesn't have a dad, he says, “Lived by the beach, though, and bought us all the surf gear we wanted. So in the end it worked out.” It makes it appear dad is still in the picture after all, and that's a contradiction.

    I also wondered why Indigo would ask "What happened?" since she didn't volunteer her own dadless story. Plus Indigo never said her dad left her mom, so there's no indication how McKile got that idea.

    This is a good start. Good luck!

  4. I actually thought this worked really well. Any longer in the first exchange and I would have suggested a tag somewhere to not got lost about who was speaking, but as it is, I had no problems.

    The only thing that pulled me out a bit (and it's small and I'm not even sure WHY it pulled me out) is I wasn't sure why this was it's own paragraph:

    I don’t know why I’m telling McKile this.

    Instead of being attached to her dialogue above. Otherwise, good job.

  5. This is a nice moment, showing the narrator gradually softening as she finds common ground with McKile. I agree that the scene would be more dynamic if you added a bit more description of what she's doing before she sits at the counter. And it could be clearer to McKile that her dad left, because from what she says aloud, he could just as easily assume that he died or something. Otherwise, the passage works well.

    Good luck!

  6. What I like about this dialogue segment is that it ends on a feeling that something is about to change. I don't have 'tag' problems with dialogue involving two people (in fact, I think it's distracting to he said/she said when 'he and she' are the only people present). The one line that caught me was "I don't know why I'm telling McKile this." I want to feel her embarrassment here (if she's embarrassed), or feel her discomfort. Because whatever she's feeling, that's what triggered her to say "I don't know why...."