I think we have all come across it. I think we have all written it. There’s exercises in writing only dialogue to make it stronger. There’s also plays but those are a different bunny entirely. I am not talking about plays here.
I must admit that I didn’t always notice free floating dialogue (FFD). My background is in fanfic where you can write as you please and it pleases a surprising (?) number of people to have FFD. I never thought to take note because as long as I am not losing sight of who says what, I’m good.
In a recent workshop, I commented on the phenomenon.
Because I have now been trained to notice and avoid it. (It doesn’t always work, ok?) And while I typed out my comment that the dialogue was rather free floating I started wondering why commented on that? Why did I take the time to comment? Because I don’t care. I only noticed because I trained to notice.
In the workshop the subject came up with my dialogue as well. (What did I say above? 😭?) The explanation was also a good one. It is like a camera in a stationary close up. Nothing moves, nothing happens! Just talking faces!!!
Have you seen the music video for Proof by I am Kloot? Because it is just that (with the extremely ogleable face of Christopher Eccleston, too!). You get to see his face for three minutes straight. Nothing happens. Well, almost. In the end, he smiles. And boy, does that have an impact.
FFD is similar for me. The scope is a little bigger – face and shoulders (for the Shrugging™). And that is all I need really. People have expressions. And there is nothing to distract from this intense and intimate observation of two (or more) people lost in conversation. The smallest gestures carry weight and meaning. (Think of the hand-brushing in period dramas).
To you this may be heads floating in space. To me this is the experience of pure conversation, undistracted and served on the silver platter of (hyper)focus.
I don’t want to be grounded in the bloody world. I want to be grounded in the dialogue!
I do not want to hear about sunshine reflecting somewhere or the sound of feet going by or the scent of lost love wafting on a gentle breeze. Those are all intruders on a perfect conversation. Take those distractions away and let me focus on what is important here.
But Mel, what if I need the surrounds for the dialogue to work for me? That, my friend, sounds like a you-problem. And one you don’t have to worry about because we’re currently all being trained to write like that.
PS. The note I took during workshop.