Futuristic and Alien Dialogue
A concatenation of incidents focused this Dialogue entry in my mind:
a) I got an app that Bluetooths from a proprietary device to an iPad/iPhone/iPod and produces graphs and stats on the Apple device. The data can also be "air-printed" (an Apple wi-fi app) if you email the results to yourself, open the email on the iPad or phone and hit air-print (a feature some new printers come with).
b) I saw an episode of SUITS, mentioned below, with vivid, sterling, incredible off-the-nose-dialogue
c) I saw a TV News item on a new app that's garnered major attention. I grabbed the app (it's on Apple, Kindle, Android), and began making my own "Magazines" with it. Then I started a group of Sime~Gen folks collecting more stories for a Magazine I created and titled Sime~Gen Futurology, collecting articles about the harbingers of a massive genetic shift in Earth's biosphere.
d) a while back, I saw an interview with the CEO of Cisco Systems doing a victory lap as his phrase "the Internet of Everything" was becoming accepted by other CEO's of big companies. And I had seen the thermostat that rats out your settings on the internet to your power company. (not to mention the NSA) New refrigerators may have that feature, irrigation systems, everything in your house.
You can subscribe to our Sime~Gen Futurology Magazine, but right now I've no idea how to do that from the web or how to write a link you can find in-app.
So of course while trying to figure out how to point people to this magazine, the futurologist in me started wondering what this world of apps will lead to --- Theodore Sturgeon's watchword, "Ask The Next Question." --- and one idea just leaped out at me while watching Political ads ( a writer never wastes a moment!)
Last week we examined the definition of a "Strong Character" -- which is a common requirement publishers put in market reports.
Our complaints about politicians boil down to we never seem to get a candidate who actually has the "strong character" his/her speeches present.
Studying politicians can clue you in to how to create a "strong character" an editor will buy.
But after you've invented a Strong Character, how do you convey to the reader that this character is actually "strong?"
Well, actions, of course, and the style with which they confront challenges will show-don't-tell their strength.
Watch the TV Series SUITS (about lawyers doing stare-downs of other lawyers). It's streaming on AMAZON. Each of the main, ongoing lawyer characters has a part of their character that is "strong" -- other parts, not so much. Together they make a team, a law firm.
Roddenberry said that he got the Kirk-Spock-McCoy team by dissecting his own personality into 3 components. Distilling out clear traits is necessary for good fiction writing.
A character may have more traits than you show the reader, but what you show has to be a distillation where all the components say the same thing about that character or the "story" won't blend seamlessly with the "plot." Remember, it's Theme that connects all the components, especially the story and the plot.
Actions are paramount in delineating Character, especially in Science Fiction.
But dialogue is ACTION. Speech is action. At a Victorian High Tea, a single word from the right person can destroy another person's social and economic position in life. Speech is action.
The secret to writing good dialogue is to understand that the only dialogue reported by the writer to the reader is the interchanges that MOVE THE PLOT.
The characters may interact, discuss, chatter, gossip, etc. off-camera for hours and the whole of it can be boiled down to a couple of descriptive phrases. The "action" picks up when "conflict" generates the dialogue, and that conflict must be the conflict that generates the plot and is resolved in the last scene. Dialogue that advances the plot and story (simultaneously) toward that conflict-resolution point is the only dialogue that is written out in quotes.
The exchanges that are written out in quotes are always "Mortal Combat" or "Chess" or some other "Game People Play" where the point of the exchange is to "one-up" or fool the other character, or beguile, or confess, or beseech, etc.
Who "wins" the exchange is the new data-point that moves the plot. To keep the pacing on beat, you have no more than 750 words to depict that scene (in a novel -- less in a script).
A scene begins where two characters come together or an Event sparks an exchange. The scene ends when one or the other leaves the location (exits slamming the door?), or when another character ENTERS that location in the middle of the dialogue, changing the subject. Sometimes it's a phone call that ends the scene, or it could be an item that comes up on the TV screen that tells them they are wrong about something.
Scenes are the building blocks of novels and films, each with the same internal structure as the overall novel or film -- narrative hook, plot movement, cliff-hanger.
Now to the futurology.
If you've set your story in the future -- or an alternate present where Aliens Have Landed on Earth (or we run into some on Mars etc) - then you must alter your dialogue STYLE -- the unspoken premises and assumptions behind the words you choose -- so that the style itself evokes "The Future."
The words you choose for your characters to say have both "text" and "subtext" (see the 3 SAVE THE CAT! books by Blake Snyder for subtext.)
The subtext is the assumptions the characters make.
Your reader gets their good feelings from decoding the subtext. This is especially true in Mystery. Your job as writer is to convince your readers that they are smarter than you are and smarter than the (very smart) characters.
When readers decode a meaning, they believe it. What you TELL them, they don't believe. In other words, "subtext" is one of the SHOW DON'T TELL tools. And it is the make-or-break of your story.
You have to fake the futurology because we're in the present and so is your reader (for the most part, maybe). So let's "fake" a future thematic premise for a Strong Character to overcome.
SUPPOSE: this world of "the internet of things" (as Cisco Systems has taken to calling the connections among common household devices) actually works.
In April 2014, a promo from CISCO said this on twitter:
The #InternetofEverything helps @UPS improve delivery experiences to customers: cs.co/60169TtG pic.twitter.com/O9nA1ZmmtP
That article is
They're using RFID chips on packages etc. to "track" "stuff." And now they're upping their game, interfacing with recipients and making everything ever so much more "convenient." The article doesn't mention anything about privacy. Imagine what enemies might do with this info about what you get, when, and where.
That tweet was posted the day a Union turned down part of a contract with UPS.
Liar? Think about it. Touting all the upside -- never mentioning the downside.
SUPPOSE: all this data-collection (from NSA spying on telephone calls all the way through electronic medical records) ends up succeeding in recording every traffic light you pass, every driving habit, every drink at a bar on the way home, every job task completed, every bit of clothing you buy, every morsel of food passing your lips, etc etc -- suppose EVERYTHING is a matter of record.
SUPPOSE: all these records are no longer considered private.
SUPPOSE: we make a law inserting recording devices all over Washington so no politician can so much as go to the rest room without every word spoken being recorded. (OK, maybe they'll leave out images?)
SUPPOSE: this means nobody can get away with a lie any more because on the TV News Screen beside the video clip of the politician's speech is a running counter-point of every single thing that politician did or said on that topic. No more smoke-filled-back-room deals. No more theatrical performances before cameras at Hearings after writing the script in a smoke-filled-back-room (ok maybe they'll leave out the smoke for political correctness?)
Can Romance, even Alien Romance, coalesce without the gossamer veils of half-truths and uncertainty? Looking into such a theme, a writer of Alien Romance might address the real nature of Romance itself.
What would it take to destroy humanity's ability to drift into Romance, to fall into Love?
SUPPOSE: all the politician's constituency lived lives just as recorded and transparent.
NO TV COMMERCIAL COULD EVER LIE TO YOU AGAIN -- right there on the screen is the clear, concrete (un-hackable) (unalterable) evidence of the real-reality.
You really wouldn't be "entitled" to your own facts. Subjective conclusions would still differ, but the reasons for the difference would be changed forever.
SUPPOSE: people just got out of the habit of lying at the age of say, 3 or 4. Any time you make an honest mistake your "Google Glass" wearable appliance blasts out the correction for everyone around you to see, hear, and comprehend. You get used to it, and nobody remembers anything being any different.
Well, humans being human, the be-all-and-end-all of existence would be to hack the system and gain control over everyone.
But what if our current civilization met up with Aliens who lived in a "recorded world" like that describes?
Are we toast? Or are they?
Power, the use and abuse thereof, is fodder for CONFLICT which is the essence of STORY (and plot).