I’m a writer – what about you?
I’m a human being, too – as I know you are, Constant Reader. As human beings we like to be listened to when we speak. Am I right? We crave being understood, as most people do. Human beings were created for relationship.
Humans attempt to achieve this aim with discourse. Conversation – as oral communication between two or more is dubbed – is not merely about directing, informing, and drawing attention to one’s self. Conversation isn’t about holding the floor, but that’s we experienced during a week of houseguests who thought it was. I’m not a fan – what about you?
The dialogue crafted in written communication is the one of the best tools to reveal who the characters are and how they relate to each other. The best dialogue includes some amount of subtext and conflict. To this end, we write dialogue where the characters are speaking at cross-purposes. They refuse to respond directly to what another character has just said. It could be that they can’t answer direct. It could be that they’re not listening. Or it could be that they follow their own thought path, giving little regard to what others are talking about.
The houseguest couple followed this paradigm, peppering their monologues with unending inconsequential stuff, souring my desire to emote. Lots of “I/me/my”, “they”, lack of facts, details, and, most discomfortingly, irrelevant to our lives and/or our common bonds. Prattle, prattle, prattle. Grr-r-r.
To ease my spirits, I’ve pulled out a picture of two guests who different from this aberrant conversational paradigm. We miss them much. They knew how to exchange personal interest and information. On equal par, to share, to bond. No “yada-yada” among this foursome.
‘Ships passing in the night’ discourse tells us much about people/characters, not only in what they say but in the way in which they refuse to respond to the other. It’s realistic, I gather. But it’s not right.
It’s impersonable, condescending, and unfriendly. It’s narcissistic and all too trite. I cringed with our houseguest experience – what about you?
One of the best examples of dialogue at cross-purposes is in “Emergency” by Denis Johnson.
We lay down on a stretch of dusty plywood in the back of the truck with the daylight knocking against our eyelids and the fragrance of alfalfa thickening on our tongues.
“I want to go to church,” Georgie said.
“Let’s go to the county fair.”
“I’d like to worship. I would.”
“They have these injured hawks and eagles there. From the Humane Society,” I said.
“I need a quiet chapel about now.”
The narrator and Georgie have two completely different ideas about where they would like to go next. The only connection between these dialogue bits is the characters are both responding to the notion of where to go. But each character is on their own path…the ego-centrism that is endemic to humans.
It works well in written communication, but not in my life. I’m in my quiet chapel now – my own life, writing out my feelings and perspectives and applying them to my craft.
What about you?