Elizabethan London

Elizabethan London
Tyburn was an infamous execution spot west of London, used since medieval times. The Tyburn "tree" - a unique, multi-person gallows - erected in 1571 became a popular public spectacle, drawing crowds of thousands.Tyburn Tree blog is less blood-thirsty but hopefully topical, interesting and informative, if slightly bent to my personal topics of interest - books, writing, history, technology, with a smattering of politics and dash of pop culture, science and the downright strange. So "take a ride to Tyburn" and see what happens...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dancing through Dialogue

Dialogue is always a challenge to write.

Dialogue itself is supposedly formed from the two words "dia" and "logos" meaning "to speak across" or to converse.

The best dialogues have a number of characteristics that make them stand out - a distinctive voice reflecting character; a purpose or direction for the conversation; a conversation burned down to the core essentials and shorn of many of the qualifiers, honorifics and interruptions that make up normal speech; and a cadence or rhythm that provides a beat and drama to the speech.

Usually you want your dialogue to reflect the story of the moment, not just the content of what is being said.

Here's some examples stolen from both literature, television and film that leverages some of the above elements effectively:

From The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Man with the Twisted Lip

"I suppose, Watson," said he, "that you imagine that I have added opium-smoking to cocaine injections, and all the other little weaknesses on which you have favoured me with your medical views."
"I was certainly surprised to find you there."
"But not more so than I to find you."
"I came to find a friend."
"And I to find an enemy."
From Generation Kill (HBO mini-series):

TROMBLEY:  Hey, Person. Didn't your mom put your picture up on the Wal-Mart wall of heroes?

PERSON: Yep. My grandma did when I went to Afghanistan. I'm on the Nevada, Missouri Wal-Mart wall of heroes. Even got my dress blues on.

COLBERT: If my mother ever distributed my likeness without written authorization, I would disown her.

PERSON: Technically speaking, Brad, but didn't your biological parents disown you when they put you up for adoption?

COLBERT: Point, Ray. I was one of those unfortunates adopted by upper-middle-class professionals and nurtured in an environment of learning, art, and a socio-religious culture steeped in more than two thousand years of Talmudic tradition. Not everyone is lucky enough to have been raised in a Whiskey Tango trailer park by a bowlegged female whose sole qualification for motherhood is a womb that happened to catch a sperm of a passing truck driver.

Colbert gets out of the Humvee with some humrats.
 PERSON: At least my mom took me to NASCAR.

From Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino's classic film:

Yolanda: This place? A coffee shop?
Ringo: What's wrong with that? Nobody ever robs restaurants. Why not? Bars, liquor stores, gas stations; you get your head blown off sticking up one of them. Restaurants, on the other hand, you catch with their pants down. They're not expecting to get robbed. Not as expectant, anyway.
Yolanda: I bet you could cut down on the hero factor in a place like this.
Ringo: Correct. Just like banks, these places are insured. Manager? He don't give a fuck. He's just trying to get you out the door before you start plugging the diners. Waitresses? Fucking forget it. No way are they taking a bullet for the register. Busboy, some wetback getting paid a dollar fifty an hour, really give a fuck you're stealing from the owner? Customers are sitting there with food in their mouths; they don't know what's going on. One minute they're having a Denver omelette; the next minute, someone's sticking a gun in their face.
From Lawrence of Arabia:

Bentley: It's very simple, sir. I'm looking for a hero...certain influential men back home believe that the time has come for America to lend her weight to the patriotic struggle against Germany, uh, and Turkey. Now I've been sent to find material which will show our people that this war is, uh...

Feisal: Enjoyable?

Bentley: Oh, hardly that, sir. But to show them its more adventurous aspects.

Feisal: And you are looking for a figure who will draw your country towards war.

Bentley: All right. Yes.

Feisal: Lawrence is your man.

Got any favorite dialogue from books or film you want to share?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dark and Somewhat Stormy...well, maybe more blustery than stormy.

For those of you with a cruel enjoyment of painful prose, the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is akin to Christmas...well, maybe Christmas without the decorative tree, the gifts, the warm sense of family, the joy....Okay maybe more like a a few days after Christmas, when all that good will has dissipated and the credit card bills start to arrive.

In any case, it is time again to bath in the exquisitely crafted precision prose that is Bulwer-Lytton 2013.  For those few out there who have no idea what I am referring to, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton penned what to many is the worst opening lines in literature:

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

To help immortalize this brilliant writing in the annals of  history, the annual Bulwer-lytton Contest was born, open to anyone who dares set pen to paper...

Here are some excerpts from 2013:

"She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds, the tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the thief of imagination." Chris Wieloch, Brookfield, WI

“Don’t know no tunnels hereabout,” said the old-timer, “unless you mean the abandoned subway line that runs from Hanging Hill, under that weird ruined church, beneath the Indian burial ground, past the dilapidated Usher mansion, and out to the old abandoned asylum for the criminally insane where they had all those murders.”Lawrence Person, Austin, TX

General Lee arranged for the dreaded surrender, yet capitalized on his opponents’ weaknesses to the very end, striking a tiny parting blow for the Army of Northern Virginia (chuckling to himself) as he remembered from Academy days how many Union commanders had struggled with spelling even common words, and so ran his finger along the map and settled on Appomattox.Randal Pilz, Milton, FL
Tex sauntered into the saloon, tipped his hat towards Miss Kitty seated at the bar, and drawled, “I’ve been excogitatin’, and we don’t take kindly to no loquacious sesquipedalians ‘round these parts, lessin’ they be indigenous” – and with that, subsequently shot dead the visiting chatty professor of English standing next to her.Rick Cheeseman, Waconia, MN

Read the rest at the Bulwer-Lytton site.  Enjoy!