Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dialogue II

I kept looking, far longer than a polite glance.

"You're staring," he said.

"I'm sorry." I blushed. "You look like someone I knew when I was a kid."

"Could be." He scratched his chin. "I've lived here my whole life. My name's Robert Briddle."

"I'm Stephanie Maypeace. I lived here until I was six." [Apparently his name didn't ring a bell?]

His eyes went wide, and I remembered where I knew him from. A cashier started to open a new line next to us, and he made a motion as if to join it.

I shook my head. "It's okay." [What's okay?] [What just happened? Rob made a motion as if to join a new line? I don't know what that means.]

"Next," the cashier said. She began ringing up my items. I handed her my credit card and turned to Rob. [Is Rob behind her?] We both started to speak at the same time. He motioned for me to go first. [He's a man of few words, but he does a lot of motioning.]

"You look good," I said.

"You too. All grown up. How old are you now? Twenty-four, twenty-five?"

"Twenty-six in a month."

He shook his head. "It doesn't seem like it could have been all that long ago."

The bag boy handed me my items, and I gave Rob a little wave. "It was nice seeing you."

"Hold up a minute." He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. "Here's my card. Call me sometime. If you'd like."

What, you're not going to tell us where she remembers him from?

If the bag boy can simply hand you your items, what did you need a bag boy for? I would have expected him to load your bags in the car.

I'm pretty sure if I moved away from a town at the age of six and moved back at twenty-six, no one I knew back then would look familiar. Does he have a lightning bolt scar on his forehead?

--Anonymous

13 comments:

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Well, as far as bagging goes, we have them here where they stand at the end of the belt and load them into bags. If there's a lot, they put them into a cart. If there aren't a lot of things, say a bag or two, they do just hand them to you. That part didn't bother me at all.

But this was confusing. I don't think she should remember him unless they'd had a LOT of interaction before she moved, and six is very young to hold a memory for 20 years. I didn't understand the "I shook my head. "It's okay." part at all. And where did she know him from?!

I'm wondering what she bought.

Dave said...

IMHO - This doesn't strike me as the way people talk when they meet after (what is it?) 20 years.

Stephanie is just back in town. The big question is why does she need him and what does he do?

I think that the second cashier opening a register is a "too many words" event and doesn't advance the story.
So is the line "his eyes went side and I remembered where I knew him from." If you had Stephanie say, "Oh, now I remember you." Then move the cashier stuff back to where she says she was six y/o.

So it would read like this:
"I'm Stephanie Maypeace. I lived here until I was six."
"Next," the cashier said. She began ringing up my items. I handed her my credit card and turned to Rob. We both started to speak at the same time.
"I remember you. You look good," I said.

bunnygirl said...

I'm not so sure I would recognize by sight alone someone I had last seen when I was six. Is there something particularly distinctive about him that she would remember?

I'm also puzzled by the way she seems ready to just walk away. I don't get the impression that there's a bad memory associated with him. And she doesn't seem in a terrible hurry. Why doesn't she want to chat for awhile? That's what most people do when they encounter an old friend.

I hope the rest of the story clears up these matters. Otherwise, you may have to do some rewriting to make this conversation ring true.

Anonymous said...

I got the "it's Okay" thing. She's declining to join the line with him.

However, I agree that the dialogue currently reads as if the author is deliberately witholding information from the reader that even the POV character knows. While this is a common practice, it's still frustrating. The main one here, of course, is the part about "I remembered where I knew him from" but she seems to do this remembering without the memory entering her head strongly enough to make it onto the page. While I appreciate that the reader does not in fact see all that passes through a POV person's mind (Joyce not included), the memory is the key idea of the scene.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

My big irritation with this scene is that it's not a multi-tasker. Dialogue should do lots of work for you. The author can do a lot more with this scene than just telling us Stephanie met Rob again.

The way the dialogue goes down now doesn't tell us anything about their personalities. It's like I'm watching two people in line in front of me - I'm not inside either of their heads. Purportedly this is from Stephanie's point of view, but she ain't telling me anything.

And Rob could do with some descriptors - not what he looks like, but HOW he stands in line. Does he fidget when he meets her? Shove his hands in his pocket? What's he buying? What's she buying? We'll think differently of her if she's buying spam and tampons than cat food and doritos. Same for him. Lots of stuff? One can of pork and beans?

Make the scene work for you. This is the skeleton. If you don't need to describe them any further than what you've done here, cut the scene and give us one line somewhere that says, "Stephanie met an old friend at the store that morning. It seemed like more than one element from her past was appearing." Or whatever - don't waste space.

writtenwyrdd said...

This conversation makes no sense unless I guess while reading what you mean. How does this brief chat move the plot along? Is it just because we need her to meet this guy again? If that's the case, you need to work on this more. As someone else says, make it multi-task. And speed it up!

Anonymous said...

This is very short, and yet you used 'items' twice. That is sort of symptomatic of the whole stretch. It feels wordy, even though it's short.

If there's suspense or excitement to the meeting, it's completely lost in the wording of the meet-cute.

For a first draft, this is OK; it establishes the meeting. My guess is that if anyone edited for you, this would change into something tighter and more meaningful. You need the reader to care that they met, not just to know it.

Maybe get more inside Stephanie's head, since I gather she's your main character? What does she feel when she sees the guy? This gives me no sense of her emotions, and little sense of her personality. Show, don't tell--sure. But tell enough that readers start to care. If they're not invested in Stephanie, they won't keep reading.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I disagree with EE on the bagging. Our bag boys just put 'em in bags and then it's up to you.

I was interested, and then really disappointed that we learned pretty much nothing. I know, I know, before you say "it's only 200 words"--but, like, that's the entire scene. She sees him, gets the card, presumably he leaves. I don't want to have to wait 'til she looks at the card to find out what happened to them in childhood!

-Detri (dialogue J)

Evil Editor said...

Here the bag boy puts the items in the bags, but then either puts them in a cart or lets the customer pick them up. Our bags are usually plastic with handles. To hand them to someone would be awkward.

Wonderwood said...

Wow, I never realised how much diversity there is in grocery bagging, yet, it's all fundamentally the same,n'est pas?

whitemouse said...

Actually, I know two people, now married, whose relationship started when they walked by one another in a bar and both turned in recognition.

They'd been in grade two together.

I understood what "It's okay" meant. She was declining his unspoken offer to go into the new lineup ahead of him.

I think this scene could work very nicely, but there needs to be more indication that these people are actually interested in one another. The attraction isn't really coming across well. A little more romantic tension and I think the scene would sing.

I'd suggest showing a bit more of what the POV character is feeling. The reader is sitting on the surface of her personality, so there's little reason for us to care about her meeting this fellow. We don't know if the meeting means anything to her.

Evil Editor said...

I understood what "It's okay" meant. She was declining his unspoken offer to go into the new lineup ahead of him.

Why would he suggest she switch lines when she's at the front of her line, and the cashier has finished with the person in front of her? Wouldn't her items already be on the counter or conveyor belt by now? And even if they aren't, the cashier is about to say Next. It would take longer to switch lines than to stay.

Does he stay behind her or move to the new line?

foggidawn said...

The Next Line:

I snorted. As if! Sure, he was kind of cute, but I had no intention of calling to catch up with guys I met in juvie.