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Thread: Two characters talking.

  1. #1
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    Two characters talking.

    I am working on a short story and while there are bookend "action" scenes, the main conflict takes place between two people talking.

    The way I am visualizing it now, a man and woman are sitting in a diner, having coffee, while he is trying to convince her to do something she doesn't want to do. There is a lot of dialogue around their shared history and a tragic event. The stakes are very high but the bulk of the story is essentially "two people sitting in a room talking". They leave the diner for the final scene and it is mostly action.

    I am wondering if there are some good authors/stories that could show how to handle this type of conflict so it could work without being too "boring". Where the conflict is essentially two people talking.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Blueframe. Welcome to the site.

    The only thing I can think of offhand is a Stephen King story called The Boogeyman. It's about a man telling a story to a psychiatrist. It's in his Nightshift collection. I'm sure there are many others. Good luck!!

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    I agree with Roxxsmom.
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    Your post suggests that you fear the middle part of your story, between the exciting beginning and exciting ending, will be boring. But dialogue is not boring unless you write boring dialogue.

    Consider this: "Twelve people in a jury room argue about a case." That's the basic description of 12 Angry Men. Nothing boring there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tinman View Post
    Blueframe. Welcome to the site.

    The only thing I can think of offhand is a Stephen King story called The Boogeyman. It's about a man telling a story to a psychiatrist. It's in his Nightshift collection. I'm sure there are many others. Good luck!!
    Thanks Tinman. I got the book today.

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    Quote Originally Posted by guttersquid View Post
    Your post suggests that you fear the middle part of your story, between the exciting beginning and exciting ending, will be boring. But dialogue is not boring unless you write boring dialogue.

    Consider this: "Twelve people in a jury room argue about a case." That's the basic description of 12 Angry Men. Nothing boring there.
    Hi Guttersquid,

    Thanks for the comment and you make a very good point. I am concerned that a scene with just dialogue and some minimal action (ordering coffee, drinking coffee, etc.) will be slow. I wanted to see if it has been done in a successful way or if I should switch gears altogether. Your "12 Angry Men" reference is a good one.

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW AKyber36's Avatar
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    A good short story by Ernest Hemingway that has a similar approach is "Hills Like White Elephants." I thought of that when you began mentioning your premise, and it might make for a good observation to see how he handled it.
    Current WIP: Untitled short story - 5,663 words
    Four Stars, No Stripes (working title) - 31,175 words (On hiatus)

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    Quote Originally Posted by AKyber36 View Post
    A good short story by Ernest Hemingway that has a similar approach is "Hills Like White Elephants." I thought of that when you began mentioning your premise, and it might make for a good observation to see how he handled it.
    I did read this story! Thanks very much for the suggestion. It is a good one.

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    practical experience, FTW flapperphilosopher's Avatar
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    I immediately thought Hemingway too... he has a lot of stories that are mostly two people talking. His short story collection "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" has a lot of them, you might try that. Maybe even look at some plays to see how high stakes can be in a scene of "just" talking... a different format but a helpful learning tool. Tennessee Williams is a good one to look at.
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    practical experience, FTW Patrick.S's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by guttersquid View Post
    Consider this: "Twelve people in a jury room argue about a case." That's the basic description of 12 Angry Men. Nothing boring there.
    That was the first thing that jumped into my head too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by flapperphilosopher View Post
    I immediately thought Hemingway too... he has a lot of stories that are mostly two people talking. His short story collection "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" has a lot of them, you might try that. Maybe even look at some plays to see how high stakes can be in a scene of "just" talking... a different format but a helpful learning tool. Tennessee Williams is a good one to look at.
    Great suggestions! Thanks!

  11. #11
    Check out Nathan Englander's stories, like the title story in "What We Talk about When We Talk About Anne Frank." Or "A Temporary Matter," by Jhumpa Lahiri (you can find it in her book, Interpreter of Maladies)

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    practical experience, FTW AKyber36's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blueframe View Post
    I did read this story! Thanks very much for the suggestion. It is a good one.
    I read it as part of high school language arts class. We analyzed the conversation, and it was very meaningful. It's perhaps one of my favorite Hemingway shorts on how to do a story with primarily nuanced dialogue.
    Current WIP: Untitled short story - 5,663 words
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    practical experience, FTW WriterBN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mrs. de Winter View Post
    Or "A Temporary Matter," by Jhumpa Lahiri (you can find it in her book, Interpreter of Maladies)
    Probably my all-time favorite collection of short fiction.

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    There's a few Lovecraft stories where it's just two people talking, like 'The Picture in the House.' You can read it online here:
    http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/...iction/ph.aspx

    You could also check out this flash fiction story I wrote. I like to think that it works well as a 'just two people talking' story.
    http://dailysciencefiction.com/fanta.../a-special-day
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mrs. de Winter View Post
    Check out Nathan Englander's stories, like the title story in "What We Talk about When We Talk About Anne Frank." Or "A Temporary Matter," by Jhumpa Lahiri (you can find it in her book, Interpreter of Maladies)
    Thanks very much for the suggestion!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sai View Post
    There's a few Lovecraft stories where it's just two people talking, like 'The Picture in the House.' You can read it online here:
    http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/...iction/ph.aspx

    You could also check out this flash fiction story I wrote. I like to think that it works well as a 'just two people talking' story.
    http://dailysciencefiction.com/fanta.../a-special-day

    I will check them out! Thanks!

  17. #17
    I lost my fever! I need it back! cathyfreeze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKyber36 View Post
    A good short story by Ernest Hemingway that has a similar approach is "Hills Like White Elephants." I thought of that when you began mentioning your premise, and it might make for a good observation to see how he handled it.
    ~That was the first story that sprang to my mind, AKyber36. It's two people talking but characters, mysteries, horrors are revealed and it keeps you riveted.

    It's online fulltext here

    Be obscure clearly. ~E.B. White

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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by cathyfreeze View Post
    ~That was the first story that sprang to my mind, AKyber36. It's two people talking but characters, mysteries, horrors are revealed and it keeps you riveted.

    It's online fulltext here

    Ah, you found a great link!

    Yeah, what Hemingway did great in this was how vague but obvious the topic might have been between the two. Our whole class kept thinking he was pressuring her into having an abortion, but in the end, who knows? The intrigue from the dialogue is amazing, though.
    Current WIP: Untitled short story - 5,663 words
    Four Stars, No Stripes (working title) - 31,175 words (On hiatus)

  19. #19
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    My Dinner With Andre

    This sounds a lot like the setup for "My Dinner with Andre." You might give it a peek.

    Joel, Editor
    www.thedrydenexperiment.com

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joel Stottlemire View Post
    This sounds a lot like the setup for "My Dinner with Andre." You might give it a peek.

    Joel, Editor
    www.thedrydenexperiment.com
    Good idea! Thanks!

  21. #21
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    dialogue doesn't have to be boring. Give each character something they want, and make their wants conflict or compete. And what they want comes out in the conversation... but not too on the nose. Use subtext... people rarely say exactly what they're thinking.
    "If it sounds like writing, rewrite it" - Elmore Leonard

  22. #22
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    These are called cafe shorts, I believe. Hemingway has another I like called A Clean Well-Lighted Place. Here is a link to a website with other examples and critical analysis:
    http://realtimeshortstories.wordpres...y/cafe-shorts/

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimHeskett View Post
    dialogue doesn't have to be boring. Give each character something they want, and make their wants conflict or compete. And what they want comes out in the conversation... but not too on the nose. Use subtext... people rarely say exactly what they're thinking.
    Thanks for the tips!

  24. #24
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    I actually love dialogue scenes. They can be the most interesting parts of a story depending on how they're done.

    Think of a film: Aside from bombastic action scenes and the like, all the writing in the film is dialogue. Even better, think of a play. There's pretty much only dialogue.

    Dialogue between characters is a fantastic opportunity to show the reader what they're made of. Usually this is accomplished through conflict-- that doesn't mean they need to have an all out fight, but small disagreements provide ample opportunity to explore both the plot and the characters through dialogue.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coeus View Post
    I actually love dialogue scenes. They can be the most interesting parts of a story depending on how they're done.

    Think of a film: Aside from bombastic action scenes and the like, all the writing in the film is dialogue. Even better, think of a play. There's pretty much only dialogue.

    Dialogue between characters is a fantastic opportunity to show the reader what they're made of. Usually this is accomplished through conflict-- that doesn't mean they need to have an all out fight, but small disagreements provide ample opportunity to explore both the plot and the characters through dialogue.
    Thanks so much Coeus for your response. It is very encouraging.

    Thanks to everyone again for your feedback I feel very motivated to complete my story and am not as concerned that "two characters talking" will slow down the momentum!

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