Poor Gift Advice and Other Tangents

I am a terrible gift giver. I like to believe that I’m good at thinking about other people, but as I wrestled with this post, I was faced with the possibility that I might, in fact, be a very selfish bastard.

When it comes to buying something for other people, I often have no idea what to get.

I love connecting with individuals and genuinely care about the lives of others, but I can’t think of a single adult, outside of those related by blood or marriage, for whom I am buying a gift this season. I can’t decide whether or not this says anything about me as a person, but I thought I’d put it out there before I get to the advice-dispensing portion of this post.

Okay, here we go.

If you’ve got a writer in your life and you’re planning to surprise him or her with something under the tree this year, figure out what gets them off . . . from an inspirational standpoint. What gives your favorite neighborhood bard a serious case of creative wood? Or a big, ol’ flaming yule log, if you prefer to stick with a holiday metaphor.

For me, it’s movies. And the occasional television series.

I love to watch a well-written scene, sometimes over and over and over again. I study how quickly information is doled out, I look for examples of character being revealed through action, and I listen for seemingly unimportant details that will later turn out to be crucial. The story itself is always fun, but you can’t really understand how something is made until you study the blueprints.

When it comes to learning the rhythm and flow of dialogue, get thee in front of a tv, my friend. You’ll figure out pretty quickly what works and what doesn’t. Just trust your ear. Do the people on the boob tube sound like you or your friends? Is there a give and take to the conversation? Do people interrupt or talk over one another?

One of my favorite ways to study dialogue is to pop in a DVD while I’m working around the house. I don’t even look at the screen; I just listen to the actors. I let them tell me the story as I try to figure out how much of the plot I can follow without the visuals.

Authentic sounding speech is an art all unto itself, and there are a lot of people who don’t do it well. So do yourself a favor. Listen, practice, learn. I’ve given you an excuse to watch television; the rest is up to you.

Now go forth and get me a gift. But don’t be expecting one in return.

Larry Jenkins is an aspiring Word Pimp. Has laptop, will travel. Let's make this happen, people.

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