We are what we are. I am an aspiring novelist (at least for the month of November) and Evelyn Waugh was a great novelist. There is a world-wide pool of advice that tells the aspiring novelist what to do, but rather less on how to do it. For my instruction in the ‘how to’ area, I read and read and read more. Over the last day or two, my mind has been thinking dialogue, for the opening scene of the next chapter. The ‘what to’ advice all makes perfectly good sense – every sentence must be relevant, the dialogue must develop the character or move the plot along etc. But it is quite surprising how the dialogue penned by some of the best-selling authors fails on all counts (no names, no pack drill). Evelyn Waugh, however, does not disappoint.
‘Doge, tell my little love-bird to come hopping in … you there, Judge wants another bottle of wine.’
‘…. Should honour it a great esteem … esteem it a great honour if Mrs Majesty and these gentlemen and His Crump …’
‘That’s all right, Judge. Another bottle coming.’
‘… Should esteem it a great Crump if his honour and these Majesties and Mrs Gentlemen …’
‘Yes, yes, that’s all right, Judge. Don’t let him fall down, boys. Bless me, how these Americans do drink.’ (From Vile Bodies).
Five lines of dialogue, less than a hundred words, and yet so vivid, so vibrant.
I’m looking for a bit of vibrancy for the London years between 1983 and 1993 and have unwittingly found it from the title of today’s post. Long before We Are What We Are was the title of a prog track, it was a song from La Cage aux Folles, which evokes colourful memories of a night at the theatre back in the ‘eighties. Do not be surprised if our leading man and woman find themselves foot-tapping along to Dennis Quilley and chums at the London Palladium. And at least if they’re humming and tapping, they won’t need to talk to each other …
We are what we are from Beyond Man and Time by RPWL