Dialogue About Dialogues on Non-Fiction
- Hey, Pedro, are you ready for our dialogue about dialogues?
- Sure, but what kind of dialogue are we going to dialogue about?
- That one which no one can create. Only overwrite. Creatively, I mean.
- Well, that’s the only way that this kind of dialogue can survive.
- Survive to what?
We were in the coffeehouse, me and Pedro – he’s a known reporter from Brazil. I first met him when both of us were working for Placar Magazine. At that time, we were always eager to write something long and deep, but journalism was tough: paper crisis, internet crisis, labor crisis… these entire crises guided us to the snack culture. Snack culture dislikes long dialogues and dislikes tautology.
We had scheduled the meeting for 7 o’clock, but he has delayed almost an hour because of an article that he’s working on along the week. Finally, he started to talk:
- I traveled with Aviões do Forró (a Brazilian popular band) for three days man, more than 5000 kilometers, three shows in three Brazilian states: Sergipe, Pernambuco and Rio Grande do Sul. That was insane, I’m exhausted. My objective was to understand the background of this kind of rough popular groups in the country and how they can gather together thousands of people. Meanwhile it is just a creation of an agent, not a pure band. You know, they aren’t friends or musicians that got together to play their songs. They play the songs that someone pays them to play.
- Gol Magazine?
- How did they pay you?
- Reasonably, but I accepted because this kind of reportage is thinning.
- An endangered species of journalism.
- Yeah, no more full dialogues like this one.
- What are we going to do?
- I don’t know about you, but I’ll become a full-time DJ.
- I’m thinking about prostitution.
- I wouldn’t be so self-confident.
Pedro Henrique Araújo has a post-graduation degree on Brazilian Academy of Literary Journalism (ABJL), so, important magazines use to call him when they need someone to submerge in the subject while act as a character. This kind of narrative uses to be in first person, and the reporter incorporates a dual role as a participating narrator. This is his field. Because of his bent, he was in several strange places and situations looking for a story to come up with: he was Santos’ mascot (a soccer team in Brazil) for some games; acted as bit player at the gigantic play “A Paixão de Cristo” in Fazenda Nova; played as a defensive midfielder in the Black X White football game in São João Climaco, São Paulo’s inner city.
- You know, man, when you’re writing non-fiction there is an ethic issue that clears away the style: you can edit the dialogues, you should redact them, even compress specific pieces, but you can’t change the contempt. The information must be still intact.
- So, if the writer must preserve the information, and maybe even embalm it, how to turn the dialogue attractive?
- Inside the text, the dialogue is a tool of seduction, it can’t be hackneyed. In a non-fiction, you might choose the most important dialogues to fully redact it, but you can’t redact all of them. So pick them up carefully, and focus on the best.
- Well, if I can’t create the dialogue, how can I manage the situation in order to have a good one? Am I so dependent of the interviewed?
- You must do the right questions at the right time. This is called preparation. We are talking about non-fiction, remember this fact, you must research about your source before the interview, you might have a guide at hand, but keep your mind opened to spontaneous questions. A guide means subjects, topics, no exactly ready questions, that can drive you till a tedious interview. So, a dull dialogue.
- Is there something beyond the speech that the writer should pay attention?
- The accent, the rhythm, the gesticulation, which means the non-verbal communication. You can handle with all these items in the narrative; you can verbalize them.
- And how to record the dialogues?
- Look, you can use a recorder, a camera, your mobile, a laptop, or just your memory. Gay Talese had a good method. He wasn’t a big fan of recorders; in fact he used to repeat that this kind of tool ruled the spontaneity out. Thereby, he must be completely concentrated to use his own brain as a recorder. Heretofore, he uses just a little notebook and a pen to write key-words along the conversation, discretely. When the interviewed goes to the bathroom or something like that, he writes all the notes that are possible, everything that he thinks is important. But this method has a consequence: when the writer is back home, or back to the office, he must write it down immediately in order to remember as far as possible, and take the final notes.
- Hunter Thompson had a different method. He used to use a recorder even to write. I mean, he recorded not only the conversation with the interviewed, but even his first version of the article was spoken. Surely his articles was impacted by this method, the language is really flowed, amazing characteristic.
- Yeah, every reporter has an idiosyncratic way to do the job.
- And what about the quotation marks, em dash and other tools?
- In general, the magazine, or newspaper, or whatever, will decide it for you. However, it’s only a aesthetic choose.
- Saramago didn’t think by this way…
- Saramago wasn’t a journalist.
By Jr. Belle