Today I have the pleasure of welcoming as my guest author Janice Seagraves writing about Snappy Dialogue
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By Janice Seagraves
I love writing snappy dialogue but then I learned from the masters. When I was a kid I watched old movies and found the best snappy dialogue that comes from the movies of the 30’s and 40’s.
Think Kathryn Hepburn, and Cary Grant. These are the two actors that I think of as the King and Queen of snappy dialogue.
And of course together they were magic.
Gary Grant and Katharine Hepburn together in Bringing Up BCby example:
Katharine Hepburn (Susan Vance): "Oh, I'm caught on something - David, help me, will you?"
Cary Grant (David Huxley): "Oh, no. That's poison ivy."
Katharine Hepburn (Susan Vance): "I bet you wouldn't treat Miss Swallow this way."
Cary Grant (David Huxley): "I bet Miss Swallow knows poison ivy when she sees it."
Katharine Hepburn (Susan Vance): "Yes, I bet poison ivy runs when it sees her."
Cary Grant (David Huxley): "But Susan, you can't climb in a man's bedroom window!"
Katharine Hepburn (Susan Vance): "I know, it's on the second floor!"
Example: His Girl Friday (In this one Cary Grant is opposite Rosalind Russell)
Cary Grant (Bruce): “Even ten minutes is a long time to be away from you.”
Rosalind Russell (Hildy): (She pauses and walks backwards to him.) “What did you say?”
Cary Grant (Bruce): “What?”
Rosalind Russell (Hildy): “Go on.” (He laughs sheepishly) “Well, go ahead.”
Cary Grant (Bruce): “Well, I just said, 'Even ten minutes is a long time to be away from you.'”
Rosalind Russell (Hildy): “I heard you the first time. I like it. That's why I asked you to say it again.”
Snappy dialogue isn’t clunky, it flows. There a teasing quality to it and you can’t help a grin when it goes just right.
Katharine Hepburn’s example:
Howard Hughes: [Doesn't hear what Kate says] “Excuse me?”
Katharine Hepburn: “Well, if you're deaf, you must own up to it. Get a hearing aid, or see my father. He's an urologist, but it's all tied up inside the body, don't you find?”
Howard Hughes: “Mmm.”
Katharine Hepburn: “Me, I keep healthy. I take 7 showers a day to keep clean, also because I'm so vulgarly referred to as ‘outdoors-y.’ Well, I'm not ‘outdoors-y,’ I'm athletic. I sweat! There it is, now we both know the sordid truth: I sweat, and you're deaf. Aren't we a fine pair of misfits?”
I think some of my best scenes in my book, Windswept Shores, is where the dialogue just flows are the ones where the hero teases the heroine.
Windswept Shores example:
“If I had me a net, I could catch some of those fishies for dinner.” Seth paddled water while he gazed into the pool.”
“Don’t you have a net on the boat?”
“We usually use fishing poles.”
“No, I mean to net the fish after you reel them in.” She swam over to him.
“I don’t reckon you know the difference between fresh and salt water fishing, mate.”
“Okay, what’s the difference?” She splashed water just in front of him.
His smile twisted to the side. “When you fish in the sea, they're a mite bigger.”
“Okay, smarty pants, how do you get the fish into the boat?”
“You use a big stick with a hook to pull them in.”
“Oh, I think I did see that somewhere.”
“Probably, you accidentally lit on it when ya flipped through the channels on the box.”
The best way to learn snappy dialogue is to listen to it. Watch those wonderful films of the 30’s and 40’s, or anything that has snappy banter.
If you’re lucky enough to know people who pick and tease in the same manner, then listen to their conversations. And it might just make you smile.
It’s all in the ear. And it can be learned.
Windswept Shores’ example (it’s not all one sided, Megan gets her turn):
Walking back to the Dinki-Di, Seth complained with a glance at her bikini, “Why did you put your cossie back on?”
“I’m not comfortable naked,” she explained. “What if someone showed up while I’m undressed?”
He gazed around, then back down at her. “Megz, no one is here.”
“No, but you showed up not once, but twice, didn’t you?”
“Um, yeah,” Seth muttered with a slight frown.
“Can’t argue with that, can you?” She grinned. I love winning an argument.
The sole survivor of a plane crash, Megan is alone on a deserted island in the Bahamas until she finds a nearly-drowned man washed up on shore. Another survivor, this time from a boat wreck. With only meager survival skills between them, will they survive and can they find love?
Breathing hard, she flicked a glance at the teal-colored sea. She'd thought a vacation to the Bahamas would be the perfect getaway, would be a solution to the problems she and Jonathan had faced. She'd been wrong—dead wrong. Tears of grief filled her eyes. The never-ending crash of the waves on the beach and the cries of the seagulls seemed to mock her with the reminder she was utterly alone.
She'd felt like a tiny speck of sand last night when a violent storm had swept across the island. It had made a mess of her meager campsite, which had taken all morning to fix, and had demolished her seaweed SOS sign. She'll have to recreate her SOS. Sighing, Megan trudged toward a pile of kelp. As she got closer, she saw a figure wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. Her stomach lurched.
Oh, God, it’s another body washed up from the plane wreck. That would be number twelve. As always, she couldn't help but wonder if the next one would be Jonathan. He hadn’t been wearing jeans on the plane, so she knew she’d been spared seeing his corpse this time. Thank God. She approached the body with dread. Tightening her resolve, she knelt. Suddenly the "dead body" coughed and rolled over. With a scream, Megan jumped back. She clutched her chest and pressed a shaking hand to her mouth.
Biting her lip, she stared down at the still-breathing man. His drenched t-shirt molded against his broad shoulders and well developed upper body. Short, golden brown hair stuck out in all directions.
Megan, get control of yourself. Don’t wet your pants the first time you finally see a living person. She got on her knees, plucked the seaweed from him and wiped the sand from his face. His day-old whiskers scratched her palm. Reddened skin stretched across both cheekbones and over the bridge of his nose. Her thumb caressed his parched full bottom lip.
She patted the side of his face. “Hey, are you okay?” That’s a dumb question. He isn’t okay.
“Hmm?” Gray eyes fluttered open. He stared at her a long moment, frowning slightly. “G’day.”
“Hello there.” She hated the sound of her voice. It sounded rusty, unused.
Abruptly he rolled away from her to heave onto the sand, making a loud, ugly retching noise.
He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, then looked at her. “Sorry, mate, I swallowed too much sea.” His gaze went over her shoulder in the direction of the bonfire which crackled and popped not far from them. “Mite big for a barbie.”
Sitting back on her heels with her hands folded in her lap, Megan followed his gaze, then back to him. “My signal fire.”
“Signal for what?”
His accent intrigued her. Was he English or Australian?
“G’darn,” he looked around, “where the bloody hell am I?”
“Don’t know. There’s no one here to ask.” Megan shrugged helplessly, but couldn’t contain her curiosity. “Are you from England?”
“Naw,” he rubbed his eyes, “I hail from Sydney, but my port of call these days is Fort Lauderdale.” He blinked up at her. “You?”
Ah, he’s an Aussie. “I’m Megan Lorry, from Anaheim, California,” she said, barely loud enough to be heard above the sounds of the surf and the roar from the fire. “Are you a survivor of Air Bahamas flight 227, too?”
BIO - JANICE SEAGRAVES
When not writing late into the night, Janice takes care of her hubby of thirty-one years and a just grown daughter. They are owned by an overly affectionate cat and two dogs, one of which is a floppy German Shepard puppy and the other a mixed, short legged, long waisted yard digger.
You can find Janice’s book, Windswept Shores, at Pink Petal Books:http://pinkpetalbooks.com/Windswept-Shores-Janice-Seagraves.html
Windswept Shores’ book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_r2NXKT0Sg
Janice Seagraves’s website: http://janiceseagraves.org/
Her main blog: http://ladyjanice.blogspot.com/
Face book page: http://www.facebook.com/janice.seagraves
And twitter: http://twitter.com/janiceseagraves
Janice would love to hear your comments. And don't forget the contest. Go back to the top of the page and click on "Comments" to leave yours and enter.