Conversations and dialogue

I have a habit of posting conversations I have had throughout the day on my Facebook wall. I don’t know why I do this, but if I were to hazard a guess, I would say it has to be because I like to laugh. What I share are tidbits I found amusing, usually no more than I few lines, that tend to end with a silly little punchline. I don’t know if anyone else finds them funny, but I write them for myself and I find them hysterical.

Take yesterday’s heart-stopping installment:

I had a co-worker tell me that she didn’t have any friends. Being the nice guy that I am, I told her I’d be her friend. Then being the guy that I am, I asked her if it was a paying position. She just laughed. I’m guessing no.

Or this one from a few weeks ago:

In today’s installment of My Job
Me: (As I complete putting in an order) Skadoosh!
Coworker: You say that too! You’re my new best friend.
Me: Sorry, I already have a best friend, but I’ll keep you in mind in case I piss mine off.
Coworker: (laughs)

There seems to be no real substantive reason for writing it, either than to amuse myself, but I can’t help wonder if there may be a hidden payoff.

I write a lot of dialogue in my works. The dynamics the two people have fascinates me. Inner monologue bores me, but a conversation between two or more people engages my imagination. Conversations are conduits to discovery for the readers and for the characters engaged in the conversation. I see the scene in my head, much like a movie, and dialogue is essential to moving the story forward.

The trouble I have with my writing, and it’s one that those who have read my works have commented on, is that my dialogue tends to be stilted. When I’m rereading a scene, I have to agree. I write how I would like to speak, not the way people actually speak. I use a vocabulary that’s a bit beyond what we use in our daily life, and I’m fine with that. I want to elevate the way we speak, not dumb it down. There’s an element of wish-fulfillment in that I am a horrible verbal communicator. I wish I could speak as well as I write. I hope I write as well as I think I do. I just have to learn how to write it a bit more conversationally.

So I actively listen to how people talk. What are they saying? How are they phrasing it? Can I adequately replicate their style of speech, their inflections and such? Am I over-thinking it? Can someone help me!

Maybe sharing the conversations I find funny will help me learn how to better write dialogue, but maybe not. Maybe it doesn’t matter. In the end, I think I just like reliving what made me laugh in the first place. Whether or not you or anyone else finds it funny doesn’t really matter. Except it does. I really want to be a more effective writer.

In the beginning….

I survived my Monday, how did you fare? Let me tell you a little of my day, starting with Sunday, weather-wise. Sunday, we had temperatures in the low 80’s. It was a nice and comfortable day. By the time I left the house for work on Monday, temperatures were in the high 20’s, a little over a fifty degree swing. Nothing like the schizophrenic nature of April weather!

Other than the light snow, the day was uneventful. I spent a considerable amount of time on the road thinking about opening lines. It started when I remembered one of Ron White’s jokes, “I was sitting on a bean bag chair, naked, eating Cheetos…” That has to be one of my favorite opening lines for a joke. You can check it out on YouTube.

The way Ron White delivers the line is magic. It’s as if it were normal for everyone to be sitting naked on a bean bag chair. It’s casual and easily sets up the ludicrous premise that is the rest of the joke. It’s all about setting up the tone.

Opening lines are a tricky beasts, if you ask me. There are plenty of famous opening lines in literature, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” – or – “Call me Ishmael,” – or how about – “It was a dark and stormy night.” Actually the last one is my favorite. It’s entered the collective consciousness as a bad opening line, which was in fact written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton for his novel Paul Clifford, though I mostly remember it used by Charles Schulz’s character, Snoopy. Actually, I need to add Paul Clifford to my list of Books I need to read, but probably never will.

The power of opening lines is not lost on men trying to score with women. That’s how we have classics such as “You come here often,” – and – “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” – and my favorite – “Haaave you met Ted?” I keep it simple when meeting people with “Hey.”

In real life, as in books, that first line can make or break your chance of continuing and growing a relationship. I know it’s a lot of pressure, and maybe I’m making too big a deal of it, but that first line is a killer for me. All I can do is write it and continue on. I may go back and tweak the line once I’m into the book, but probably not.

I was looking at some of my opening sentences of my pieces that I will someday actually sit down and finish. I’ve decided to let you take a look at the glory that is my madness.

  1. Paul Cardinal Dawson sat in his office drinking his black coffee, fuming silently. – Son of the Father.
  2. “Do me a favor Luke, and get me my lighter.” – Self Reborn.
  3. “Sheba! Time to go outside!” – Unseen Obsession.
  4. This was to be a reunion, years in the making. – Lily.
  5. I must say, I never thought I would ever write down my life’s story, and never in such a public forum, but yet I’ve decided to embrace this odd medium and so here I am. – Peccadilloes.

I don’t know, I’m probably stressing about nothing, but that’s what I do. I should probably let it go and stop worrying about something so inconsequential. It’s only one line, after all. But just to play Devil’s Advocate, here are a few more opening lines, from real life, to show you how important they can be.

  1. “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
  2. “We need to talk.”
  3. “Joe, come to the office.”
  4. “You have the right to remain silent.” (Hasn’t happened to me, yet.)

Pearls Before Swine Comic Strip, November 14, 2008 on

Pearls Before Swine Comic Strip, November 14, 2008 on

I ran across this strip and I thought it was funny, and somehow appropriate. I’m still waiting to rake in the money. I guess I’ll have to wait a little longer.

Unable to eat diarrhea?

Yesterday I had a friend tag me on the following picture on Facebook, saying that as a writer I would enjoy it:

I made one my usually snarky comments, that she only thought of me when she thought of diarrhea. This morning I woke up to find that she had deleted the whole post, no comment, no message, just vanished into thin air, never to be seen again. It struck me as funny because I thought the post was funny, and I would have thought she would be able to grasp my sarcastic sense of humor. 

This just goes to prove that I don’t understand women, but that really isn’t all that surprising. I bet I don’t hear from her again until late summer, early fall. Regardless, enjoy this funny photo and remember to use your commas. Diarrhea is no laughing matter.

The link between books, STD’s and really bad jokes

Here’s a news story out of WPXI Pittsburgh.

Herpes virus found on library copies of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

If you haven’t read the news story, please do so. I’ll wait.

Are you done? Great! After reading the article, all sorts of horrible jokes came to mind. Instead of my usual post, I decided to post those jokes. Read at your own risk. I’ve never been described as a comedic genius. You’ve been warned.

Here are my jokes about reading library copies of Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey (Photo credit: ellebnere)

  1. The only book I know of that wearing a hand condoms (rubber gloves) is recommended. Actual condoms may not be a bad idea, either. Practice safe reading.
  2. It’s not only that book, but think about all the other people who have been with that book. That’s how many extended partners you’ve been with.
  3. That book has gotten around more than my ex’s. (I warned you that they weren’t funny. They’re also tactless and bitter.)
  4. Try explaining to your husband of wife that you got herpes from reading a book. “Yeah, right! Skank!”
  5. When you go get tested, and they ask how many partners you had, you put x (where x = the number of sexual partners you’ve had) + Fifty Shades of Grey.
  6. The CDC is debating whether or not to quarantine libraries that have FSoG in their inventory.
  7. Book burning is no longer an option. It must be treated as Hazardous Material (HazMat).
  8. Have you opened up the book and gotten a whiff of the smell of a good book, and something else that you can’t quite figure out? Now you know. And now you want to take a bath. With bleach.
  9. When you borrow FSoG from the library, it comes with a free prescription for Valtrex.
  10. That damned book is getting more action than I am. That’s not a joke. It’s just sad. But it’s also a little bit funny.
  11. I need to read the book, but I need a virgin copy. Pun indeed intended.
  12. If you discuss this book in a book club, could that be considered an orgy?

I think it’s safe to say that I will not become a comedy writer anytime soon. The only thing I can be sure is that I amused myself. I guess that means you all are on your own.