Friday, March 16, 2007

Dialogue E

Alternate history with Romans. Our protagonist Aquilla has been summoned to Radea, his commanding officer.

"Yes, Aquilla." He glanced at me, then at a sheet of paper I recognised as my report into the death of an elderly citizen of Alexandria. "What does 'killed while obstructing the legion's business' mean, this time?"

"Cavalry ran him down, sir."

Contradictory orders had given the old man no clue which way to jump.

Radea got up and came round his desk. I stood too, and he slapped me in the chest with my report.

"I've had four 'obstructions of the legion's business' from you of late. Be clearer in future. And more careful."

"Sir."

"These frequent incidents involving civilians...are they to do with your suspicion that they're all spies?"

"Not all of them, sir. Just some."

Prevailing opinion in the Twelfth regarding those who gathered to watch us drill ran thus: old men were veterans, reliving their glory days; boys and youths had a soldier for a hero; women were on the hunt for a husband. The Twelfth's lack of imagination infuriated me; they got annoyed when I drove off their admirers. [And the rest were probably spies.] [I would move this paragraph down two lines. The impact of the next two lines is diminished because the reader has to go back and see what Radea means by "Not all the Incidents?" We have such short attention spans.]

"Not all [of] the incidents?"

"Not all of the civilians, sir."

He flung the report back onto his desk. "I want an explanation."

--Buffy Squirrel

Very nice. I'm not crazy about "I want an explanation." It sounds like you want to give the reader an explanation, so you get a character to request one. From a commanding officer, I'd expect something more like "This is going to stop. Is that understood?" Of course, I don't have the full context.

7 comments:

BuffySquirrel said...

Thanks, EE :). And yes, the rest are all spies! lol

dancinghorse said...

Note from a Latinist who has published a lot of historical novels: The correct spelling of the name is Aquila. One L. If you're writing a historical, be very careful to get the languages right. You will get called on it. Readers of mainstream historicals are sticklers for accuracy.

I never saw the name Radea before, either, but since I'm too lazy to go and look it up, I'll just note that since the other, quite common name is misspelled, you should definitely check out this one, too, and make sure you got it right. If you need to give yourself a crash course in Latin spelling and Roman nomenclature, do it. It will enrich your book and possibly even give you some new ideas.

Katerina Kramova said...

I like this. I want to read this book. But shouldn' the report on parchment? Or are they more advanced in this alternative world?

whitemouse said...

I liked this scene quite a bit. It struck a nice balance between the interior and exterior world of the POV character.

I think EE's suggestion regarding the last line is a really good one. The tension flagged at that point, because Radea was dumping the ball into Aquilla's court - giving him an opportunity to defend himself. EE's suggestion keeps Radea in control, and that would force Aquilla to scramble to insert statements of self-defense into their conversation. In other words, it puts Aquilla in a much dicier position; he's going to have to sweat to talk himself out of this one.

Be evil to your characters. It makes for a zippier story. :-)

writtenwyrdd said...

Not a dialog comment, but one thing jumped out at me in the first sentence: "Sheet of paper." I am not certain, but I don't think even alternate history romans had sheets of paper. Maybe sheets of vellum, papyrus, or scrolls (which might be more likely).

that said, I liked the dialog. This guy Aquila is paranoid, obviously. But I'm certainly curious to know if he is right, too, lol.

Bernita said...

Since it's alternate history, the paper business doesn't bother me, nor does the substitute spelling.
I like the accurate military feel of the subordinate/commander roles.

BuffySquirrel said...

"And for God's sake, stop adding l's to your name."