Dialogue and Why I Was a Jerk

Ok. So, this could potentially be the most boring post in history but I thought I would share what I have been thinking about while I am knee deep in revisions. My book is due to my editor in a month or so, so I’m really mining through the text trying to figure out what kind of dialogue furthers the story and what doesn’t. There was a moment in my life yesterday, which really illuminated the kind of dialogue I am looking to create.

I was at the post office waiting in line to send out some dresses back to Modcloth.com, which as a side note, is one of my favorite online dress shops. I just needed a different size. ANYWAY, so I’m waiting and waiting and getting annoyed because of COURSE there is only –ONE!– person working. I’m tapping my feet, checking my phone, and generally wishing everyone standing in line before me would be struck by a big laser beam of hate so I could be next. Then the man who is at the counter, who is causing this traffic jam, turns around to leave.

And it’s then I realize I am the biggest jerk on the planet.

He has a cane and wearing a nice button down shirt. His belt is real leather with a nice silver buckle. I’m thinking this guy is old, old like my grandpa Harry who wore a three piece suit even in 80 degree weather. But then I get to his face and he’s not old. Maybe late 40s or early 50s. His face has been so badly burned he has wavy lines of scar tissue all over his cheeks and neck. He had a nose once but it’s not there now, just a thin bone and two slits for nostrils. The skin around his eyes stretches so thin it’s like there isn’t enough of it. He has no hair.

He looks down the long line of people and says,

“Sorry about the wait,”

Immediately, everyone shuffles on their feet and says, “Oh, no, it’s no problem. It’s no problem.”

And he starts walking toward the exit. As he passes me, he says quietly,

“I’m not…I mean…I used to be right handed.”

I was crushed. Not because of what he said but because of what he didn’t say. And isn’t that what good dialogue should do? Tell us about our characters without them telling us about them outright? I learned so much about this man in a span of seconds. It stuck with me all day. I may even write a short story about it.

What will your world tell you about writing today?

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