A writer should be a student of conversation. Paying close attention to a variety of verbal exchanges helps us compose quality dialog. A sparkling conversation educates not only writers but all who are involved. A dead conversation simply put its participants to sleep. You wouldn’t put boring lines in your book/movie/story/poem. It’s a good idea to leave them out of real life, too.
Here’s a sampling of topics that cause my head to sag, my shoulders to slump, and my eyes to glaze over.
- Pretty much anything about the weather is conversational poison, especially when it regards any forecast more than 24 hours into the future. You might as well discuss possible lottery outcomes. Even worse, talking about how often weather forecasts are wrong… which I think I just did.
- Any reference to the supposed fact that Saturday Night Live isn’t funny any more is so much fertilizer. It seems as if everyone has their favorite SNL era. Anything before or after that must be lousy. It’s just a matter of taste and timing.
- Please don’t tell me how expensive things are now compared to when you were young, unless you’re prepared to discuss said costs in conjunction with average salaries for the given time period.
- So they don’t make good, family movies anymore, right? Well, yes and no. There are actually plenty of family movies. It’s just that, for the most part, no one goes to see them. They’re out there, but they tend to get lost in the shuffle of remakes of reboots of sequels made about comic books or candy bars. When I hear this comment, I like to ask the gripers when the last time was that they went to the theater to support those family movies. That usually leads to a series of grunts and shrugs, mercifully ending a boring exchange. (On the other hand, you can have an interesting discussion about why so many R-rated movies have been made when PG and PG-13 movies have historically earned more at the box office.)
- Any description of one’s dreams should be banned by law. I’d prefer a root canal without any painkiller.
- The workplace is rife with dull comments, such as, “Working hard or hardly working?” The worst of all is when a person walks into an office and finds someone other than its usual occupant. The typical inane reaction is to say something in the vein of, “Wow, you’ve changed!” This is especially painful when the person in the office is of a different gender than its normal resident. Please refrain.
This next one happened to me recently. It’s probably the reason for the post. At a funeral or other such somber event, it’s almost required that we say to one another, “It’s so great to see you. Too bad it’s under such sad circumstances.”
You say it, I say it. The question is, do I mean it? If it’s that great to see you, why don’t I call you or visit you under better circumstances, such as, say, out of a desire to see you?
I guess that brings me to a meta-observation on bad conversational topics. Maybe anything that is insincere or untrue doesn’t belong in a conversation between people who are anything more than casual acquaintances. Save the subtext for the novels and screenplays.