I have just been doing my first homework assignment for my Creative Writing class at university. I have been kicking myself the last few days for volunteering to be one of the first four people to do this particular assignment and have it critiqued next week by half of the class, because it was scary and I didn't know how I was going to do it. She wanted us to record a conversation, any conversation, and transcribe it exactly how it was spoken, and then to "find the story" in the conversation, and turn it into dialogue, the way dialogue is written in a book to make it interesting, without all the "ums" and "I means" and "welllls". First I was worried about having to write down someone's conversation at breakneck speed, but then I remembered my digital camera has a video option and it will fit about three minutes of video on the memory card, so tonight I sat down with my dad and told him to think of something to discuss and pushed the "record" button on the digital camera. After we had a very odd conversation, and after I transcribed it all, exactly as spoken (it's quite depressing to see how bad one's grammar really is when one speaks), I panicked because I had no idea how to turn it into a story. But as I started making the effort, it actually took off, and I found it quite fun! Velly surprising. I feel a bit bad because I turned Dad into one of those old-timers who always talks about the good old days, but he doesn't mind. These are my efforts so far (I'll probably edit it a lot before I hand it in, but this is my first attempt):
D: They just… everybody in the country is at loggerheads with each other. They got cheek, and they call the Prime Minister “Clark”—in the Press today. A: What? What’s wrong with that? D: Well, good grief, she’s the Prime Minister! A: [laughs] D: You don’t go call somebody— A: Clark? D: Just the surname, and it’s part of the demeaning of the human nature, you know— A: But that’s how you refer to people in the paper, isn’t it? Like— D: They do now. A: Once you say their full name— D: They do now but they didn’t once; they, they were— A: Yeah. D: —reasonably respectful; “the Prime Minister said” or something else— A: Right. D: Now they say, “Clark says.” A: So like how in the States they say “Mr President”— D: It’s a way of undermining the respect for anybody else. And there’s a better way. And these, these cartoons are just doing the same thing. A: The, the Muslim cartoons? D: Any of them. Yeah, well, these Muslim ones, these anti-religion ones— A: Yeah. D: They’re a bit smarty. But they say… you know, it’s just that people need to know, need to know a whole lot of rudeness. A: Mmm. D: I can’t see anything— A: Yeah, exactly, it’s not really… fair to, um… say your rights, you know. I mean, like, if Christians and stuff started, started saying stuff against abortion or things like that— D: Oh, they tear you to bits. A: —they’d be up in arms, yep. D: Yeah. A: And I mean, fair enough, I mean, you don’t wanna criticise people, like that, but— D: If you were disparaging of atheists, it’d be the same too— A: Exactly, like… Yeah. It’s just people offending each other on purpose, it’s so… D: Yeah. A: Mmm. D: It’s, it’s a, a new kind of intolerance, in what is supposed to be a tolerant society. People are just the same. A: Mmm. D: They can’t stand each other. And they hide it—one thing you can’t do now, so they pop up in a way they can do. [pause] Oh well. I don’t know if I can change the, the hate of human… A: What d’you mean? D: Oh… I don’t know what I can do about it. A: [laughs] Yeah. D: Protest or something. A: Make nice cartoons that don’t offend anybody. [laughs] D: If I— A: It’s kind of impossible really! D: You can write funny cartoons, they used to write funny cartoons, they were great ones! A: Yeah. D: Um, H. M. Bateman and those great cartoonists. Very clever. David Lowe, he was a clever political cartoonist. A: Mmm. D: And, um, he was, sort of, very deep, and of course, he, he made the revolting politicians look revolting, which is fair enough, like Hitler… A: Yeah. Yeah, we, um, did a lot of historical cartoons in History at school, like, um, I mean, especially war ones. It was quite interesting, there was one where, um, oh, I think it was Neville Chamberlain, on this tightrope, above all these Japanese and German swords, or something, wobbling over this tightrope, trying to… and the tightrope, or bridge or whatever, it was about to break, it was held up by something—yeah, it was just the way they use all these little symbols, they weren’t so much, um, making fun of people, but, um, the cartoons were more kind of… more symbolistic? D: Yeah. A: If that’s a word? [laughs] But, yeah, it was quite cool. You know, there were pictures of um, there was one of Mussolini and um, Hitler, with these bags— END OF TRANSCRIPT.
A: I had the mother of an argument today. D: Really? Who with? A: [sighs] Just this girl, we started talking about the whole Muslim cartoon thing—there’s something about it that just seems to divide everyone. Why is that, anyway? D: [grunts] Yes well, everyone’s at loggerheads these days. There’s always something to argue about. This morning, in the paper, they called the Prime Minister “Clark”. Just “Clark”. Imagine that. A: [laughs] Well, I don’t see anything especially wrong with that. D: Good grief, she’s the Prime Minister! It’s cheeky! You don’t go and call somebody like that by their last name. It’s demeaning. A: I don’t see why. That’s how you’re supposed to refer to people in the paper, isn’t it? Once you’ve said their full name, one time, you just go on referring to them by their surnames. I learnt it, in school. D: Ha, school. They teach that now, but they didn’t once upon a time. Back then, they had some idea of the meaning of the word ‘respect’. Back then, it was “the Prime Minister said” and “the Prime Minister did this”. You’d have none of this “Clark” or “Savage” or “Lange”. A: I’m still not sure I agree with you. D: I’m telling you, it’s one of their ways. They have ways of undermining the natural authority and respect due to a prime minister. So what if our leaders are wrong or if they go to war willy-nilly or they sidle up to the big guns too much? They were still voted there by the people. I’m all for power to the people. Our leaders deserve some respect for that. A: You’re starting to sound like a Communist, Dad. D: Ha, well, some of them had their heads screwed on to a point. To a point, mind you. A: Anyway, I don’t see what this has to do with my argument about the Muslim cartoons. D: [glumly] Well, the world’s going downhill, that’s all. They say— A: Who says? D: They do. They say that it’s their right to speak freely, that people need to hear all this rubbish. Huh. As if insulting people is exercising their legitimate right to free speech. Just look at any political cartoon. [sighs] It’s all backward these days. We’re such a ‘tolerant’ society that we’ve become completely intolerant. A: That’s what I told this girl. D: What did she say? A: She said people with stupid beliefs deserve to be insulted. D: Ha. Obviously she’s completely rational herself. Knows everything, I daresay. A: Yeah, I know, but once people say something like that it’s no use trying to debate with them. They’re already convinced they’re always right, even if they don’t say it in so many words. D: [sighs] Back then, there were real cartoons. They didn’t need to comment on a politician’s body weight or physical imperfections to be successful. You know who I mean, you’ve read my cartoon books—H. M. Bateman, “The Man Who”… David Lowe, he was a good’un. Very, very clever. Without needless insults. There are still some of them around nowadays, too. Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side… but if you even touch politics these days, you seem to need to be like one of those repulsive tabloid photographers. A: I see what you mean. We did some fantastic old cartoons in History at school. They were from back in wartime, or just before. They were more like political commentary, like an opinion column, rather than a stupid cartoon people laugh at because it’s cruel. D: I suppose I’ll have to start my own political cartoon. A: You couldn’t handle it. You’d be blisteringly insulting within days. D: [laughs] It’s probable, I’ll admit. But I could try it. A: I can’t wait. I can just see us lying on deckchairs in the Bahamas, sipping cocktails, and looking back on today as the beginning of a glittering career. I’ll be your personal assistant, okay? I’m never precisely sure what they actually do, but I’m sure I’d be a good one. D: Don’t worry, you’re my first choice.