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Basically, I would like to know if I'm doing something wrong (according to witting standards) in the following conversation and how to improve it to help readability, quality and feeling (making it more interesting).

Introduction part:

“Uhm...excuse me, are you Dr. Aide?” she asks with a shy voice.

“Yes.” he replies.

“My...my name is Luna, I a new nurse here. I will assist you from tomorrow.” she says.

“I see.” he replies.

Then he continues, “please take a sit.”

She sits in front of him feeling a bit awkward.

“Do you wanna some?” he says while holding the bottle of vodka.

“OK, but...just a little.” she replies.

He fills the glass until the middle.

They keep in silence for some seconds while drinking, then Luna breaks the silence, “Do you always stay so late Mr Aid?.”

“Yes, I spend almost 24 hours in this place.”

“You must love your job.”

“Not really.” he says.

After some seconds he continues. “Actually I’ve been thinking of quitting.”

Other dialogue:

“So what’s your definition of a mental illness?.” he asks,

She thinks for a while and replies, “someone who can’t adapt himself to society.”

He holds the bottle and says, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. Jiddu Krishnamurti.”

“What does that mean?.” she asks.

“What if a society is sick already by itself? Then we need another meaning; any behaviour that threatens humanity and the ecosystem in direct and indirect ways.” he replies.

(I've haven't corrected grammar yet.)

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

You are using adverbs and to tell us how the characters are acting and feeling. Instead consider showing us their body language. Help me hear them speak. Let me see for myself that Luna is nervous and Dr. Aide is worn out, jaded, or whatever it is that he is.

From a grammar perspective (although those questions are best asked on English.SE), a sentance in quotations that ends in a period and is before "he says" or "she says" or the like is usually ended with a comma, not a period.

I'm curious why everything is in the present instead of the past tense. I am much more used to reading "he said" and "she said." That doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with present tense in fiction, but you should look into the effect it has.

Finally, don't overpunctuate within the dialogue. Consider leaving out ellipses, for example. Instead break it up with your character attributions ("he says") or through showing me the pauses by the action. The punctuation can become visual clutter.

I've made some minor changes, but not necessarily incorporated all of my suggestions, below.

“Uhm, excuse me, are you Dr. Aide?” she asks. Her voice is soft and tentative.

“Yes,” he replies.

“My...my name is Luna, I a new nurse here. I will assist you from tomorrow,” she says.

“I see,” he replies, “Please take a seat.”

She sits in front of him feeling a bit awkward. He waves his bottle of vodka. “Do you wanna some?”

“OK," she says, "just a little.” He fills the glass halfway They drink in silence. The seconds fill like minutes. Luna breaks it. “Do you always stay so late Dr. Aide?.”

“Yes, I spend almost 24 hours in this place.”

“You must love your job.”

“Not really,” he says, then pauses. “Actually I’ve been thinking of quitting.”

Here you do not follow a question mark directly with a period. It stands on its own.

“So what’s your definition of a mental illness?” he asks.

She thinks for a while and then replies, “someone who can’t adapt himself to society.”

He looks out of the window and says, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. Jiddu Krishnamurti.”

“What does that mean?” she asks.

“What if a society is sick already by itself? Then we need another meaning. I think it is any behaviour that threatens humanity and the ecosystem in direct and indirect ways.” he replies.

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Thanks, for you detailed answer. I will consider your suggestions. –  Alexandro Chen Mar 14 '11 at 17:01
    
I'm guiding myself with After Dark by Haruki Murakami. And he writes 'he says,' and I thought it made sense, since the character is saying the thing in that right moment. –  Alexandro Chen Mar 14 '11 at 17:07
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@alexchenco - you may want to read up on present tense versus past tense in fiction. –  justkt Mar 14 '11 at 17:09
    
Upvoted for present/past tense, great in lyrics & verbal recital / narration, but uncomfortable to read. justkt's link says it very well. –  Lee Kowalkowski Mar 14 '11 at 22:08
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I'm just rewriting. You need more narration and action tags:

She stood in front of his desk for a full minute before he noticed her. When he looked up at last, his only greeting was a raised eyebrow.

“Uhm...excuse me, are you Dr. Aide?”

"Speak up. You're muttering."

She cleared her throat twice. "Are you Dr. Aide?"

“Yes.”

“My...my name is Luna, I a new nurse here. I'm — I'm going to be your assistant. As of tomorrow." When he didn't respond, she added, "If that's all right?"

“I see.” he replied. She looked down at her hands, clutching the folders in front of her like a shield. "Please take a seat," he continued, surprising her.

She pulled out the wooden chair, wincing as it scraped on the linoleum, and sat, her arms still wrapped around the case folders. The doctor reached down and opened a desk drawer, producing a bottle of vodka. Her eyes widened as he topped off what she had taken for a water glass. There was a second, empty glass beside it. He motioned the bottle towards her and raised an eyebrow again.

Drinking on the job... what kind of man is this? She wet her lips. He's probably testing me.

"Okay, but... just a little."

He filled the glass halfway and pushed it towards her. She took it, proud to see that her hand only shook a little. The vodka was unexpectedly smooth, but she didn't trust herself with more than a sip. Dr. Aide took two healthy slugs.

The silence lengthened between them. Luna began to feel desperate, wondering if she was failing the test. "Do you always stay so late, Doctor?" she ventured.

His mouth twisted up in a smirk. "I'm here almost 24 hours a day."

“You must love your job.”

“Not really.” His eyes swept the papers, the antiquated computer, the dusty file cabinets, the hospital-green paint peeling from the cinderblock walls. “Actually, I’ve been thinking of quitting.”

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Thanks you gave me some inspiration. –  Alexandro Chen Mar 14 '11 at 17:31
1  
This is great!! –  Cliff Hangerson Page Mar 14 '11 at 19:59
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Yeah, nice. @justkt -- try, as an exercise, to make your passage exactly half as long. I'm not saying you should necessarily leave it like this, but you'll see how little dramatic weight each line is carrying. You can leave all the lines in as soundtrack while you fill in the images the way Lauren has done (masterfully imo); or you can cut it down to the bare essentials of conversation like, say, Hemingway; but the third choice -- a fairly accurate rendition of actual mundane conversation, which is what you've done -- is not a good idea. –  Malvolio Apr 15 '11 at 3:47
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I almost thought I was reading a passage from a real book there. –  Joe Z. Feb 26 '13 at 18:35
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