Dialogue With My Former Editor

I admit that I might have taken it too far with my editor – now former editor – a while back. I mean, he had really given it to me, saying that nothing in my writing worked, not the scene arcs, character development, narrative, not even the dialogue. And that’s when I lost it.

“My dialogue?” I stared out at the apartment buildings, mute in the late morning sun. “You don’t like my dialogue?”

“Phed…”

“My dialogue doesn’t work? Is that what you said”

There were tinny sounds in the background of his phone, clicks and adjustments. I was probably on speaker phone so that he could do something else. “Phed, this has nothing to do with my personal opinion of your writing.”

“I thought I was paying you to do that. Isn’t this the point of the call?”

There was a long sigh. Or a gas leak. I pictured him in the basement in an oily shirt. “My job is to look at your book through the readers’ eyes.”

“The readers?”

“The readers.”

“But not you?”

“Like I said, this has nothing to do with my opinion of you as a person.”

“But what about a writer? Aren’t you judging me as a writer?”

The sigh was more of a wheeze now, like he might cry or the furnace could explode. “I am glad if it is working for you. I am. I can’t say anything about how it works in your head.”

“But my dialogue isn’t working in yours?”

“Your characters tend not to listen to one another. There’s a lot of cross talk.”

“Like now?”

“Uh, now? I wouldn’t write this scene. Would you?”

“Andy, listen, I get that you have a job to do, to make my work more accessible and everything, but I’m not looking to write the next Avengers movie. My work is focused on something different that.”

The wheeze was gone, the sigh too. I saw him strangling himself with an oily sleeve. “My comments are solely on the craft of writing.”

“My dialogue is excellent.”

“Okay.”

“In fact, nobody writes dialogue better than I do. Nobody. Not Joyce, not Hemingway, not The Avengers people, not anybody.” This is where I admit I might have lost it. “Words are the key, right, Alan? And then they aren’t. We use them, but they don’t mean what we want, what I want, Alan. That’s what I mean by that.”

“Phed, listen, I…” It sounded like he was breaking up with me. I mean, he was.

“Words are constructed, ideally, in an arc, conveying what is desired or implied to manipulate. To which we say, well done. Right, Alan? Well done!”

“My job is to focus on the craft of writing, Phed. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

“The alternative is dire and difficult. It takes too much effort. It demands. Let’s get back to those spandex babes saving the universe from ultimate destruction and send all checks payable to the propagandists. Maintain status quid pro quo.”

“I never said anything about The Avengers, Phed.”

“Are you saying that The Avengers have no craft either?”

The clicks and wheezes were gone. It seemed like he had finally just hung up. “Is there anything else I can help you with, Phed?”

I stared at the buildings, mute as ever. This went on far to long. I thought he would say uncle first, but he didn’t. “Well, good luck to you, Alan.”

“If you want to follow up with anything, Phed, just let me know.”

“You mean about my writing craft? Or did you have something else in mind?”

“I am available for a follow-up call, Phed.”

I waited another interminable moment before hanging up.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.