In my fiction workshop, we're talking about dialogue. The assignment was to eavesdrop in a public place and transcribe dialogue into a journal, then work it into a scene. Goal: figure out how dialogue actually sounds versus how it needs to be shaped in fiction. Warning: your coffee shop conversations aren't as private as you think...
Of course, I chose this conversation to rework. The dialogue is 100% real, (and so are the raspberry mochas) but the rest is all me.
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Zoma, on State, is a Saturday homework spot. College students and post-college students fill the tables all day, slogging through physics or Milton or chemistry with endless cups of black coffee. Or Zoma smoothies. Or raspberry mochas served with whipped cream in clear-glass mugs. The grad students in the corner, two Americans and one Brit, had been tapping away on Mac computers. Conversation sprinkled up every now and then, but mostly, they worked. Kerry, the British guy, was writing a philosophy paper. Brian was texting. Carly had a butt-load of biology reading. They drank coffee, they typed, they flipped pages. Then Carly whipped a thermos out of her backpack. More black coffee. Kerry looked up from his laptop.
“What’s in your flask?” He pronounced flask like floh-sk. The table was silent for a second.
Carly wrapped her hands around the silvery, sleek thermos. “My what?”
Carly’s eyebrows jumped up her forehead. She glanced at Brian and, for a moment, looked legitimately terrified. Like she was thinking, he’s speaking English, obviously, so I can’t ask him to repeat himself again but -- “I really have no idea what you’re talking about right now,” she blurted.
Brian, not looking up from his phone, said, “He’s saying flaaaaask.”
Carly snorted, relieved he wasn’t actually speaking American English. Snark replaced the terror. “A flask is what people drink alcohol out of, Kerry.”
“I thought --” Kerry scratched his head, “you called it a flask.”
“It’s a thermos,” Carly said, giggling as Brian winked at her. She went to fill it.
Kerry babbled for a couple minutes about flask versus thermos, and how he thought the Americans called it a flask. No, Kerry, everyone said. A flask is what you drink alcohol out of.