Rapid Fire Dialog YKTTW Discussion

Rapid Fire Dialog
Sometimes characters talk back and forth right quick.
(permanent link) added: 2011-12-13 22:48:38 sponsor: surgoshan (last reply: 2015-03-28 17:14:32)

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Two characters are talking They're talking quickly They don't pause between lines They just fire right off the hip.

This isn't uncommon in movies from the forties and fifties, as part of being cool involved not pausing to think and yet saying exactly the right thing. Usually without any inflection, see.

If a pause shows up ...beat... expect it to be that much more effective.

Sometimes dialog just has to come out as quickly as possible. That's what this trope is for. It's distinct from Motor Mouth, in that the Motor Mouth is one person speaking rapidly, this is when two or more people speak quickly and without pausing between lines. They don't necessarily speak with excessive rapidity in their lines, but each line comes right on the heels of the other.

Compare with Volleying Insults, which is usually used with this trope.

If you want to get all fancy and show off at parties, the Greek word for this is Stichomythia.

Definitely not Truth in Television - see Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic


Anime and Manga
  • The English-language dub of Speed Racer was notorious for this, possibly due to the English lines being longer than in the original Japanese.

  • The movies of Humphrey Bogart are known for this. Also, dangling cigarettes.
  • Uncle Buck. The Elephant's Child asks questions as fast as he can to prevent people stopping him asking questions. His record for consecutive questions asked is thirty-eight.
  • This is part of Nick Charles' cool persona, notably in his chat with gunman Joe Morelli in his hotel bedroom in The Thin Man.
  • Rent and the Mother Superior have a nice dialog near the beginning of Trainspotting that encapsulates it well. Both book and film, relying heavily on dialog as they do, have many examples.
  • As it's a remake of an older film, this is found in the Ocean's Eleven series.
  • His Girl Friday. The actors were told to speak quickly, and the dialogue was written so the characters could 'step on' each others' sentences. It's so iconic of this trope that these days it's used in film/theater classes to teach people how to write/perform this kind of dialog.
  • The Room has a few scenes that do this, notably the flower shop scene.

Live-Action TV
  • Friends "The One With the Embryos", among other examples from a high stakes game:
    Ross: Rachel and I had a grandmother who died. You both attended her funeral. [Beat] Namethatgrandmother!
    Chandler: Uh...
    Joey: Nana?
    Chandler: She had a real name!
    Joey: Uhh... Althea?!
    Chandler: What are you doing?
    Joey: I took a shot!
    Chandler: You're shooting with Althea?
    Ross: Althea is correct.
    Chandler: Nice shooting!
  • That other 90s show, Seinfeld, also popped this up on occasion, sometimes to highlight the absurd nature of the dialog, or to create the absurd nature of the dialog.
    His father was a mudder? His mother was a mudder?
  • Gilmore Girls is known for this.
  • Scrubs
    • Turk says this: "Mothers and daughters, they speak fast but they speak the truth."
    • Elliot and Molly not only follow one another's lines rapidly, but they speak so rapidly they're only comprehensible to dogs and bats.
  • Community. Jeff convinces Troy in an early episode to play football with a quick back and forth including racism and homophobia.
  • Hawkeye and BJ frequently fell into this when they were cracking jokes on M*A*S*H.
  • This was a staple of the Dragnet television series.
  • Shows up from time to time on White Collar, which is appropriate to Neal's attire (classic Rat Pack).
    Neal: I made a detour on the way to the bank to pick you up New York's best sandwich.
    Peter: Why'd you go to the bank?
    Neal: You don't want to know what kind of sandwich it is?
    Peter: Marginally less interesting.
  • A staple of the shows of Aaron Sorkin. His works require the Walk and Talk (high speed exposition with the constant movement to keep it from getting boring). The West Wing brought that trope to the fore, while The Newsroom features a lot of dialogue from characters glued to certain locations (because they're running a live news show and have to man their posts) over headsets, or just shouted across the set.
  • This shows up from time to time on How I Met Your Mother, usually as part of an extended joke.
  • In the eight season episode of Psych, "Cog Blocked", when Gus and Shawn run into another PI, Gus and the other PI have a weird, flirty, aggressive back and forth at the speed of light.
  • The 200th episode of Bones is a special episode, with an "alternate universe", a film noir setting in which Booth is a cat burglar and Bones a detective (overcoming sexism in the process). The dialogue of the episode mimics the style, too, with lots of rapid speech back and forth.

  • "Jerry Springer" by "Weird Al" Yankovic. In the middle of the song a couple starts arguing and confessing about their affairs, which escalate quickly into screwing a dog and goat.

  • In plays such as those of Shakespeare, characters can share a line in Iambic Pentameter. This gives pace to the dialogue, making it seem like a kind of argument (Iago and Othello in Othello) or like the characters are on the same wavelength (Mercutio and Romeo in Romeo and Juliet).

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Western Animation
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