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Direct and indirect discourseJanuary 27th, 2012
The last couple of lessons have centred around dialogue.
We had also been discussing how the descriptive text surrounding the dialogue can change everything. I tried to create the same scenario with the same characters but couldn’t quite manage it. The original idea was to have 2 passages which present a different view of the same situation and alter the readers perspective by altering the flowering around the dialogue.
I was going to link direct and indirect discourse to Wikipedia but surprisingly their definitions didn’t seem to fall in line with what teacher said. In fact I couldn’t find a good explanation of what direct and indirect discourse was from Google’s first page. So I provide these passages for you as examples. Can you spot which is direct discourse and which is indirect discourse?
Professor James Monroe slowed the car to a stop. There was almost nobody around. Shadows hid the space between the pavement and the factory doorways. Street lamps flickered and buzzed. The council hadn’t been here for a while.
A woman approached James’ passenger window and tapped on the glass with her ring.
“What do you want?", she asked in a quiet but bold voice.
This was James’ first time down Loose Lover’s Court. Trying to hide inside the car he said sheepishly, “Not really sure, what do you do?".
The woman listed the standard services with prices for each.
“We can talk about any specialist requests you might have, but we can do that later.”
James took a moment to think. Sweat was running down the sides of his waist. He felt so far out of his comfort zone that he started to shake. The woman leaned in through the window and with a comforting voice said, “Don’t worry, I’ll look after you, it’ll be all right. We don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with; we can just talk if you like.”
James looked visibly relieved. “Okay” he said.
Jane Bishop was sitting behind her desk looking around her new office. The broom cupboard she had when she was a lecturer was pitifully small compared to a professor’s office.
There was a gentle knocking at the door. “What do you want?” she shouted.
The door opened a jar and a young man stuck his head around.
“Not really sure, what do you do?", he said with a nervous voice that kept cutting out.
Jane had gone to a lot of trouble to get her name and job title embossed on her office door and was about to launch into a diatribe about students walking around with their eyes closed when she noticed a guide dog sniffing at his heals. She took a breath and explained her new position with obvious glee which was clearly lost on John. She when on to explain which philosophy courses they ran at the college and finished with “We can talk about any specialist requests you might have, but we can do that later.”
John seemed at ease, but Jane felt guilty about what she almost said. She re-assured him with “Don’t worry, I’ll look after you, it’ll be all right. We don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with; we can just talk if you like.”
“Okay", said John, pleased that he wouldn’t have to do any writing.
I include my first attempt at the “Just starting” story but I had to bin it half way through because I felt like I had got myself into a pickle.
Second story first draft
Professor James was absently staring out of the window of his new office when there was a knock on his door. Before he could say anything the door flew open and his latest project walked in. Maria was a prostitute from the east end of town. She was on her third strike and has been told to co-operate or it was jail.
“What do you want?” she snapped impatiently. She didn’t want to be there, but for her there was no choice.
James didn’t know who the police would be sending, he only knew the area of town they’d be from.
“Not really sure, what do you do?".
She explained that she’d been busted last week for solicitation and possession. James explained that he was writing a book about the underworld and he’d needed her help.
I tried to think of situations that would allow the man to say “We can talk about any specialist..” but struggled so I started again.
Teacher and class comments
- Easier to visualise.
- Good use of indirect discourse which maintained the pace of the story.
- Story showed her sensitivity.
- Good use of “Showing” when talking about Monroe sweating.
- Difficult to follow.
- Very quickly the story reveals lots of facts about the Professor: happy, new job, etc.
- Clever plot twist making John blind, no one expected that.
- Introduced people early.
- Most of the class enjoyed the Just starting better.
- The tension was palpable.
Second story first draft
- “Latest project” liked that, good twist.
- Didn’t need to say she was a prostitute because it would be referred to later in the passage.