Dialogue: life rarely imitates art

If you ever listened carefully to people talking in real life, you know real people almost never speak as well as the fake people in books.

Real people ummmm, and errrrr, and repeat themselves constantly. They talk around themselves, say inconsequential things, break in on their own lines of thought. It's a mess.

Book dialogue, even when it's colloquial, is always more formal, grammatically better, and doesn't say the same thing three times in four sentences.

But every now and then, I hear something that would make perfect book dialogue. Today at my local coffee shop, a girl in her early twenties was making the coffee. When a waitress called the coffee server Jenny, the guy behind me, obviously a regular and about the same age as the girl, started the following conversation:

Guy: “Jenny. Is that your name? I didn’t know.”
Girl: “Yes, it is. You only had to ask.”
Guy: “I couldn’t, you make me nervous.”
Girl: “Oh! Well you make me nervous too. We better get married then.”
Guy: “Yes, and have lots of nervous children.”

Neither of them missed a beat. I swear it was exactly as I wrote it. You know this little dialogue is going into one of my books, don't you? I would have told them that, except at this stage the girl making the coffee had turned a bright, bright red.

I'll update you on any impending nuptials.


Shadows said...

Agreed. We must always be aware that anywhere we go in the world, a writer is always watching. Great save...those words deserve to be immortalized.

Jeanie W said...

That does seem scripted. Are you sure they weren't rehearsing for a play?

Gary Corby said...

Hi Jeanie, it all seemed spontaneous to me. The level of interest between the two of them was palpable, and very amusing. When I left the whole place was laughing and I'm not kidding when I say Jenny was bright red. (Not her real name, btw, I changed it.) They're just two rather witty young adults. There is now a room-full of coffee customers hanging out to see if they date.

DeadlyAccurate said...

That's so sweet! I love it. Do keep us updated, though. If they don't start dating, I'm going to fly to Australia and give them a stern look.

scaryazeri said...

It does happen, and some people are just quick. the guy might have used those lines before though. :))

Mimzy said...

That... Is so adorable! I listen in to people's conversations all the time and have never heard anything so cute. I am quite disappointed now.

Jen C said...

That was great! I love overhearing conversations like that. Makes me think I should stop walking around with my iPod in so much :)

Heather B. Moore said...

Awesome! I found your blog through the Janet Reid site :)

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

There are several bits of dialogue in Pixie Warrior that come from real life. I listen (unobtrusively, of course) to conversations all the time. Sometimes you hear things you can use or adapt.

A bit from a revenge murder novel my writing partner and I are working on between bouts of historical research and getting the last bits done for the history book we have coming out:

Nell was in the lobby waiting, playing peek-a-boo with a toddler. She held a digital camera. There would be photos. He smiled faintly and spoke her name.

A small boy said something in Spanish and pointed at Robert.

In English his mommy said, “Don’t point; it’s not polite.”

The boy extended his arm, fingers folded in, and repeated himself, still in Spanish.

“I told you not to point,” his mommy said.

“I’m not pointing.” This was in English. “See? I have my fingers folded.”

This comes from real life.