Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mind the Gap

At a recent meeting for my job, I found myself in conversation with a British man, a New Zealander, and a graphic artist with no distinguishing accent what so ever. (I suppose we'll just say he's American.) I know this sounds like the beginnings of a bad joke, but really its about how our word choices give us away.

Even without the accents and with my eyes close I could have told you who said the following sentences:

"Is there a problem with one color being dominant?"

"I think its brilliant really."

"Let's try this design and see how we get on, yeah?"

I'm not going to tell you here which chap said which thing. What I will say is that in a recent Regency Romance I read written by a contemporary author the dialogue had flashes of fabulous period phrases, but fell sadly flat as all the characters spoke with the same accent using the same words, except for one bloke who blustered his way through a conversation using "Capital" repeatedly as an exclamation.

So tell me if I can sit in a cafe in Utah and have a conversation with three people with distinctly different backgrounds and individual voices, then certainly a character in Regency England with the many sundry social statuses will find themselves with lots of interesting accents, voices and phrases surrounding them. Dialogue done well can paint a vivid scene in a minuscule amount of words, but dialogue done poorly is the kiss of death to an otherwise sympathetic character and/or dashing hero.

Have you heard, read, seen on TV or encountered any great dialogue lately?

PS we are still trying to fit the words "Mind the gap" into the business brochure we were discussing at the meeting. It is so quintessentially British.


  1. Haven't been particularly struck by great dialogue lately, but I have been hurt by some quite painful dialogue on the TV show Falling Skies. I don't have an example, but if you watch for more than five minutes you will experience it.

    Good point about making each character distinct through dialogue.

  2. Haven't heard any great dialogue, but I think some of the best one-liners or monologues come from the Allstate Mayhem commercials.

  3. Agreed! Mayhem and Doofenschmirtz from Phineas and Ferb get all the good lines.

  4. Dialogue you say? Last night, for kicks, we watched the very first episode of Popeye the Sailor Man. The dialogue took me completely by surprise. It was funny, but more importantly it completely made the character work. There were times when the animation couldn't keep up with the dialogue ( circa 1936 and all) so the character's mouth didn't even move, but the things that came out of that mouth were hilarious! Do me a favor. Go watch it. It's 15 minutes of your time. :)