Monday, August 24, 2009

Opinions Wanted

I need some examples of great dialogue from a variety of genres. Who do you think writes really wonderful dialogue?



Pamela Hammonds said...

Susan Elizabeth Phillips gets my vote. I can think of many, many examples, but here's an excerpt from Match Me If You Can (between Heath and Annabelle), single title romance:

He slipped off his sunglasses. "I miss not being outdoors more. I grew up banging around in the woods."

"Huntin' and trappin'?"

"Not too much. I never got into killing things."

"Preferring slow torture."

"You know me so well."

James Pray said...

I'd offer up Patrick O'brian.

"Jack, you have debauched my sloth!"

Julie Harrington said...

Carl Hiaasen (I liked Double Whammy, Native Tongue, and Skinny Dip. Sick Puppy had some interesting dialogue).

Christina Davis said...

So... I am sure you mean book-wise, but I think the TV people have dialogue down. I really love the the way the characters speak in Gilmore Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and anything by Aaron Sorkin (Sports Night and West Wing). Hope that helps!

Edittorrent said...

Thanks! Keep them coming. I've already scouring my shelves for the books cited. Can't find my Hiaasen, though. :(


Ian said...

Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston both write dialogue that pops right off the page (Science fiction/fantasy).

Adrian said...

Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware novels, especially the more recent ones. I'm amazed how realistic his dialogue is. I always figured that level of verisimilitude would prevent the characters from truly revealing themselves through their words. But his characters do, with very few beats and virtually no description.

I must admit the dialogue scenes can be a little hard to read because the characters NEVER use complete sentences.

On the other hand, he renders three- and four-way conversations with aplomb without putting a dialogue tag on every paragraph. To me it's magic.

Maree Anderson said...

Just to throw a really different one into the mix: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

Christopher, the 15yo narrator of the story, is autistic, which makes the constrast between his speech and the speech of those he is forced to interact with even more stark and shocking.

This book appeals to me on so many levels. I can't think of a single other book that I've read, that I thoroughly enjoyed, but could also pass on to my then 12 yo daughter, my 10 yo son (who doesn't read fiction) and have them both read it and tell me how much they got out of it.

Robin Lemke said...

Seconding Christina G to say Gilmore Girls and Sports Night/West Wing have fabulous dialog.

A favorite quote from GG:

RORY: Bless you.

LORELAI: Thank you. Ugh, I hate having a cold.

RORY: I know you do.

LORELAI: Ugh, it’s bad enough being sick, but anybody can have a cold.

RORY: I know they can.

LORELAI: I mean, I’d like to have a good illness, something different, impressive. Just once I’d like to be able to say, "Yeah, I’m not feeling so good, my leg is haunted."

RORY: See, there’s a reason why you only take one packet of TheraFlu at a time.

LORELAI: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

In book form... I love Elizabeth Peters' dialog in her Amelia Peabody series.

And, of course, Jane Austen.

Edittorrent said...

Ooh, Jonathan Kellerman. Adding him to the pile.

I haven't read Haddon, Stackton, or Allston, but will add them to my list.

validation word: illest
which is appropriate in so many ways

Julie Harrington said...

I went digging for my Hiaasen. I'm trying to recall some of my favorite passages, but most of the stuff popping into my head is narrative. The man's wickedly clever. I'll break up the excerpts in different replies for length. I wasn't sure if you wanted *just* the dialogue or the narrative, etc., in between, so I typed it as is.

Let's see -- from Double Whammy:

Gault poured himself a gin and tonic. "But you can handle yourself, I presume."

"You presume right."

"Size doesn't mean a damn thing," Gault said. "You could still be a wimp."

Decker sighed. Another macho jerk.

Gault asked, "So what kind of fishing do you know about?"

"Offshore stuff, nothing exotic. Grouper, snapper, dolphin."

"Pussy fish," Gault snorted. "For tourists."

"Oh," Decker said, "so you must be the new Zane Grey."

Gault looked up sharply from his gin. "I don't care for your attitude, mister."

Decker had heard this before. The mister was kind of a nice touch, though.

Dennis Gault said, "You look like you want to punch me."

"That's pretty funny."

"I don't know about you," Gault said, stirring his drink. "You look like you're itching to take a swing."

"What for? Decker said. "Anytime I want to punch as asshole I can stroll down to Biscayne Boulevard and take my pick."

He guessed that it would take Gault five or six seconds to come up with some witty reply. Actually it took a little longer.

"I guarantee you never met an asshole like me."

Julie Harrington said...

From Skinny Dip (Hiaasen) after the two have slept together.

"We should talk about last night," Joes said.

"I was dog-tired. I did my best."

Julie Harrington said...

From Native Tongue (Hiaasen), yeah I know. Again. What can I say? LOL.

He blurted: "Are you seeing anybody?"

"Not exactly."


"What I mean is, there's a man."

"oh, ho!" A hot stab in the sternum.

"But we're not exactly seeing each other," Nina said. "He calls up and we talk."

"He calls on the 976 number? You mean he's a customer!"

"It's not like the others. We talk about deep things, personal things -- I can't describe it, you wouldn't understand."

"And you've never actually met him?"

"No face-to-face, no. But you can tell a lot from the way a person talks. I think he must be very special."

"What if he's a hunchback? What if he's got pubic lice?" Joe Winder was reeling. "Nina, don't you see how sick this is? You're falling in love with a stranger's voice!"

"He's very sensual, Joe. I can tell."

"For God's sake, the man's calling on the come line. What does that tell you?"

"I don't want to get into it," Nina said. "You asked if I was interested in anyone, and I told you. I should've known you'd react this way."

"Just tell me, is he paying for the telephone calls?"

"We've agreed to split the cost."

"Sweet Jesus."

"And we're meeting for dinner Tuesday up in the Gables."

"Wonderful," said Joe Winder. "What color trench coat did he say he'd be wearing?"

"I hate you," Nina remarked.

They hung up on each other at precisely the same instant.

Unknown said...

One book jumps immediately to mind. It's been years since I read it, but The Princess Bride, by William Goldman, is brilliant.

"He'll never catch up!" the Sicilian cried. "Inconceivable!"

"You keep using that word!" the Spaniard snapped. "I don't think it means what you think it does."

Love it. I'm definitely with West Wing and Jane Austen, too.

Leona said...

JD Robb's series with Eve Dallas. I don't read much of Nora Roberts under Nora, but I love her Dallas series.

The dialogue is snappy and crips and reflective of characters. She manages to bring snaz (is that really a word?) to personal conversations that are about childhoods and demons that follow you, as well as her conversations on the job as a homicide detective. I do not have access to a single book right now (I AM GOING INSANE) but you can pretty much pick up any in the series and not be disappointed. Even my husband has started reading them and he's much pickier than I am. LOL (Yes, Murphy and Jami that was a double entendre)

Leona said...

forgot to follow, so just checking the box :)

FrauMusica said...

I don't know how it reads in English translation, but Walter Moers' "13/2 lives of Captain Bluebear" is gorgeous. It's humourous, yes, and often it contradicts every rule of writing - but in such an engenious way that it works. I just recall the scene where the Babbling Billows teach Bluebear speech - unbeatable!

Julie Harrington said...

Oh! Linda Howard's "Heart of Fire" has a great exchange between the hero and heroine about lust on page 136 - 137. He has this fantasy/vision and it leads to this exchange:

"You'll damn well stay where I put you," he snapped,and turned back around to slash viciously at a vine.

"You've lost it, Lweis," she muttered as she started at him again. "The heat has gotten to you."

"It's not the heat," came his return mutter. "It's a certical buildup of sperm."

She had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. "Oh, I see. Your brain has become clogged."

Riley Murphy said...

Okay, for me? Anything Oscar Wilde, but not particularly for his most renowned works. So:

The Sphinx Without A Secret.

"Lady Alory was simply a woman with a mania for mystery. She took these rooms for the pleasure of going there with her veil down, and imagining she was a heroine. She had a passion for secrecy, but she herself was merely a Sphinx without a secret."

Totally awesome!

I loved the line in the Selfish Giant when the giant says:

"I have many beautiful flowers," he said "but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all."

The Picture of Dorian Grey.

"One has to pay in other ways but money."

"What sort of ways, Basil?"

"Oh! I should fancy in remorse, suffering in...well, in the consciousness of degradation."

Hmmm...notice the ellipse there - my dear Editors? Would you guys have penalized HIM on that one?

Murphy just wondering...:D

Julie Harrington said...

Oh geez, I just saw all the typos in my last post. I should NEVER ever type that late. Geez. Sorry about that.