Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Talking Heads #4

TITLE: Collapse
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Easy-going Jared and awkward, superstar swimmer Melanie have lived next door to each other since they were kids. Last week, an earthquake hit their home town, throwing their lives back together.

“What’s on your mind when you’re quiet like that?” Jared asks.

“What do you mean? You’re quiet too.”

“Yeah, but you go a million miles away. And not just now. A lot. At school, actually, most of the time.”

It’s weird to think that he’s looked at me at school. “I know, everyone thinks I’m a freak. I’ve heard girls from my team talking about me. I don’t know, usually I’m thinking about swimming, you know?”

“Is that what you were thinking about now?” he asks.

“No,” I answer, but I don’t want explain, not yet anyway.

Jared laughs. “You weren’t like that when we were little kids. You were so obnoxious. You always wanted to play princess.”

“Whatever. You always wanted to play superhero,” I remember. “Before you got cool.”

Jared snorts. “Oh yeah, I’m really cool,” he says.

I raise my eyebrows. “No? You don’t think you’re cool hanging out with your cool boy posse in front of the locker room everyday?”

“I didn’t think you cared about that stuff.”

“I don’t care. I’m a hundred miles from cool. When I have to talk to people, I always say dumb things.”

“Like what dumb things have you said today?” Jared says.

“You just don’t notice, because you’ve known me so long,” I say. “I don’t have time to be cool and to swim fast too, you know? So being faster is always going to be more important to me.”

“That is cool, Melanie. I wish the guys on our team were focused like you.”

“Well, swim is all that matters to me. It’s different for the guys you hang out with,” I say, thinking about the gossip that I float through in the locker room.

“Different how?” he asks.

“Like life beyond football. Angie and the other girls talk about your friends and all the girls you’re with. Lots of girls.” As soon as I say it, I wish I could take it back.

“You can’t believe everything you hear in the locker room, Mel,” he says, sounding strange.

“I know, but I don’t get it. Everything about boys confuses me.” Jared looks at me for a long time. “What? I already told you I’m a freak. I just don’t get boys and dating and stuff like that.”

“Well, I’m not like those guys. I have a girlfriend.” And he adds, under his breath, “I guess.”


  1. I like the idea of familiar longtime neighbors who have grown in different directions.
    Some of Jared's dialogue seems a little forced/repetitive. Example:
    "YOU weren't like that when we were kids. YOU were so obnoxious. YOU always want to play princess."
    Another repetitive word which became a distraction was "cool." I'd leave the first two and then swap out the rest for another word.
    I'm also not sure where this scene takes place. Are they leaning against lockers at school? Are they standing outside on the strip of grass between their houses? Be sure to sprinkle some movement in between your dialogue to give your scene a rounded feel.
    Good luck!

  2. You dialogue did a good job revealing their affection for each other. I get the sense they like each other but don't know it yet.

    A couple things threw me a bit. The hundred miles from cool sounded a bit forced. More like something an old guy like me would say. Also, her telling him she's not good with boys. I get that they are old friends but they talk like they've been apart for a while. That seems like something very vulnerable for her to say here. I might be wrong. If I had more of the context I might not think its too soon.

    I really like that he respects her focus on her sport. It shows that he's not like the rumors about him. Good job.

  3. There's a lot to like about this. Kids who grew up together and are apart of different social groups brings a lot of built-in tension and potential for a great story line. But this dialogue needs to be pared down. There are a lot of repetitive words and ideas, which bogs down what should be an intense scene.

  4. Love the premise. Some of the dialogue feels a little stiff and formal. Maybe try reading it out loud and think if two people were really talking, how would they say it? The "yous" the other commenter noted is one example.
    This: "I’ve heard girls from my team talking about me." Nothing wrong with this, but it could be more specific, like who did she overhear and what did she hear?

    Since it's just the two in the scene, when she answers "No" you can skip "I answer" and just have the narration after "I don't want to explain..." In general, a lot of these dialogue tags you can replace with narrative or something that shows more about the character; not just how they are physically moving in the scene but little observational ticks. A writer who does this amazingly well is Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor and Park, Fangirl). I highly recommend her for examples of showing character detail.

    Jared laughs and next response from him he snorts. Maybe one of those could be replaced with an action that's tied to setting, or something your MC observes about him other than laughing.

    So much potential here! Good luck and thanks for sharing.