Dialogue – responding to questions in The Serpent

We’ve been looking at dialogue, and the choices we have when responding to questions.

But how do the experts do it?

This is an excerpt from episode 1 of The Serpent by Richard Warlow available on the BBC Writers Room website.

Herman works for the Dutch consulate in Bangkok. Van Dongen is the ambassador. Herman interrupts him at a pool party, which Richard Warlow describes as:

See the diplomatic classes at play. Plenty of BOOZE. Multiethnic, elite, transactional. Men and women; drink and sex. And Herman – the only man still in his work clothes, nodding
a polite and embarrassed hello here and there —

Van Dongen doesn’t say ‘yes’. And he doesn’t say ‘no’. Not directly. What does he do then?

It seems to me Van Dongen is saying ‘no’ but indirectly. He says ‘no’ without saying ‘no’. He says ‘no’ using other words.

What about this next section, immediately following?

Van Dongen: When did you last speak to your mother?

Which strikes Herman like a knife. Love that. Wants to answer. But —

Van Dongen doesn’t let him. Instead, he twists the knife with sarcasm. And belittles him, in front of others, showing character.


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