Conversation passage - Boxing Day

Mon, Mar 13 2017 09:46pm GMT 1
Paris Paul
Paris Paul
20 Posts
Good evening all,

I have a passage now with two things that worry me in my writing (mongst many others), that is conversation and tension. I would as ever welcome any comments. To set the scene a challenge has been made to play a game of football - on Boxing Day (the book title). The story of how it happened is being shared with other people in the pub afterwards....

......“And he really said ‘For these people that we should organise ourselves and play the final, deciding game’? That’s top drawer that is, well done Statto!” The girls were enjoying the retelling of the story.

“He did and he meant it,” chimed in Red Al. “You should have seen him, captivated they were.”

Danny thought on. It had started with small portable tvs in the corner of the bar, with occasional games shown on normal tv. The games became more frequent as the screens got bigger and more numerous. Then the BSB deal and everything exploded. How could people play darts when half of the pub was jostling for space to watch Hull play Southampton and two of the dart boards had been taken down to make space for the new screens. The tv companies started to clamp down on pirate showings and every pub knew that if it wanted custom it had to have live sports. Live sports and pub games just didn’t go together. His dad just said that the times were so good that no one could see the end coming.

“Then he killed me,” Red Al was now taking on the storytelling role himself, “ ’As things stand there is no winner. We need to have one last match to finally decide. Could a few hundred pounds really be more important than that?’ Could a few pounds be worth it!” he completed.

“Ooh, I would have loved to see Benjamin’s face when he mentioned something being more important than a few pounds. Did someone have to pick him up off the floor!” Geeta was enjoying the story more and more.

“I must admit that I was getting a bit worried about it before then though.” Dev took his turn “The way Danny was going on we would have ended up owing a thousand pounds each, just before Christmas. At least we can just lose a bit of pride now!”

“Come off it Dev, we can beat them. Whether it’s for money or for pride we’ve got nothing to be afraid of,” Richo was there in a flash.

“Here, here,” added Al.

Danny was still lost in thought. When it all fell to pieces the Sky Bars took it all. Showing the games in normal bars, or pirating the games became impossible. The fines and punishments were handed out so fiercely and so quickly that people soon stopped trying. The screens remained for a while, Danny always found it strange that you could often walk into a pub and see two grown men watching a cooking programme with no sound on, nodding in appreciation and saying nothing. But he was not really one for talking much himself, so perhaps it wasn’t that strange after all. Anyway the screens soon disappeared, after all the smartphone gave everyone their own choice of programme without having to watch what was being shown. So the tv screen size and football had grown, destroying pub life as they went. Then, the Sky Bars had killed the sport, leaving the few remaining pubs lifeless. Unbelievable Jeff, as Danny’s dad had finished his story.

“And with his Shakespearean flourish, he rounded it off. ‘One last game, winner takes all. The Whites against the Blues. A match not for the players but for the towns and the communities’.”

“Yes, ‘People will come and watch because we will fill the teams with people who care, people who want to play for them’. It was just a barnstormer of a performance from Statto.”

At this last laughter Danny looked round. Unobserved by the others, all wrapped up in their laughter, Statto stood slowly. There was something strange about his movement, he was almost shaking which was strange for someone so big. He looked up and quietly spoke.

“He’s here you know.” There was no reaction and so he spoke again, but louder “The one that you are calling ‘he’, he’s here you know!” Red Al and Annie had heard and looked up, stunned into silence by the unfamiliar Statto that they saw. Again, but louder still “Yes, he’s here. The weirdo, the looney man, the preacher, the great big lummox. He’s here. He can hear you. Stupid, but not deaf, surely!!” Now there was just a stunned silence, broken finally by Geeta.

“Oh Statto, I’m sorry. The boys were just filling us in on the story, and you have to admit that some of it does sound funny.”

“Yes,” added Annie, “you know we would never make fun of you, not really make fun, we just found it a great story. And now we’ve got something other than Diwali and Christmas parties to look forward to for the year end!” With that there was more laughter, but Statto remained unmoved.

“I’m glad you find it funny. At least it shows that there is some interest. Danny, you only half listened to what I said at the football and didn’t even manage that for the retelling. Is it no good for you without the money, is that what really interested you in the first place?” It was all starting to feel like a gunfight, the silence and Statto’s gaze fixing him.

“Not at all Statto. I was listening then and now. I think it’s a great idea, I just didn’t, you know, I just didn’t expect it. Where on earth did it all come from?”

“Where did it come from? Where did it come from says the person who’s frustration has been burning a hole in him for the last five years. Well Danny, did you really think that you were on your own, that no one else gave a fuck? Did you? That everyone else had just lied down and rolled over, because Danny was the only person who had lost something?” The silence was unbelievable. No-one had ever seen Statto in such a state. Yes, he preached and orated and opined and enjoyed others listening to his voice. But this was no outpouring of facts and figures. This was an outpouring of his heart. “Well you can wake up Danny boy, there are others who feel like you and I am one of them. And the rest are just waiting for the right opportunity to come along and then we will see them too. But the fact is that if you do fuck all, then fuck all happens. It must be a scientific theorem or something, some well-known professor will have his name next to it. Now you might be so wrapped up in your loss that all you can do is lie down and suffer, but I’m not. I’m ready for action, to do something. I had a plan and all I needed was for you to have a bad day and for that idiot Benjamin to open his big mouth, two events that aren’t actually all that rare. So I’ve taken my chance and I’ve done something. I’ve planted a seed, a germ, something that can and will grow. And if it doesn’t grow high enough then I’ll plant another one, and then another, and then another. Because what I said earlier, I believe in. And I will do everything that I possibly can to make it happen, with or without you.” His voice quietened and slowed, as if a great weight had been taken from his large shoulders. “With, or without you.”....

Tue, Mar 14 2017 04:24am GMT 2
3228 Posts
Hi Paul, I suggest that your style of writing doesn't match the story being told by your characters. That's a bold statement, sorry, which needs to be clarified. It's a football story set in the future, and the main characters are football fans and pub mates. Is that correct?

It's not laddish, but more polite/refined even with a few swear words - I'm sorry Statto, you know we'll never make fun of you etc. etc. and with the last extensive paragraph dialogue that an orator would present standing on a box in Hyde park - not in a pub setting where there would be a lot of noisy banter going on between drinks - with people interrupting and taking the piss. Not a place for long introspection by Danny -all that background TV stuff should have been sorted out before this scene as it dilutes a critical juncture in the story - and unlike the girls I didn't find it at all funny? Was I meant to?

This opening: ‘For these people that we should organise ourselves and play the final, deciding game’?
I read that a few times and still can't understand it.

BTW -it's hear, hear - not here, here.
What I suggest you consider is what market readers are you trying to attract? - and once clear on that, write for that market. Or if your chosen style is how you want to present the story, maybe you should think of another story/characters that fit better.

Dunno if that helps or hinders, but carry on trying to get a great story emerging. Don't fret, it will come.
cheers, steve.

Tue, Mar 14 2017 11:02am GMT 3
1265 Posts
Hi Paul - I agree with StephenT on this one. The voices don't come across as at all laddish or pubish.
You say at one point:
'It was all starting to feel like a gunfight....'
But then Danny's reply is:
“Not at all Statto.
Where's the tension. The language needs to be rawer, more passionate.
You've also got a lot of telling in here. If you could show us people's reaction it might add more tension.
This section:
The silence was unbelievable. No-one had ever seen Statto in such a state. Yes, he preached and orated and opined and enjoyed others listening to his voice. But this was no outpouring of facts and figures. This was an outpouring of his heart.
This feels cliched - and I want to feel what the characters are feeling, not be told, so:
'The silence pressed around them, stretching, suffocating....' - or however it happens to be. Let the reader in on the atmosphere.
Hope some of this is helpful, but as always only my opinion so ignore if it doesn't work for you.
Tue, Mar 14 2017 07:11pm GMT 4
323 Posts
Dear Paul,
I think the trick here is to give us the gist of what's said - not the full verbatim - as it's being read by the minds eye. You need short sentences for pace but throw in a mixture of short and long to build tension. Lay it out so you can have quick back and forth's between your speakers; usually named first so we can keep track as above you seem to add secondary tags of names or tells.
Certainly the speech must inform the action so "show don't tell" is the mantra to adopt. Edit hard and just give us the essentials so as to move your "game plan along" smartly. All best JtF
Thu, Mar 16 2017 03:16pm GMT 5
2533 Posts
I agree with the others, Paul. I'm not feeling the atm0sphere. Imagine you're in a big noisy pub where people probably have to shout at times to be heard. Then try reading it out loud and you will probably see where you need to change things. And, like Steve, I don't understand the first sentence.

With conversation, remember that you don't need to repeat verbatim what characters might actually say (as JtF said). It has to be plausible, of course, but also has to move the story along.

You can do it - I know you can, from other bits you've posted.
Fri, Mar 17 2017 08:34am GMT 6
Paris Paul
Paris Paul
20 Posts
Thanks all for the comments - as ever on this site plenty to think about (which is why you post in the first place!). Draft number three is going to be fun (just as it all has been).....

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