Here's a scene excerpt from A Single to Rome, with the beats taken out. Kimberley and Natalie have just been to a speed-dating evening. Natalie is getting over the breakup of her relationship with Michael.
K: So, what did you think? Did you meet the man of your dreams?
N: You know Michael wasn't there.
K: I quite liked a few of them. They weren't all bad.
N: Which ones did you like?
K: Toby, he was nice, and Jerry. And Guy, and that one with the big hands, I think he was David - I got a bit confused in the second half.
N: Was he the shaggy one? No! Didn't you think he was a bit scruffy?
K: I quite like that - I don't want them too prissy. And you know what they say about men with big hands.
N: But is it true?
K: Only one way to find out.
Try putting exactly two beats for each bit of dialogue. It could be two actions or two thoughts or one action/one thought. (Dialogue attributions don't count.) You might end up with something like this...
'So, what did you think? Did you meet the man of your dreams?' Kimberley said as they walked back to the car, high heels clicking on the pavement.
'You know Michael wasn't there.' Natalie pressed her fingers against her temples. Just her luck to get a splitting headache.
Kimberley glanced over to her. 'I quite liked a few of them. They weren't all bad.' She jiggled her car keys.
Natalie felt a pang of envy. Kimberley was always so positive, sometimes it was hard to like her. 'Which ones did you like?'
Kimberley put her head to one side and narrowed her eyes as if considering her options. 'Toby, he was nice, and Jerry. And Guy, and that one with the big hands, I think he was David - I got a bit confused in the second half.'
Natalie tried to think who she meant. A succession of men merged into one. 'Was he the shaggy one? No! Didn't you think he was a bit scruffy?
'I quite like that - I don't want them too prissy.' Kimberley giggled, and leant across to whisper in Natalie's ear. 'And you know what they say about men with big hands.
Natalie giggled too. She heard people say that many times before. 'But is it true?'
Kimberley raised her eyebrows and swung her car keys around on one finger. 'Only one way to find out.'
That's so dull to read. f you try reading it aloud, you can hear that the rhythm is all wrong, it's like a toddler banging a spoon on a saucepan, on and on and on. It's monotonous. It even looks monotonous on the page, each line roughly the same, lots of short paragraphs after each other. And, while I'm not making any claims to write high literature, this does come across as exceptionally trite. I'll look at what I actually wrote for this scene, and why, tomorrow.
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