Posted by: Corri van de Stege | November 5, 2008

Dialogue – write on Wednesday?


Well, no Write on Wednesday task on Becca’s blog as yet, so I’m going to muse a bit on writing on my own and with a bit of luck it will fit in with the riddle Becca will set this week.  Unless she’s too busy celebrating…

 This week’s assignment for my writing course is on stage writing and dialogues and how a character should have a voice and how to pick up conversations: ‘Listen to conversations on the street, in cafes, in your workplace – even people talking on the radio. ‘  Then, start writing dialogues.

Going out in the morning to catch the train to London, I push my notebook in my bag.  Surely, sitting on the train, the tube, walking around, having a cup of coffee somewhere will provide me with lots of opportunities to listen in and scribble lots of fantastic and imaginative conversations?  I’ll take an earlier train so that I have time for a coffee somewhere, prior to my meeting and interview (which I will of course record on my laptop – it’s my job after all, only I get to set the questions and focus the conversation, not very spontaneous, I guess). 

It’s past the morning rush hour when I get on the train and it is very quiet.  A woman wants to do a crossword in the newspaper, only she has not got a pen and asks me if I have an extra pen ‘Have you got an extra pen by any chance?  See, I just haven’t got one on me.’  That’s the sum total of the conversation on my way to London, two other people sit and listen to iPods, the man sitting across the aisle from me is reading all the way and never looks up.  I get on with my work, checking the report I am writing on this project and making sure I have an electronic version of the interview ready on my desktop.  The ticket collector is the only other person saying anything at all, all the way to London: ‘Can I see your ticket please, luv?’  And that’s it, as he moves into the next carriage.

In London I decide to walk to my appointment, it’s only one station stop away and I’m bound to find somewhere to have that cup of coffee and listen in to some fascinating conversations that will tickle the imagination.  I spot a Prêt a Manger, it’s around 11 o’clock and I go in.  The heavy sweet smell of hot croissants and pastries mixes with the hissing noise of the coffee machines and background music.   I am tempted by the usual cappuccino and to make sure I am not going to be starving with hunger halfway through my interview I treat myself to an almond croissant, letting the sweet smell now infuse my tongue and palate, the taste is divine, because I know it is very very calorie rich and I don’t usually indulge this way.  I position myself strategically, notebook ready.  Behind me, two Chinese women sit next to each other.  They wear tightly belted macs of an undefined grey-green colour, their black hair straight and short.  They just sit; they never say a word to each other or in phones, or to anyone else.  Across from me three individuals sit at three individual small round tables, one is reading a newspaper, fiddles with her mobile and is at the same listening to an iPod.  Not much conversation there.  At the next table is a girl, who reads and writes texts on her mobile, no talking there either and next to her a man is actually talking into his phone, but so low that I cannot hear a word of what he says.  Then my luck must be turning, a group of three come in, noisy, two girls and a man and the sit at the table just across from me, but they are noisy in Spanish, which I don’t speak, and although they have great fun, it does not do much for my writing and recording of conversation.  They are South American, I’m sure, and they love being there.

I get up and go for my interview.  There is a lot of talking and I get a lot of information, I have recorded all of it, but there was not much in terms of colloquialism, or spontaneous and social commentary or discursions.  Lots of mmss and aahhhs but few loves, dears, mates and pals.  The whole interview is recorded, typed up and sent out for approval, and yes, a few controversial things were said, but all in work context.

On the way back, the train is absolutely jam packed, but it does not make any difference, there are no juicy conversations that I can listen in to.  One man who is reading is dozing off and I watch his head lolling sideways until with a jerk he gets it straight on his neck again, and then it drops again.  After about 20 minutes of this he seems refreshed, picks up his book and continues to read.  A woman eats a bar of chocolate and then starts reading.  There are lots of iPods, newspapers, and laptops squeezed between body and seat, and people are tapping away.  Others are simply asleep all the way and don’t even pretend they have much conversation in them after a long day’s work.  It’s very warm and I stare at my newspaper, full of expectations on the election news from America.  And no, I still have not written that dialogue, vibrant and full of expletives and typical characterisations.

(‘conversations’, source:



  1. Well, conversation or no, I completely enjoyed the train “pictures” and the surprisingly “silent’ day.

  2. Even without conversation, your description of all the people you met throughout the day was delightful!

    And isn’t that just the way, when you set out to notice something particular, it just vanishes.

    Great post!

  3. oh: so glad I managed to amuse you just a little! Yes, I still wonder about that: a day with so many people around and no conversations worth mentioning…
    Becca: yes, trying to be a writer is so hard, but also amusing – you notice things that probably used to pass you by!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: