10 Dialog Beats Contemporary Writers Can’t Use

Do you realize that as writers we have lost whole action steps/plots to technology? Dialog beats are those little actions that you use in dialog to both tell who is speaking and provide characterization. I had a mental image of my 2013 character twisting a phone cord around her. Sigh. Not happening. Now I’ve got to come up with something else. So here are some other things we’ve lost.

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Related to the Phone

  1. She twisted the phone cord around her body. What a great way to show nervousness!  I actually used this with a hotel room phone in No Strings Attached.
  2. She slammed down the phone. (Not with a $200 cost and no forthcoming upgrade subsidy)
  3. She knocked the phone off the hook. Our kids don’t know what a hook is.
  4. Her finger dialed the operator, hooking her finger in the 0 and pulling it all the way around. See number 3.
  5. She looked up a number in the phone book. Do 20-somethings even know what a phone book is?
  6. Bash someone on the head with the receiver. I’m sure it’s been done before in fiction noire. Those were heavy receivers.
  7. She stretched the cord as far as it would reach. Gained – Replace with held the phone up in the woods to try to get service.
  8. He twisted the phone cord around his victim’s neck, tightening slowly. How are we going to strangle people now?
  9. The line “He’s calling from inside the house” goes away, since GPS can’t be that accurate. “He may or may not be calling from within 500 feet of your house?” isn’t quite as bone-chilling.
  10. A busy signal. Now we just get people who hit that send to voice mail button.

What we’ve gained…

  1. Cell phones even in remote locations, which can be challenging for crime stories. There’s always the battery died…
  2. Personal databases on cell phones, including calendars, social media, and contacts. A wealth of information for would-be criminals.
  3. GPS – it’s harder to get lost, but if your character relies on your phone maps in the country with no Internet you could get lost even worse.
  4. The fantasy of being unconnected or off the grid. When I was in college, you would go hours without anyone knowing where you were. Friends had a general idea, or you may tell someone you would be at the library, but that was it. Now, not so much.
  5. DNA evidence. That has its own problems.

What we still can’t do….

  1. Predict the weather with confidence. Sure, we get generalities, but we don’t know exactly where hurricanes will hit. They can always turn at the last moment.
  2. Rivers still flood.
  3. Blizzards still hit. (seeing a trend here?)
  4. We can do very little without electricity these days.
  5. Force someone to fall in love.

For more technology troubles with writing, check out this post from 2012 on technology.

I hope you enjoyed this little walk through time. Carry on.

(Picture by ProhibitOnions at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons)