Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dialogue FF

A guy hops out of the U-Haul and stretches while I stroll down the sidewalk. He's cranking the rear rolling door open and I say, "Hey, moving in?" because I'm a banal asshole.

He turns around, smiling, wearing these gigantic black sunglasses and a huge mountain man beard. This dude looks like the kind of guy I always wanted to be.

He says, "Yup, sure am. Murph Norris," he sticks a hand out. You'd never know. [You'd never know what?]

"John Leland, nice to meet you." We shake.

"Yeah, you too."

"So…" I say. I'm bad at this sort of thing. "What brings you to town?"

"Change of pace," he says, shrugging. "Looking for a new job and this seemed like a good spot."

"Ah. Anyone else on the way?"

"Nope, just me. Don't have any family."

"Need any help with the truck?"

"Sure. Thanks."

For the next couple hours while we chuck the stuff into his house, [This is one neighborly guy.] Murph tells me all about his life. He drops a bomb. "The first thing that you need to know, just so you don't hear it from someone else…" he says. "What I said about looking for a new job. That's true. But it's been hard because I just got out of prison."

We're hauling a couch across the middle of his lawn and I stop, holding one end, giving him this look like I'm about to take off running. He says, "No, don't worry though. It was nothing serious. You know, I didn't shoot anyone or anything. It was just embezzling."

"Oh." We start walking again. "That's rough."

Because you know, I could see myself embezzling one day with enough money on the line. Prison makes him infinitely more interesting. I want to know all the details. Look at me. The closest I ever got to prison was Sunday school. "What was it like?" I ask.

"I had it pretty easy," he says. "White collar criminals, we go to federal resorts. I had satellite television in my cell. You have no idea. I did a lot of reading."


"Yeah. It makes finding a job a bitch though."

"Yeah, you mentioned you were looking for work."

He snorts. We're hauling an end table out. "Yeah, but I have a felony. You know anywhere that doesn't care if you have a felony on your record?"

"Actually," I say.[,] "I do."

--Torrey Meeks

I like this, especially the narrator's voice. I could, however, see myself tiring of present tense if the whole thing is that way.


writtenwyrdd said...

I liked this. I am not a fan of present tense, either, though, and a full book of it wouldn't be high on my list of things to read.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Ugh. Present tense.

I'm curious as to what John was doing, walking along, and then had all day to help a stranger unload a truck. Was he taking a neighborhood stroll? On his way to the store?

I'd like to see a bit more in body language, perhaps. Like surprise registering on Murph's face at a stranger offering to help him out. Or the John scratching his neck because he's bad at this sort of thing - maybe a nervous or uncomfortable moment shown with body language.

I really enjoyed the tone and I think the dialogue is very well done.

Dave said...

The beard threw me. It seemed like you would see that first thing when he jumps out of the U-Haul and not second or third.

Also, I hate to ask, but is Mr. Banal gay and on the prowl? If not, he's one really helpful good guy. (I have a neighbor like that.)

McKoala said...

I liked this conversation; perfectly banal until it gets to the prison part. Nicely done.

bunnygirl said...

Nice rhythm to the dialogue and I liked that you didn't go on too long with the banal stuff.

I'm guessing that in context we would know why the narrator stops to help a random stranger move furniture for a couple hours?

Anonymous said...

FYI -- If he was imprisoned for embezzling he'd have heap lots of restitution to pay and some of them spend decades in the joint. Embezzlers usually get slapped with six or seven figure bills and pretty much all their stuff gets auctioned off. They can't afford to pay storage for any crap that might be left during the years they're in. So how'd he get a truckload of furniture already? And how'd he get the rental truck? Did you not know they check credit, before they dole those out? Or has he been out a long time? Is the stuff hot? Or is this meant to be a romance/fantasy and only loosely related to reality?

amy said...

I liked this a lot. Narrator's voice was great, and the dialogue had a nice rhythm to it.

A. said...

It's fantasy, duh. In the next line Murph whips out a broadsword and duels with John, Monty Python and the Holy Grail style. John wails, "Come back here and I'll bite your head off," in closing.

I have it from a reliable source that the whole thing isn't present tense, and that it's clear why he's walking down the sidewalk and has all day to unload a U-Haul.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Anon 11:16 - why do you say romance is "only loosely related to reality"? Don't read much romance, I take it, since we strive to keep it as accurate and close to reality as possible.

I hate broad generalizations.

Good news from your comment is it gives me something to blog about.

Bernita said...

Works for me.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean romance/fantasy as in Romance or Fantasy genres. I think of Agatha Christie's work as taking place in a romanticized imaginary world which is loosely based on the real world but she's never trying to do PD James type realism so it's not really legitimate to complain about her breaks from reality. Sherlock Holmes, likewise, lives in a romantic imaginary world, which is the perfect setting for him. I think a lot of fiction suffers from too much reality, not too little.

In this case the notion that embezzlers are able to rent houses and moving trucks and install lots of furnishings fresh out of prison before they have a job seems totally romantic and unrealistic to me. It's not clear if the author is actually meaning to portray the realities of life for someone trying to make a fresh start as an ex-con or not. If so, I think more research would help, because the reality is a lot more difficult than this. Those guys have virtually no money and horrible credit. They usually have to live in missions or with friends/relatives for several years because no one will rent to them until they have a job and money and no one will give them a job if they don't have an address, and a lot of their money gets garnished to pay restitution so they can't save much...

If the story isn't meant to portray reality, then who cares if it's not realistic? Nobody, and doing research about the reality would obviously be a waste of time.

Dave said...

I take exception to this statement "If the story isn't meant to portray reality"

What reality does Lemony Snickert portray? How about John Carter of Mars by Edgar Rice Borroughs?
Or Orson Scott Card's "Ender" series?

child's fantasies?
Life on Mars?
Travel in Outer Space?

Anonymous said...

I really liked this! EE noticed the overload on "Yeah"s and marked those. I think I'd keep reading!
--Detri (dialogue J)

whitemouse said...

I liked this as well, but I'd prefer it to get to the good stuff faster. The banality at the beginning was a bit hard to get through; that section could be made shorter, in my opinion.

I started to get interested when John admits to the reader that he could be tempted into embezzling. I really got interested when he said, "Actually, I do." The faster you get to that point, the better, imo. :-)