Monday, 5 March 2012

Dialogue. No tags. No fluff. Just dialogue.

This is a little exercise I gave myself to practice writing dialogue which I feel is a weak area of my writing skill. I put four characters into a room and tried to give each one an individual voice and speech pattern to see if they were recognisable throughout the piece. Please let me know if I’ve achieved my goal or scored an own one.

‘Interview commenced thirteen thirty two on Friday the twelfth October two thousand and twelve. Those present Detective Constable Amy Blake, Detective Inspector James Threlkeld, Peter “Mad Dog” Souness and his solicitor Fiona Glenn.’
‘I hardly think it is fair to use my clients’ nickname in this context Detective Inspector.’
‘Why not? He answers to it. Don’t you Mad Dog?’
‘Fuck you Threlkeld.’
‘Mr Souness, can you account for your whereabouts on Monday the 8th of October between the hours of seven pm and eleven thirty.’
‘Course I can darlin’. I was round your sisters’ house. She gives the best blow job in all Manchester.’
‘Just answer the fucking question and don’t be a bastard. You know fine well her sister died last month.’
‘Do you always speak with such profanity when conducting interviews Inspector? I can already see members of the jury wrinkling their noses in distaste at your squaddies language.’
‘Hey Mad Dog. Wipe that smirk of your face and answer her question properly.’
‘No. Comment.’
‘In that case Mr Souness can you explain why our Scene of Crime Officers found fourteen thousand pounds in your safe along with jewellery belonging to the deceased.’
‘My client is a rich man who operates several pawn shops. The fact that the he has a lot of money in his safe and beautiful jewellery is testament only to his success as a businessman.’
‘Porn shops is bloody right.’
‘I beg your pardon Inspector?’
‘Oh come on. You’ve been his brief for nearly twenty years now. If you weren’t a lezzer then I’d bet that you’d be his mistress. You know fine well that the pawn shops are nothing more than a front for all the brothels he runs.’
‘And what bearing does this have on Mr Souness’ whereabouts on Monday night.’
‘That is when Mrs Evers was killed.’
‘Who the fuck’s she?’
‘She’s the wife of one the regulars at your Hope Street Sauna. We think she followed her husband there on Monday night. Don’t we Inspector?’
‘Aye we do. So Mad Dog. Where were you on Monday?’
I was at the Castle Ginnell shop having a meeting with the staff. All eight of them will tell you that.’
‘Now that Mr Souness has answered your questions I think you can release him. Obviously he is very sorry to hear about the premature death of Mrs Evers but he bears no responsibility.’
‘Sit down Fifi. We’re not quite finished. On Monday night at nine twenty two, Mad Dog used his mobile to call his head of security Michael Hannigan. They spoke for two minutes. From triangulation of mobile signals, we’ve ascertained Mad Dog was at Hope Street Sauna all night and that Hannigan joined Souness within ten minutes of his call.’
‘Sorry. That meeting must have been on Tuesday. I was having a bit of trouble with my back on Monday and went to get a massage. I called Michael to come over because that girl really straightened my spine and I know he sometimes has a bad back. You gotta take employee welfare serious in this day and age.’
‘That’s very considerate of you Mr Souness. Can you explain why Mrs Evers made six calls to her husband’s mobile from outside Hope Street Sauna when our data shows that he was inside with his phone switched on?’
‘Beats me. Perhaps she was mistaken about the type of massages they give there.’
‘We know exactly what kind of massages they give. We sent in an undercover officer from Bolton. As we speak a team from vice squad are paying a visit. Inspector Threlkeld wanted to be there but preferred to stay and hear what you have to say.’
‘That has no bearing on this case or my client.’
‘Oh contraire. A team of forensic accountants have been investigating Mad Dog since I arrested him this morning. Just before we started this interview they told me that he is the sole owner of Hope Street Sauna.’
‘So fucking what! I own it. That’s got fuck all to do with this Evers bird.’
‘We interviewed Mr Hannigan first and he told us an awful lot didn’t he Guv?’
‘He told us everything.’
‘That bastard. Wait ‘til I get my hands on him.’
‘Wait ‘til I get my hands on him. What do you think a jury would make of that Amy?’
‘I’d say they’d take it as a sign that Mr Souness is guilty. The only question left to ask is whether or not he’s going to confess to the murder of Francine Evers.’
‘Alright. I’ll tell you what happened.’
‘I strongly advise you to say nothing Mr Souness.’
‘C’mon Mad Dog. Spill it.’
‘I didn’t kill her. The husband did. She came in like a mad woman barging through doors and into the private rooms. When she found her man with a Czech bird bouncing on him she freaked and went for him. He pushed her away and she fell and hit her head on the worktop. She was dead by the time I was called through. Me and Hannigan cleaned up and dumped the body. For a fee of course.’


  1. The voices in this scene are very different, and 'sound' to my reading ears like matches for the personalities of their characters, Graham!

  2. Yeah, I agree with Robin. I'd no problem following the individuals, and they all have distinctive voices.

  3. Thanks for commenting guys. I'm pleased to know that it worked because I really dislike using "said" all the time.

  4. Works fine, Graham and as we all know, grit or noir depends on dialogue or sometimes voice-over. I've thought at times that maybe you could get a dual or triple voice-over to work. I might give that a try. This one carried the day and got the point across with pure dialogue. Obviously great practice in establishing the person speaking by their vocal mannerisms. Worked good, I'd say. Cool.

  5. Cheers AJ, you're a true gent. If you ever write that piece with multiple voiceovers holler in my direction as that's something I want to read.