1. Gateship
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    Gateship Member

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    Dialogue help please

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Gateship, Jan 7, 2007.

    My opening chapter contains a conversation between two businessmen. As I am neither a man nor in business, I'm finding their voices hard to hear.

    This is what I have so far and I need some advice on whether it sounds... um "manly" I guess.​
    Michael Lansworth stood by the darkened window pane. The top floor of the Accutime building afforded him a bird’s eye view of Manhattan and he gazed out at the busy streets far below, an observer as always; separated from the populous by more than just the glass.

    He watched people hurrying, their heads bowed. They always avoided looking at each other, avoided looking up. He shook his head slightly in amusement; it really wasn’t any wonder that most of them would achieve little. Those that didn’t dare to dream never did.

    The intercom on his desk buzzed, bringing his attention to the here and now.

    “Mr Lansworth,” said the voice of Julia, his secretary. “There’s a Mr Grant here to see you.”

    Lansworth felt a sense of pleasure. He’d been trying to talk to this man face to face for nearly two years. Other men wouldn’t have gotten away with it but this one did, partly because he was clever and almost as influential as himself.

    “Please send him in immediately, Miss Anderson,” he said, the clipped Oxford accent still clear despite a good twenty years living in that States.

    The heavy mahogany door swung open slightly and a young man came in. The second reason Lansworth had so far allowed this man to was demonstrated in the way he strode into the office full of self-confidence.

    “Grant,” Lansworth welcomed him. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

    He actually meant that; Dominic Grant was the computer industry’s biggest name, his company rivalled Accutime but Grant wasn’t just some business-smart salesman – though he was that as well – but he was a Math genius with a flair for creativity.

    Grant’s work had lead to the second technological revolution – and the discovery of space-time travel. Lansworth desperately wanted the blueprints of the transporter device, almost as badly as he wanted Grant to work for him.

    However, the man was staring at his outstretched hand as if it would bite.

    “What do you want Lansworth?” he asked shortly.

    “I have a business proposal,” Lansworth told him, ignoring the rudeness; he knew Grant had a reputation for bluntness. As someone who didn’t suffer fools gladly himself, Lansworth appreciated the attitude.

    “God, Michael, how many times? No, I will not work for you and no, you cannot have the blueprints.”

    Lansworth was not surprised at the flat out refusal. “Come now, Dominic, let’s discuss this like reasonable adults. You have no intention of putting your design to commercial use. I’m telling you this could be the biggest breakthrough in pleasure travel since the aeroplane.”

    “That’s a large statement. The theory is just that – a theory. Just because I did one successful test on an inanimate object doesn’t mean it can be used in the way you want.”

    “Give me some credit, Dominic. I know you are intelligent enough to get the sums on this thing right. It has a serious application, but it needs serious development. I am willing to buy the patent from you and pay you a large sum to see that development done.”

    Grant looked thoughtful at that and Lansworth began to think he’d finally gotten his way; with Grant on board Accutime would become untouchable – the biggest company in the galaxy.

    “I’ve been my own boss for too long to let someone else take the reins,” Grant said finally and then gave a humourless laugh. “I also recognise a covert take-over bid when I hear one. Sorry, Lansworth, but no deal”

    “Very few people say no to me, Dominic. I do wish you’d reconsider.”

    Grant arched an eyebrow and a haughty expression crossed his face. “Is that a threat?” he asked in a tone of amazement.

    Lansworth paused. It had been, but he realised his usual tactics weren’t ever going to work on Dominic Grant. The man was too big in the world of business, too powerful to touch. Plus the man just didn’t care.

    Realising that he’d met his match for once, Lansworth knew there was nothing to do but back down gracefully - this time.

    “No, no. Not at all,” he said soothingly. “I just know how much you could bring to Accutime, how much of a valuable asset to Accutime you’d be.”

    Grant shook his head. “I’m independent Michael, and I’m going to stay that way.”

    “That is probably as it should be. Ah well, no matter. Maybe we could discuss the rights to the project instead?”
     
  2. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    What you get when you deal with businessmen is the same as businesswomen – crafty ruthlessness (I have personal experience with one or two who managed to actually sell me something which I really didn’t want).
    It’s not really a case of ‘manly’ when it comes to dialogue. Just think of a general and a captain in a scenario where one is briefing to the other. Personal would be subjective and only implied as sub-characterisation. The reason why I say this is that this particular part of your story comes across as serving as a plot point; so that is going to be the superior voice. Personal dialogue would be subsidiary and support the plot dialogue and move counterpoint to it. So if this is a potential business deal that Lansworth desperately needs which Dominic is not interested in then try doing some research into the mannerisms of how businessmen present themselves to potential clients. The dialogue will come through.

    Delete the above. We already find that out during the scene anyway so this explanation is not needed.

    Part of what I don’t understand is that I already get the impression that Dominic Grant had already made his mind up not to do business with Michael Lansworth:

    So why would Dominic make the effort to go and visit him in person anyway? Is there a reason for him doing that which would be explained/answered further into the story (or even in the same scene)?
     
  3. Gateship
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    Gateship Member

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    I've only ever seen Dragon's Den, and that's where the creator is trying to sell their creation. I know how to pitch in that situation, just not how this one (this is more of being head hunted, isn't it?)

    I'll trim out that surplus paragraph - you're right; it's not needed.

    I think Dominic's refusal need to be reworded, else it'll make no sense. I've been thrashing this same scene out with a friend I've decided he does want to sell but is sounding out how badly Lansworth wants to buy.

    Thanks for your input, it's made me think about what I want this scene to say.
     
  4. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    I've re-read it and it sounds like Lansworth is actually the protagonist although not the good guy (I think you touched up on this in another thread?)

    I get that impression from this snippet alone because it's basically showing that Lansworth has the greatest need (which defines the behaviour of a protagonist) which is the blueprints which means, if Dominic agrees to do business with him, Accutime would be the greatest business in the galaxy. This, to me, implies that Lansworth is the active character.
    I may be saying this with naivety because I don’t know much about the story and of Dominic as a whole (only Lansworth at this time) and what his needs is/are other than what he doesn’t want and why he doesn’t want it. This to me implies a passive character.

    So if you need to re-write this scene you could also write why Dominic not only still decides to arrive in person (which imlies that he is actually interested...why else arrive?) but has no intention of wanting to do business with Lansworth (unless it's explained later on in your story. If it does, then ignore my suggestion). It could be a contradiction which is sometimes used in potential business deals to coax more out of the client (feigning interest).

    Part of the reason why I think this segment alone is underwritten and needs more work is because the stasis at the beginning is still the same as the end: Lansworth needs but doesn’t have the blueprints; Dominic has no intention of selling them because of his fear of a corporate take over. All in all, at the beginning, they start with no deal and they end the scene with no deal.

    This is the premise of this scene alone, so now you need to continue writing this by constructing the end of it. Do they eventually agree to do business with each other? If so, then write the drama that is bound to unfold with two head-strong sharks fighting for the same bite until they eventually give in.

    Otherwise, if there is no deal, this would then help you construct the plotting after that.
     
  5. Gateship
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    Gateship Member

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    I've just realised that, since I'm writing this chapter from Lansworth's POV (abet third person), I should really refer to him as Michael.

    Okay. Time for another rewrite!
     
  6. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    :D This is necessary. It goes with the territory. If you're sticking with third person then Lansworth sounds like a cool name to use instead of his first name. Other characters may refer to him as Micheal, or Mister Lansworth. But for us, it's cool. :cool:

    Just remember this: any story worth writing is never an easy, quick or simple write.
     
  7. Onoria Westhrop
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    Onoria Westhrop Contributing Member

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    I agree with the point that the situation simply doesn't go anywhere - It's like the really informative Roadie in Wayne's World...The dialogue sounds like you re just giving me information about the plot, not showing me two people interacting.
    I'd suggest something like, two goons drag your lead into a Limo and your hero gives Lansworth the old 'fight them on the beaches' attitude. That way you can get the information out, establish a premise for the discussion and have tension between the characters.
     
  8. Gateship
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    Okay, reworked and with the end of the scene added.​

    Michael Lansworth stood by the darkened window pane. The top floor of the Accutime building afforded him a bird’s eye view of Manhattan and he gazed out at the busy streets far below, an observer as always; separated from the populous by more than just the glass.

    He watched people hurrying, their heads bowed. They always avoided looking at each other, avoided looking up. He shook his head slightly in amusement; it really wasn’t any wonder that most of them would achieve little. Those that didn’t dare to dream never did.

    The intercom on his desk buzzed, bringing his attention to the here and now.

    “Mr Lansworth,” said the voice of Julia, his secretary. “There’s a Mr Grant here to see you.”

    Michael was surprised – he’d been trying to talk to this man face to face for nearly two years. He hastened to the desk and pressed the button on the intercom.

    “Please send him in immediately, Miss Anderson,” he said. He wondered what had made Grant decide to talk to him, and why he’d come here in person.

    The heavy mahogany door swung open slightly and a young man came in, striding self-confidently across the office floor. The slightly long dark hair, straggly beard and the jumper instead of a shirt gave Grant an appearance that was at odds with his position as the second richest on Earth.

    “Dominic,” Michael welcomed him, holding out a hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

    Grant stared at the outstretched hand as if it would bite.

    “What do you want Lansworth?” he asked shortly.

    “I have a business proposal,” Michael told him, ignoring the rudeness; Grant had a reputation for bluntness. As someone who didn’t suffer fools gladly himself, Michael appreciated the attitude.

    “Really? Are we hashing over the same old argument or did you have something else in mind?

    “I want to talk about the Project. You have no intention of putting your design to commercial use, do you?”

    “I didn’t design it for commercial use,” Grant replied. “As you well know.”

    “Yes, I did, but I think you ought to consider the possibilities - this could be the biggest breakthrough in pleasure travel since the aeroplane.”

    “That’s a large statement. The theory is just that – a theory. Just because I did one successful test on an inanimate object doesn’t mean it can be used in the way you want.”

    “Not as it stands, no. However I know you are intelligent enough to get the sums on this thing right. All the project needs to bring it into a business model is development.”

    “I’ve already spent five years on it, Michael. I have other things I want to do in life.”

    “Then let me buy the patent from you.”

    The offer hung there. Grant looked thoughtful and for a moment Michael thought he’d won the argument. Then Grant shook his head.

    “I’ve invested an awful lot of time and effort just to hand the project over.”

    “Maybe you could head the team?” Michael suggested archly.

    Grant gave a humourless laugh. “I am not going to work for you, Lansworth. Not now, not ever. I’ve been my own boss for too long to let someone else take the reins.”

    “Very few people say no to me, Dominic,” Michael said coldly as his temper got the better of him. “I do wish you’d reconsider.”

    Grant arched an eyebrow and a haughty expression crossed his face. “Is that a threat?” he asked in a tone of amazement.

    Michael sighed and grimaced internally at his loss of control. It had been a threat, but he realised his usual tactics weren’t ever going to work on Dominic Grant. The man was too big in the world of business, too powerful to touch. Plus the man just didn’t care.

    “No, no. Not at all,” he said soothingly. “I just know how much you could bring to Accutime, how much of a valuable asset to Accutime you’d be.”

    Grant shook his head. “I’m independent Michael, and I’m going to stay that way.”

    “That is probably as it should be. However, I still think you’re allowing a perfectly good idea go to waste. Maybe we could go back to discussing the rights to the project? Surely you want to see it working?”

    “Hmm.” Grant began to pace carpet, obviously deep in thought. Michael watched him and waited; knowing the man was working through the idea. He could wait a few minutes, after all he was fishing and sometimes one needed to let the fish run the line before reeling it in.

    After a while Grant stopped pacing and fixed a firm gaze at Michael.

    “The application would be leisure?” Grant asked.

    “Yes.”

    “And under no circumstances would any details attaining to the project be handed to any government or military body?”

    “Absolutely not,” Michael agreed – he had no intention of the profits going elsewhere.

    “Okay,” Grant said and flopped into the guest chair on the other side of the desk.

    “Okay?” he repeated in surprise.

    Sure,” said Grant. “I have too much on and Accutime has a greater concentration of scientists than I do. You have the resources to develop the project, so okay. Let’s talk figures. It will take you about a year to get a working model by my estimation, but it’s going to make you a lot of money. I think, therefore, that five million is a reasonable offer. With a percentage of sales, of course.”

    “Of course,” Michael said with a nod. “How does ten percent of sales sound?”

    “It sounds like you have yourself a deal,” Grant replied easily.

    Michael smiled and walked round his desk. He reached to the decanter of malt whisky and poured a measure into two lead crystal glasses. He handed one to Grant and they clinked the glasses in a toast.

    “I’m very glad to hear that,” he said, going back to his chair and sinking into its comfortable red leather. “I’ll instruct my people to take to your people, as they say.”

    “Sure thing,” Grant said. He took a sip of the whisky. He looked mildly surprised and lifted the glass. “Good whisky.”

    “But of course. I only ever have the best.”
     
  9. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    Better. But don't forget that in all business deals a lawyer/solicitor is always present. If you need to write exposition about Dominic then conversation between the lawyer and Michael about Dominic before he arrives would be a good device.
    Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo used this convenient trick to great albeit simple effect in The Godfather film (in the business scene right after the grand opening wedding scene). It was pure exposition about the character of Sollozzo and his business history. It was included in the film (I haven't read the book as of yet) logically so that Don Corleone could make a logical decision whether to do business with him or not based on the Don's moral stance on business with drugs. And that's good character and plotting all in one.

    It's just a suggestion though.
     
  10. Gateship
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    I do cover the need for laywers -
    “I’m very glad to hear that,” he said, going back to his chair and sinking into its comfortable red leather. “I’ll instruct my people to take to your people, as they say.”​

    However, since I have to introduce the technology, I might have Dominic leave at the end of this scene and then return with the blueprints for the official hand-over. This way I can have the legal discussion at the same time.
     
  11. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    For the purpose of your problem, I read the dialogue without the narrative. Granted, this detracts from a lot of mood, and many things were probably missed, but your dialogue stood alone for the most part, which is a success in its self.

    Having characters say 'you are' instead or 'you're' (ect. ect.) doesn't give them the air of officiality you think it does. It comes off robotic, rigid. Contract the speech as if they were regular people (of course, the context allows for some deviation). The situation, the content, and direction should give them what you nee.d

    What you get when you deal with businessmen is the same as businesswomen – crafty ruthlessness


    Actually, this is wrong. Men and women tend to act in very different ways, each relying on different strengths to succeed. Of course, every one is different, but each gender has some differences most of the time. Their dialogue, for one, is a lot different. A man's tends to be more blunt, more macho, so to speak; a woman tends to be more sublte.


    I went back and read the entire thing, and the dialogue works well. Each character has a different way of speaking, and what they say is in tune with what they do. It's realistic enough, too, besides from what I've already said.

    You've done a good job. Stop worrying.

    - FoY
     
  12. Gateship
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    I'd not thought of doing that, thank you for reminding me about this trick.

    I'd honestly not done that on purpose, but I get your point. I'll edit and make sure that their lines flow better.

    Thank you so very much. I will do.
     

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