Help Critiquing Dialogue

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gsfields2004
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Help Critiquing Dialogue

Post by gsfields2004 » July 19th, 2010, 12:56 pm

I'm looking for some feedback on a short excerpt of dialogue, so I can gauge how far along my dialogue has progressed. I have a thick skin, so please don't sugar coat it.

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He parked the car, got out, and was getting his bag from the backseat when he felt two enormous arms clamp around his chest and lift him into the air, clipping his head on the ceiling of the car on the way up.

“Ricco Suave, my favorite wetback. How the hell are you?” Ugh said loud enough for the neighbors on the next block to hear.”

“I’ll be better once you let go,” Jarv managed to say before all the air in his lungs was squeezed out.

Ugh released his grip and Jarv dropped onto the street. Turning around, he saw Ugh standing there with his hands on his hips and flashing a big, dumb grin. He looked a lot older than he remembered, but behind the mask of age remained the familiar face of his academy roommate.

“It’s good to see you, Ugh. But cut the Ricco Suave crap. That call sign died out fifteen years ago.”

“You’ll always be Ricco to me,” he said and mussed Jarv’s hair like he would to a little boy. “Let’s grab your stuff and get you into the house. Angeline and the kids are anxious to see you and besides…the neighbors might call the cops if they see a Mexican hanging around.”

“You’re a sick man in dire need of remedial sensitivity training. I’ll call and make the appointment," Jarv said while picking up his duffle bag.

“The hell you will. Come on, let’s go.”

EvelynEhrlich
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Re: Help Critiquing Dialogue

Post by EvelynEhrlich » July 19th, 2010, 4:22 pm

I'll just comment on the dialogue, since that's what you want to focus on. I think you're on the right track, but some of the dialogue seems a bit stilted, like it's not how the characters would talk in real life. Try reading it aloud to yourself while skipping the dialogue tags and descriptions. I've included minor comments below, hope it helps.
gsfields2004 wrote:I'm looking for some feedback on a short excerpt of dialogue, so I can gauge how far along my dialogue has progressed. I have a thick skin, so please don't sugar coat it.

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He parked the car, got out, and was getting his bag from the backseat when he felt two enormous arms clamp around his chest and lift him into the air, clipping his head on the ceiling of the car on the way up.

“Ricco Suave, my favorite wetback. How the hell are you?” Ugh saidaskedloud enough for the neighbors on the next block to hear.

“I’ll be better once you let go,” Jarv managed to say before all the air in his lungs was squeezed out.

Ugh released his grip, and Jarv dropped onto the street. Turning around, he saw Ugh standing there with his hands on his hips and flashing a big, dumb grin. He looked a lot older than he remembered, but behind the mask of age remained the familiar face of his academy roommate.

It’sGood to see you, Ugh. Not sure if you need this first sentence. The friendly tone is already set up by the preceding sentence, and re-emphasized when Ugh musses his hair in the next paragraph. But cCut the Ricco Suave crap. That call sign died out fifteen years ago.”

“You’ll always be Ricco to me,” he said and mussed Jarv’s hair like he would to a little boy. “Let’s gGrab your stuff and get youinto the house. Angeline and the kids are anxious to see you and besides…the neighbors might call the cops if they see a Mexican hanging around.”

“You’re a sick man in dire need of remedial sensitivity training. Too much of a mouthful - pare down I’ll call and make the appointment,." Jarv said while picking up his duffle bag. You don't need this dialogue tag and description. It's obvious that Jarv is speaking, and the stage direction is implied from Ugh's previous statement.

“The hell you will. Come on, let’s go.”

GeeGee55
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Re: Help Critiquing Dialogue

Post by GeeGee55 » July 20th, 2010, 1:18 am

To me, the dialogue might benefit from being a bit more relaxed. Real people speak in phrases, especially when they're in the relaxed kind of situation you have created here. I don't really know how to give advice about dialogue except to just listen to the characters talking in your head. Let them come alive in your head and then put in on the paper. I've made a few changes to illustrate what I mean.
gsfields2004 wrote:I'm looking for some feedback on a short excerpt of dialogue, so I can gauge how far along my dialogue has progressed. I have a thick skin, so please don't sugar coat it.

-----------------

He parked the car, got out, and was getting his bag from the backseat when he felt two enormous arms clamp around his chest and lift him into the air, clipping his head on the ceiling of the car on the way up.

“Ricco Suave, my favorite wetback. How the hell are you?” Ugh said loud enough for the neighbors on the next block to hear.”

“I’ll be- cut Better once you let go,” Jarv managed to say before all the air in his lungs was squeezed out.

Ugh released his grip and Jarv dropped onto the street. Turning around, he saw Ugh standing there with his hands on his hips and flashing a big, dumb grin. He looked a lot older than he remembered, but behind the mask of age remained the familiar face of his academy roommate.

“It’s - cut Good to see you, Ugh. But cut the Ricco Suave crap. That call sign died out fifteen years ago.”

“You’ll always be Ricco to me,” he said and mussed Jarv’s hair like he would to a little boy. “Let’s-cut Grab your stuff (- this seems unnecessary, especially with the line that follows. and get you into the house.) Angeline and the kids are anxious to see you. and-cut Besides…the neighbors might call the cops if they see a Mexican hanging around.”

Two men alone together, he might just say "screw you." “You’re a sick man in dire need of remedial sensitivity training.- I don't have enough of a sense of the character from this short excerpt to know if he'd actually say this or not, it is kind of a mouthful and would seem pretty proper and uptight
I’ll call and make the appointment," Jarv said while picking up his duffle bag.

“The hell you will. Come on, let’s go.”
This is not awful dialogue, it doesn't contain any big info dumps and it does set a mood between the two friends, but I think it could be a bit more natural. I like the relationship you've developed here.

jfw
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Re: Help Critiquing Dialogue

Post by jfw » July 20th, 2010, 2:07 pm

I liked the dialogue but I agree with other posters that you need to loosen it up a little. On thing that struck me was the phrase "Angeline and the kids are anxious to see you". It sounds too formal to me, specifically the word "anxious". I would rewrite as "[Angie | Angeline] and the kids [want to | wanna] see you." I think people tend to use the word "anxious" in speech when they''re worried or waiting for something that's unknown as in "We're anxious to see whether you passed your exam", and "want" when they're looking forward to something. "Dying to see you" or some other idiom might work here as well.

gsfields2004
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Re: Help Critiquing Dialogue

Post by gsfields2004 » July 21st, 2010, 9:30 am

Thanks for taking the time to respond and provide feedback on this dialogue. I'm very new at writing fiction and my guidance thus far have been from books about writing books. I am signed up for my first writers conference this September and hope to learn more during the seminars (there's even one on writing dialogue.

There are some really good suggestions here that I plan to hone and craft into the scene. I especially appreciated the comments regarding the feel of the scene (e.g. too formal, loosening it up, etc)

I probably should have set this scene before tossing it out there. This scene is preceeded by a phone conversation between them and followed by a fuller conversation at Ughs kitchen table over a couple Begium Ales. It is intended as a transitional scene so I want to keep it short. I normally omit greetings from dialogue, but I liked the idea of illustrating their close and longtime friendship as two old buddies meet again after a couple years.

Thanks again for the suggestions and comments.

Krista G.
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Re: Help Critiquing Dialogue

Post by Krista G. » July 22nd, 2010, 1:33 am

Just throwing my two cents onto the counter. I agree that sentence fragments would give this a more relaxed feel, so I won't point those out again. Here are a few other thoughts I had (and not all on the dialogue itself).
gsfields2004 wrote:He parked the car, got out, and was getting his bag from the backseat when he felt two enormous arms clamped around his chest and lifted him into the air, clipping his head on the ceiling of the car on the way up.

“Ricco Suave, my favorite wetback. How the hell are you?” Ugh said loud enough for the neighbors on the next block to hear.

“I’ll be better once you let go,” Jarv managed to say before all the air in his lungs was squeezed out. The two long dialogue tags at the end of this paragraph and the previous one drag down the passage. You might consider shortening (at least) one of them. For instance, you could change the first one to something like, "Ugh bellowed."

Ugh released his grip and Jarv dropped onto the street. Turning around, he saw Ugh was standing there with his hands on his hips and flashing a big, dumb grin. He looked a lot older than he Jarv remembered, but behind the mask of age remained the familiar face of his academy roommate.

“It’s good to see you, Ugh. But cut the Ricco Suave crap. That call sign died out fifteen years ago.”

“You’ll always be Ricco to me.He said and mussed Jarv’s hair like he would to a little boy's. “Let’s grab your stuff and get you into the house. Angeline and the kids are anxious to see you and besides…the neighbors might call the cops if they see a Mexican hanging around.” I agree with the others about using a nickname for Angeline (unless Ugh never calls her by a nickname) and something like "excited" instead of "anxious."

“You’re a sick man in dire need of remedial sensitivity training. I’ll call and make the appointment." Jarv said while picking up his duffle bag. I agree with Evelyn here - no dialogue or action tag needed, since we already know who's speaking and can infer what he's doing.

“The hell you will. Come on, let’s go.”
The characters are engaging, and for some reason, I'm getting a sci-fi/futuristic vibe from this. Best of luck.
Author of THE REGENERATED MAN (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015)
Represented by Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary
www.motherwrite.blogspot.com

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SSB
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Re: Help Critiquing Dialogue

Post by SSB » August 25th, 2010, 7:56 pm

As far as dialogue goes, real life is boring. I like what you wrote. Listen to dialogue in movies and TV shows, it is aways a bit colorful. I also like that you were brave enough to cross the lines of political correctness.

m looking for some feedback on a short excerpt of dialogue, so I can gauge how far along my dialogue has progressed. I have a thick skin, so please don't sugar coat it.

-----------------

He parked the car, got out, and was getting his bag from the backseat when he felt two enormous arms clamp around his chest and lift him into the air, clipping his head on the ceiling of the car on the way up.

“Ricco Suave, my favorite wetback. How the hell are you?” Ugh (Blurted out)said loud enough for the neighbors on the next block to hear.”

“I’ll be better once you let go,” Jarv managed to say before all the air in his lungs was squeezed out.

Ugh released his grip and Jarv dropped onto the street. Turning around, he saw Ugh standing there with his hands on his hips and flashing a big, dumb(I might drop dumb) grin. He looked a lot older than he remembered, but behind the mask of age remained the familiar face of his academy roommate.

“It’s good to see you, Ugh. But cut the Ricco Suave crap. That call sign died out fifteen years ago.”

“You’ll always be Ricco to me,” he said and mussed Jarv’s hair like he would to a little boy. (like he would to a little boy Could be dropped for word count. They are subordinates I presume.) “Let’s grab your stuff and get you into the house. Angeline and the kids are anxious(wanna) to see you and besides…the neighbors might call the cops if they see a Mexican hanging around.”

“You’re a sick man in dire need of remedial sensitivity training. I’ll call and make the appointment," Jarv said while picking up his duffle bag.

“The hell you will. Come on, let’s go.”
gsfields2004

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ninafromnorway
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Re: Help Critiquing Dialogue

Post by ninafromnorway » August 26th, 2010, 3:50 pm

I was really just going to repeat what the others had said, so I won't do that. Try and close your eyes and pretend to be your MC and Ugh (fancy name by the way ;-p) Don't think writing, think movie. How would they be talking to each other in a film? What would they sound like, how would the pitch in their voices be?

Some people write down the brainstorms of their chapters. I think you would benefit of a dictaphone. When you're alone, and that inspirataion comes to you, press REC and record in how you want it to sound like. This should help you a little in making it a little more natural.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Alli
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Re: Help Critiquing Dialogue

Post by Alli » September 2nd, 2010, 3:16 am

I think you've received some really great feedback already. I think the "think like dialogue in a movie" is excellent advice. My readers have mentioned dialogue is one of my strongpoints and I think it is because I do this when I'm writing (especially the first draft) - I write the dialogue, no tags. Just plain, straight conversation like would happen in a movie. That way you get the flow of the dialogue and you can easily go back and add tags where it's required. I would love to read more of your work, that small taste had me intrigued!

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