Wednesday, February 24, 2010

4 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Untitled
EMOTION: Nick: guilty, slightly embarrassed, a little annoyed. Claudia: angry, but in that seething, simmering kind of way.

Set-up: Nick (Nick is "I" in this passage) and Claudia are on a cross-country trip. Claudia has discovered an acceptance letter from Brown University that Nick has been hiding from her for a few months.

“When did this all happen?” Claudia calls to me as I head around to the front seat. She is waving the brown folder at me. The white crest with the red cross catches the sunlight and temporarily blinds me.

“Like, April,” I gulp and shrug.

“April? Were you going to tell me about it?” Her voice is measured.

I just shrug again. “Eventually, I guess.”

“Like when you were packing your suitcases? Or maybe after you got there and moved in? Or maybe graduation day four years from now. That would have been the perfect time to say, ‘Oh, Claud, by the way, I got into Brown.’” Her voice has gotten just a little bit loud.

“I would have told you, I swear. I’m not even sure if I’m going or not.” I say to the ground.

“What? Of course you’re going! You were smart enough to get into the Ivy League and you’re talking about not going? Are you nuts?”

“I don’t know. We don’t have to talk about it right now, do we?” I say, heading to the driver’s side of the car and holding out my hand for the keys.

Claudia sets her mouth in a line and I can see her cigarette shaking in her hand. She takes a breath like she’s about to say something, thinks better of it and plops the keys in my hand. “You’re the boss,” she mutters.


  1. I like the dialogue and think it feels realistic but I think you can lose some of the descriptive phrases like these:

    "I just shrug again." I already have a mental image of him shrugging because of the dialogue that follows.

    "Her voice has gotten just a little bit loud." The way the dialogue builds in that section makes me read it with increasing volume anyway. Her agitation is clear through her words and the choppy sentences she's using.

    I think you can rely more on the dialogue to convey the physical actions because you've done a good job with the choice of words and their speech patterns. It's there. You don't need to describe it.

  2. I'm not sure I see Nick as embarrassed, per se, more nonchalant. I get Claudia for sure though. The dialogue reads naturally, which is great :) I will say some of the parts describing what they're doing are unnecessary. I think in some cases, the dialogue can (pardon the bad pun) speak for itself.

  3. The dialogue flows naturally. And you definately get a feel for the sense of betrayal from Claudia.

    The one line I thought felt a bit out of place was "You're the boss." It might flow a bit better as the scene goes on but right now it seems awkward.

  4. The dialogue is very good. The only line that doesn't work for me is the last one where Claudia tells him he's the boss, but that could make perfect sense if I knew more about their relationship.

    A couple nitpicks, Nick is heading around to the front seat in the first paragraph, and heading to the driver's side of the car in the eight para. I found that a little jarring since I assumed he'd have been all the way around the vehicle by then. And as others have said, you probably don't need all the descriptive/small action phrases.

    Nice job.

  5. This dialogue is great-- but I'd cut the "I just shrug again." because he doesn't just shrug again, he replies. :)

    I think you really capture Claudia's emotion in this paragraph especially:
    “Like when you were packing your suitcases? Or maybe after you got there and moved in? Or maybe graduation day four years from now. That would have been the perfect time to say, ‘Oh, Claud, by the way, I got into Brown.’” Her voice has gotten just a little bit loud.

    The rush of the questions on top of one another is perfect here as an emphasis of her feelings!

  6. Claudia's emotions are great. I don't see embarrassment from Nick though--maybe a little bit of anxiety over telling Claudia, but not really fear.

    I noticed you'd add a dialogue tag along with action in a lot of places. Most of the time you can drop one or the other or both. I prefer action tags to dialogue tags but that's a personal preference.

  7. I think it's great! The only line I didn't like is "Like, April." Since he's shrugging, shouldn't he be suggesting something? "I dunno, April maybe."

    And the sentence about Ivy League...I know it would change the tense, but shouldn't she say that you ARE smart enough? Because he hasn't stopped being smart, has he?

    This is realistic and I would read more.

  8. I agree that this is realistic, and the emotion you try to convey are pretty accurate, especially Claudia's. Some of the descriptive tags pull me out of the conversation, you could cut it down a bit.

  9. The emotion in the dialogue is good. But I agree with the other authors that some of the descriptive tags don't blend well with the dialogue.

  10. I liked this. The dialogue has a nice flow to it and sounds completely natural. On the whole, I'd say this passage is basically there.

    However (because I know we all appreciate editorial advice). I'm going to agree with the other commenters who have pointed out that Claudia's emotion is more apparent than Nick's. I get her anger simmering just below the surface. All of Nick's shrugging translates into nonchalance more than anything for me.

    As for the dialogue and action tags, I tend to be a more tag-heavy writer myself, so they didn't bother me too much. There were a couple, though, that really dragged me down: "Her voice is measured" in the third paragraph, and "Her voice has gotten just a little bit loud" in the fifth. Since both of these tags refer back to Claudia's voice - and since the dialogue itself adequately communicates what her voice is doing in both instances - you could probably do without them.

    Hope that helps!