Case Study: Dialogue – “The Rosie Project”

“The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion is novel about a guy with Asperger’s that doesn’t seem to know he has aspergers,  discovering himself while trying to acquire a wife. Very entertaining and at times hilarious read.

I’m posting about it for the brilliant example of dialogue in the second chapter, but the novel is also a case study in character development and plot progression.

The dialogue is found in a section in which the main character, a professor of genetics, is giving a lecture on Asperger’s disorder, filling in for a friend who was supposed to give the lecture. The audience is Asperger’s afflicted children ages 8-13 and their parents, and a great deal of comedy is derived from the difference in intelligence within these two groups. One parent had asked if Asperger’s caused emotional detachment, which the main character affirmed, but argued that this is not a disadvantage, then provided an example where emotions can cause problems.

Below is the dialogue in question:

“Imagine,” I said, “you’re hiding in a basement. The enemy is searching for you and your friends. Everyone has to keep totally quiet, but your baby is crying.” I did an impression, as Gene would, to make the story more convincing: “Waaaaaa.” I paused dramatically. “You have a gun.”

Hands went up everywhere.

Julie jumped to her feet as I continued. “With a silencer. They’re coming closer. They’re going to kill you all. What do you do? The baby’s screaming–”

The kids couldn’t wait to share their answer. One called out, “Shoot the baby,” and soon they were all shouting, “Shoot the baby, shoot the baby.”

The boy who had asked the genetics question called out, “Shoot the enemy,” and then another said, “Ambush them.”

The suggestions were coming rapidly.

“Use the baby as bait.”

“How many guns do we have?”

“Cover its mouth.”

“How long can it live without air?”

As I had expected, all the ideas came form the Asperger’s “sufferers.” The parents made no constructive suggestions; some even tried to suppress their children’s creativity.

I raised my hands. “Time’s up. Excellent work. All the rational solutions came from the aspies. Everyone else was incapacitated by emotion.”

I like this dialogue block for its rhythm, for starters. Notice the long block of first person dialogue and narrative text, followed by sharp suggestions by the children, capped on the end by another long block of narration. The increase in speed is started with “You have a gun.” The situation escalates visually – “Hands went up everywhere,” “Julie jumped to her feet.”

The dialogue flows well. The reader is taken along with the flow of chants by the kids, “shoot the baby, shoot the baby,” and the absurdity of the situation ensures we are carried straight into the next turn in the flow – “shoot the enemy,” with a bonus italicization for increased sharpness.

The dialogue is hilarious. Comic understatement: “I did an impression as Gene would, to make the story more convincing: “Waaaaa.”” The period at the end, rather than exclamation point, helps us visualize a socially awkward professor going through the motions of social interaction and demonstration without really “getting it.”  Insulting compliments: “All the rational solutions came from the aspies. Everyone else was incapacitated by emotion.” The use of “aspies” would seem insulting, except the kids with Asperger’s don’t care – they are clearly better at solving problems than their parents.

I recommend reading the whole book. It was originally published in ebook format only, which is interesting enough, especially because the author describes the process in short at the end of the novel.

Junkman

Junkman seen some things. Lots of gross stuff – dead kids, people’s heads, bags of poo, but strange things too. 

Seen things runnin away when he come up with his truck. Little small things, like dogs but shaped the wrong way. Sorta like monkeys, cept the monkeys got stuff all comin out of their back, metal stuff, lotsa hinges and joints. 

Usually Junkman just shine his lights on the bins when he come up, scare the things away. Get to where they gettin braver, though. Start to watch him, lookin out from the shadows. Seen their eyes, he do. Started bringing a little hand light, shine’m to get a better look.  Monkeys never let’m. Don’t like to be seen full on. 

Junkman big, an’ he live hard, don’t like to act scared of no little monkeys, but he get to gettin scared sometimes when he comes to the bins the monkeys be keen on. Starts leavin his truck lights on, pointed at the bins to flash’m good, keeps the monkeys well outa sight. Was one time, though, he come back to his truck and see somethin jump away from his door. Realized the monkeys were messin with his truck when his back was turned. 

Junkman starts lockin his door real good, gettin more scared. He don’t like not knowin what in the hell be foolin round his bins, maybe they stealin or whatever an’ thats fine but they give him the heeby jeebies. So he musters up one night, puts on his rough jacket, the leather one he like to wear when he knows boys at the bar gon’ get real rowdy. Puts on his kneeguards the company gave him but he never wore cuz they itch. Wear his steel toes from the ol’ construction job, never able to sell’m anyway. 

Parks his truck far back-like, round the corner from one of the monkeys’ favorite bins. Real dark place, up against some stank-ass sewers. Junkman bring a real heavy bit of scrap he found that like to keep under his bed. Brought his hand-light, too. He try to walk real quiet-like, though his boots keep makin a stompin racket so he takes’m off and goes on in his socks even though the ground a bit wet.

He get closer to the bin, start hearin monkey-sounds. Scrabbles, chirps, the like. An’ a sound he don’t like at all – metal on metal, metal on cement. Gives Junkman goosebumps.  But he musters up – monkeys been leavin real messes around his bin, he gonna start gettin it from his boss if he don’t do somethin bout it. 

So he gets real close and flashes his light. 

Junkman blinks in the light, then surprised to find himself hangin in the air from his favorite jacket. Looks down at the monkeys, well that aint right. Looks up and kinda sees in the dark a big arm holdin his collar, jus’ like a spider leg, all joints and axle grease. He gets a panic, but keeps up his brave anyway. 

“Put me down ya damn fool monkey ‘fore I smack you wit’ this big ol’ stick!”

He aint move none fer fear of fallin, and done dropped his light at some point, but he hears a sure racket down where the monkeys were.  He starts hootin and hollerin, but the monkeys ain’t do shit but keep jabbering away. Junkman startin to feel less scared an’ more mad, so he gets out his phone, sturdy piece of junk, and flashes the little light on the monkeys below. 

That got their attention real good. 

The arm that been holdin him gone and let go, so Junkman got a nice fall in. ‘Fore he did, he got a good look at what been holdin him in the first place. Big ‘ol spider leg comin out the back of one of the monkeys, cept they weren’t monkeys at all, just a bunch a grubby kids. Then Junkman hit the ground hard and knock himself out. 

He wake up and see a kid bendin over him all grinnin like a fool. 

“What you want, kid? Drop Junkman  around s’more?”

“No way, Junkman. We like you.”

“You little monkeys gone’n make a mess o’ things, drop Junkman on his poor head, hell a way to show likin’ somebody.” 

“We don’t wanna hurt you, Junkman, We just can’t have you running around telling folks you seen us though, feel me?”

“Don’t wan’ me tellin folks? Oh the boys won’t hear the end o’ that–“

But then Junkman seen that big greasy metal spider leg hangin near his head. Kid smilin but Junkman only see the shiny cutter come out of the thing, real slow-like.

“We can’t have you running around telling people about us, Junkman. You won’t see us no more, we’ll move on to other bins, but we got our eyes everywhere, you dig?”

“I feel ya kid, Junkman keep his big ol mouth closed for sure. You just stop messin around with my bins and we ain’t got no problems.” 

That big shiny blade vanish like a magic trick, kid pats Junkman on the head which make him mad but he don’ say nothin about it, then turn and run off somewhere in the dark. 

Junkman don’t say a word to no man, but he still shine his truck lights on the bins. 

Name Generator

I found this fantastic name generator. It allows you to generate a name based on region, language, culture, and gender. I’ve found some cool ones, and will probably use it to find names for my characters from now on. If you’re stuck with “John, Jane, Charlie,” and “Amadeus” for names, this is for you. The best part is that it can show you name examples from other cultures, great for writing sci-fi.

http://www.behindthename.com/random/