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How to Write: Lessons 30 and 31
Lesson 30, Dialogue and Lesson 31, Summation
Lesson 30: Dialogue
Don’t have your characters keep asking each other whether they’re okay or not.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Are you okay?”
That goes on and on, over and over forever in every kind of book or movie ever published or produced and it’s really, really stupid…almost as stupid as using the word “amazing” over and over and over.
There's not a lot of dialogue in chapter 32 but what little dialogue there is sets the tone for all the stuff that comes before it and goes after it:
“What did you do? Take a leak?”
“Nah,” he said. “Brezhnev’s worried about getting oil into Vladivostok.”
“Brezhnev’s in your bathroom?”
“I went to my room. He called me on our phone.”
Then there's another snippet a little later:
“So, what’s going on with Ginny? Do you know?”
His eyes lit up. He smiled one of his twitchy smiles and leafed through the big Abrams art book again, pointing her out to me. There she was in a Goya, and there she was again in one of the Botticellis — and that was Ginny standing by a window in one of the Vermeers. He stopped at the Vermeer and shook his head and bit the inside of his lip and said, “You probably won’t appreciate it, but getting the light right through that window was a bitch. Ginny was an angel. She glowed.”
“No, I appreciate it,” I said. “It’s beautiful.”
“Thanks.” Elliot was proud, but modest — still a little shy, still a little guilty, maybe.
Dialogue is a crystallization; it gives you context, a concrete place in time. Here's an example that’s all dialogue, when you just want to include everything in the dialogue. It's from Chapter 28:
“I thought you’d be asleep.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Did you fuck him?”
“What’s up and down your arms?”
“No. I did it to myself.”
“While he was fucking you?”
“Did you suck his dick?”
“Did he eat your pussy?”
“Did you come?”
“I just didn’t. Do you want me to take a shower?”
“I probably should.”
“No. You shouldn’t. Really. Just come here.”
I thought this was a lousy chapter, but people liked it. There's no accounting for taste.
Lesson 31: Summation
When I was a kid, I read a book called The Summing Up by Somerset Maugham. I don’t remember much about it but the title. My summing up at this juncture goes like this: I’ve been proud of doing a few things in my long, long life, but the one of which I’m most proud is making The Annotated Multimedia Video Book of Ginny Good. That nobody has ever or will ever watch it warms the cockles of my heart. It means I did it for nothing but the pure pleasure of doing it.
Nothing of any consequence or merit or lasting value has been published, produced or promoted in the US in the last twenty years 'cause none of the money-grubbing morons in the media and entertainment conglomerate give any kind of a rat's ass about anything but making money. Hype is everything; excellence is nothing. That's sick, sure, but it's also indicative of the imminent demise of worldwide capitalism.
There is nothing in modern Western Civilization whose sole goal is not to make anything but money, period. War makes nothing but money. Sports make nothing but money. Politics makes nothing but money. Journalism makes nothing but money. Justice makes nothing but money, etc., etc., etc. If a thing doesn't make money, it's simply not done. That leaves a lot not done.
Why do you think Jesus turned over the tables and shot out the lights among the moneychangers at the temple in Jerusalem? Because they were money-grubbing pricks and giggly twits who didn't give a flying fuck about anything but making money...not God or love or truth or beauty or honor or freedom or integrity or mercy or charm or pity or sacrifice, not drama, not catharsis, not the lilies of the field, not the suffering of little kids, not about anything but making money and money only and only money and more and more money to the exclusion of all else. And for what? Pride? Ego? Self-worth? Buying the gadgets and maids and gardeners and land and influence that makes one person "better" than another? More valuable, more worthwhile, cuter, more clever, more sought after? Like making money and money and more money makes a person good or brave or strong or noble or smart? Ha!
"...we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out."
That agents, editors, publishers, publicists, movie guys, media guys, etc. are cowardly slaves who think they're hot shit 'cause they're the overseers of a slave-based economy bores the crap out of me. People still suck up to them, sure, 'cause nobody's going to pay any attention to anything they don't endorse, but who with any brains could possibly give a shit about the putrid puke they do endorse? If your work gets published or promoted or made into a movie or gets itself on a "bestseller" list or wins "awards," your work sucks. Except as a total fluke, nothing that doesn't suck is ever allowed into the consciousness of ordinary Americans. Period. It's a closed system. It has to be. Capitalism depends on the ignorance of the slaves who keep the economy chugging along at a minimum increase in the gross national product of five percent a year. Anything that wises them up is anathema. I'm anathema. Hallefuckinglujah! I wouldn't have it any other way.