What did you say?
April 21st, 2020
Writers are by necessity nosy and often listening to other people’s conversations, later jotting down snippets for future use. Writing good dialogue is one of the trickiest things they do. Bad dialogue can, and usually does, turn off a reader no matter how good the plot or scenes. Documenting authentic speech for literary use is one way to write dialogue that has the ring of truth.
The question is, how to use ‘found’ dialogue? Leave in all the ‘ums and ‘ers; the starting, stopping, and re-starting of sentences; the slang; the vulgarity?
Victoria writer, Charles Tidler’s latest book, 7eventy 7even: 77 Found Micro Dramas (Ekstasis $23.95) shows he’s been listening. His micro drama dialogues contain philosophizing, debates, and relationship psychology in everyday banter.
One of his male characters says, “Call my ex-wife if you want.” She replies, “I already did.”
Some of the dramas are complex and puzzling. His ‘young woman at bistro,’ tells her male companion, “You’re not going to sit beside me.” The man moves to a seat across from her, asking, “Did you have anything in mind?”
With 77 micro dramas in 100 pages, Tidler’s dialogues are quickly read, entertaining and thought-provoking. His playwriting skill, developed over several decades, is evident in his scene developments that engage the imagination with effortlessness.
Tidler came to B.C. in 1969. In 1977, he began a long stint teaching playwriting at the University of Victoria.
Prior to playwrighting, his previous poetry titles include North of Indianapolis (1969), published in Indiana, and Flight, The Last American Poem (1976).
Tidler’s early connected one-act plays, Straight Ahead & Blind Dancer (PLCN, 1981; CTR No. 34, Spring 1982) premiered in Vancouver and were later published, as was his next play in 1983, Farewell Heart.
His collaboration on Make Me Laugh for the Edmonton Fringe Festival was followed by The Butcher’s Apron for Theatre Passe Muraille in 1990, the same year he adapted Jack Hodgins’s Spit Delaney’s Island in Victoria.
Spit Delaney is a steam locomotive operator at a pulp mill. After decades of rising at 4 a.m. to fire up his beloved steam engine, Spit finds himself without this job when the pulp mill replaces ‘Old Number One’ with a modern diesel engine. Spit declares that he is, “Not sure of where or how I belong.” Spit’s relationship with his family and the world around him is thrown into turmoil as he doggedly tries to hang onto an identity that is no longer relevant. This is the stuff of comedy, and yet it is also the stuff of the human condition. As we laugh at Spit’s misguided struggle to stay the same, we empathize with his loneliness at being left behind while others move on – more readily adapting to a changing world. But there are magical forces at work here, guiding Spit – kicking and screaming – towards a deeper understanding of himself and an unexpected outcome.
Red Mango: a blues (Anvil, 2001) is a monologue about Charlie who follows the ‘large carrot’ between his legs. That carrot goes anywhere there’s music, sweat, and the possibility of getting laid. His novel about a jazz trumpeter, Going to New Orleans (Anvil 2004) has been described as a post-Beat neo-bebop gumbo. This first person narrative and sexual odyssey is about the music, history and literature of New Orleans–and a murder.
Tortoise Boy (Anvil 2008) is a concert of four monologues from disparate people brought together in the emergency ward of a hospital after a teenager has undergone a psychiatric crisis.
Hard Hed: The Hoosier Chapman Papers (Anvil 2011), is described as a “contemporary retelling of the Johnny Appleseed story,” and follows an apple orchardist – also a historian – who has just been released from an Ohio jail after serving two years for planting wild apple trees in a city park.
Charles Tidler has won National Radio Awards and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama. He continues to call Victoria his home.
978-1771-7131-6-0 (7eventy 7even)