Sarah arrived sweaty and smelling like a Barbeque. By @PipBaines13

By Philippa Baines


Sarah arrived sweaty and smelling like a Barbeque.


‘When two men say ‘Hello’ on the street, one loses.’


Sarah arrived sweaty and smelling like a Barbeque.


‘What are you wearing?’ said Mike.


She was in a t-shirt and trousers. Her hair was unwashed and makeup had been smudged. Her hair was unwashed and makeup had sweated off.


‘Did you have a good day?’ she replied. Sarah pushed past him to unload.


No answer.


‘Why did you arrive so late on Saturday?’


‘I’d been working.’


‘Yeh but it was the weekend.’


‘I know. I’ve got a lot on.’


Mike closed the front door and walked to the kitchen. She followed. He began to make a tea, roughly opening the cupboard doors and banging his cup on the side.


‘It’s our anniversary. You’re more committed to the business than me. Or is it the business. Who’s James, Sarah? Who’s fucking James?’


The above was a short story written in Caroline’s masterclass about dialogue. It was not so much about writing through than looking at human psychology. We learnt that gripping dialogue will often have one of three elements: jostling for power, someone trying to hide something else, or someone ignoring the other. Reflecting on these points, I was struck by the fact that I’d seen so much of this in my everyday life; at work, at home and with friends – there’s always something going on under the surface. 


When two men say ‘Hello’ on the street, one loses.


Great dialogue has a subtext. There’s the mask we put on to show we’re mixing along well with other human beings. Then there’s what’s really happening. Only when ‘shit hits the fan’ do we say what’s really going on.  It’s the gap in between what is said and what is done that keeps us guessing about what will happen, hooking a reader into the story. 


Caroline shared nine words: ‘I, did, but, didn’t, really, you, promise, yes, no, + any swear words of your choice.’ These was the core vocabulary overheard by a writer who worked above a divorce lawyer’s office. Interestingly you can have a mock argument using just these words that goes round and round endlessly.


At the heart of great dialogue is an underlying intention; expressing love, loss, status, control. Following from the masterclass, it’s interesting to now listen to conversations between people on the street and work out what’s happening beyond what meets the eye.




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