Twisting a Conversation

So narrator Alice is overhearing Bob and Charlie talking. I need Bob and Charlie to mention they’re going to do a little murder. I’ve got a few difficulties.

First, arguments in the real world sound unrealistic, because most arguments in the real world consist of two people saying the same thing over and over again. Listen to some old, bitter argument. There’s no new information; the people just keep bringing up the same information that they think the other party isn’t properly weighing. If Bob thinks they shouldn’t do the murder because they’ll get caught, but Charlie really doesn’t like Danielle, Bob will really just keep saying, ‘But we’ll get caught!’ over and over again. That doesn’t sound real in text. Likewise, Bob will start harping on how much he doesn’t want to go to jail, get killed by the police, why the investigators will catch them, etc. It’s all stuff Charlie already knows but isn’t weighing as heavily as Bob thinks he should. It’s called maid-and-butler dialogue, two people saying things they already know for the benefit of the audience, but it’s how people talk.

They talk like that when they’re performing for someone. Either themselves or an audience, but they’re performing.

In politics, you know the conversation has halted when people talk to the press like this. ‘I believe in America!’ or ‘We need to help the people!’ These are both obvious statements, and Party A could or should know Party B knows them already. But Party B isn’t weighing a point as heavily as Party A thinks they should. So the truisms reappear, and Party A will say one to the media because they’re performing now, not seriously trying to move ahead.

I’ve worked with teenagers a few times, and they’re a lot of fun (as an adult) when they’re not performing. If they’re performing for each other or themselves, they’re infuriating.

The proverbial maid and butler are performing for the audience. People in real arguments where the positions have calcified are performing for themselves. They’ve visualized this, practiced this, thought about it in the shower and while cooking, and now they’re doing what they practiced. It’s a show where the audience and performer are one.

But for all that it happens in the real world all the time, it sounds terrible and gets me no closer to Bob and Charlie confirming to the eavesdropping narrator that they’re going to do a little murder.

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