This is the legendary Facebook entry by Regina Grace, originally posted in the NaNoWriMo discussion group in November, 2011.
Random guy at Starbucks: Doing homework?
Me: No, writing a novel.
Guy: O.O really? When is it going to be published?
Me: Oh, it’s just for fun. (insert brief explanation of NaNo here.)
Guy: But…you’re like…hot.
Me: *smh/facepalm* what does that even mean? (reinsert headphones here.)
I am a complete fool. I made two blog posts on writing good dialogue and completely missed the fact that this excellent example was right under my nose.
Subtract the parenthesis and the *smh/facepalm*, and you have the most complete and fully rounded example of well crafted dialogue you will ever find. In just a few lines we understand that Random Guy is not the creative type and probably does not have many writer friends. He also blinded by his preconceptions. If he had a little more time to respond he might have asked “What is a hot girl like you doing writing a novel for fun?” But he couldn’t articulate that because he was too shocked. And his emotion comes through even though Regina does not tell it.
There is also a rhythmical progression of missed connections.
Homework?- Novel – Publish? – For fun – WTF? – WTF?
This is what a dialogue is all about, a ping pong match of miscommunications.
It also expresses a clash of cultures. Both people cannot understand what the other is talking about.
Why would a beautiful girl write a novel for fun, and why wouldn’t she?
The question is rhetorical for both parties.
You get a brief glimpse of the cultures that the two people come from without a single line of back story.
And there is the mystery.
I admit. I checked her photo to see what Regina really looked like.
If she was a character in a novel, you would want to know what she looks like. Random Guy is obviously interested in her, but not for her character or her interests.
There is a lot of unseen iceberg behind the words actually spoken. I suspect Random Guy subsequently went to his own favorite web gathering and shared his puzzlement with like minded souls. You can almost see the two parties retreating into their two separate worlds, like the guys and gals in a Friends episode.
So in a few lines, this dialogue projects emotion, nails the miscommunication, describes two cultures in conflict, generates a sense of mystery, and hints at what will happen next.
If you could write dialogues like this, you would never have any problems with your dialogues in your novel.