Created By: surgoshan on December 13, 2011 Last Edited By: surgoshan on March 28, 2015

Rapid Fire Dialog

Sometimes characters talk back and forth right quick.

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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

Examplesgohere

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.

Film
  • 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.

Music
  • "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.

Theatre
  • 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).

Web Original

Western Animation
Community Feedback Replies: 32
  • December 14, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    This is part of Nick Charles' cool persona, notably in his chat with gunman Joe Morelli in his hotel bedroom in The Thin Man:

    Morelli: Studsy Burke says you used to be okay, that's why I'm here.
    Nick: Say, how is Studsy? I didn't know he was out of stir.
    Morelli: Aw, he's all right, he'd like to see you. [Beat] Say, what's the law doing to me? Do they think I did it or is it just something they're out to pin on me?
    Nick: Now, I don't know anything about it. If I knew I'd tell you. Ask the police.
    Morelli: Yeah, that'd be the smartest thing I ever did. I put a police captain in the hospital for three weeks over an argument. They would like for me to come in. They'd like it right down to the end of their blackjacks! [Beat] Listen, I come to you on the level. Studsy says you're on the level. Why don't you be on the level?
    Nick: I am on the level. If I knew anything, I'd tell you.
    [Distant thump]
    Morelli:What's that?
    Nick: I don't know. [Points to Morelli's gun.] That makes this your party.
    Cop: [Pounding at door] Open up! Police!

  • December 14, 2011
    randomsurfer
    The English Language dub of Speed Racer had this all the time, presumably because the lines of dialog are longer in English than in Japanese.
  • December 14, 2011
    randomsurfer
  • December 15, 2011
    cityofmist
    Gilmore Girls is known for this, isn't it? There's also a quote from Turk from Scrubs about it: 'Mothers and daughters, they speak fast but they sspeak the truth.' Could be a good page quote.
  • December 15, 2011
    Loquacia
    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).
  • December 15, 2011
    SeanMurrayI
    If you're looking to find a page quote, for a concept like this, I'd say it's better to go with something that hangs a lampshade or somehow references the dialogue convention. Anything else just looks like an otherwise ordinary example that you just want to pimp.

    I like Trainspotting, too, but turning that into a page quote doesn't seem entirely justified when nothing about it is any more significant than any of the other passages of dialogue we have quoted here.
  • December 15, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    Perhaps this needs links to video of the examples (or at least some of them)? It almost requires the audio and video to illustrate it; text doesn't do it justice.
  • December 17, 2011
    surgoshan
    That Family Guy clip is perfect. Too bad we can't embed video. Any way to get the picture for the page?
  • December 26, 2011
    randomsurfer
    I don't think a dialog trope needs a picture to illustrate it. Not sure that any pic could illustrate it, and a couple of guys in high trousers certainly wouldn't.
  • December 27, 2011
    oztrickster
    Is this different to Motor Mouth?
  • December 29, 2011
    surgoshan
    Motor Mouth is one person talking fast, this would be two or more characters firing back and forth quickly.
  • January 4, 2012
    wolfdancer95
    Sounds like like an old married couple. This example count?

    Music: Jerry Sringer by Wierd Al, in the middle of the song a couple starts arguing and confessing about their affairs, which escalate quickly into screwing a dog and goat.
  • June 18, 2012
    Dacilriel
    Live Action TV: Hawkeye and BJ frequently fell into this when they were cracking jokes on Mash
  • June 18, 2012
    swmrgrl12
    For web animation, Dick Figures is built out of this
  • June 20, 2012
    Alvin
    Live-Action Film: His Girl Friday A lot of phrases I'm not supposed to say come to mind, but I've been told repeatedly the actors were told to speak quickly, and the dialogue was written so the characters could 'step on' each others' sentences.
  • June 20, 2012
    CleverPun
    Arthur And The Invisibles did this, btu I would like to know if theres line between doing this for effect and doing it to make the movie shorter, cuz the invisibles struck me as the latter
  • June 20, 2012
    TooBah
    This was a staple of the Dragnet television series.
  • June 20, 2012
    surgoshan
    ^^ Sounds like an invoked trope, Clever Pun, like ^^^ Alvin's example of His Girl Friday, though for a different reason.
  • June 20, 2012
    randomsurfer
    The English-language dub of Speed Racer was notorious for this, possibly due to the English lines being longer than in the original Japanese.
  • June 20, 2012
    HunterRose
    Is this entry for fast talk where a character engages in rapid and quick questions to throw their mark off balance in an effort to confuse and bamboozle them, or is this an entry noting the rapid back an forth you would see in an Andrew Sorkin work (which would also likely be performed while the two conversing are walking)?
  • June 20, 2012
    surgoshan
    I think either would count. I would count The West Wing's walk-and-talks as well as the rapid questions in Uncle Buck.
  • September 9, 2012
    cabr321
    Film:

    • The Room has a few scenes that do this, notably the flower shop scene:

      Johnny: Hi!
      Clerk: Can I help you?
      Johnny: Yeh, can I have a dozen red roses please?
      Clerk: Oh hi Johnny, I didn't know it was you. pause as she retrieves roses
      Clerk: Here you go-
      Johnny: That's me! How much is it?
      Clerk: That'll be 18 doll-
      Johnny: Here you go keep the change, hi doggy!
      Clerk: You're my favorite custom-
      Johnny: Thanks a lot, bye!
      Clerk: Buhbye!
  • December 31, 2013
    YeOldeLuke
    The Grecian word for this is Stichomythia.
  • January 1, 2014
    Arivne
    Changed the Alice And Bob reference in the description to "Two characters" to make it not look like a Example As A Thesis.
  • February 11, 2014
    DAN004
  • February 11, 2014
    Lakija
    Oh! I learned in Creative Writing that this type of dialogue has a name. I do not remember what it was called. I think it had something to do with a triangle... I dunno. I'll look it up.

    But His Girl Friday features this type of dialogue. Also Parenthood sometimes has this dialogue. Characters frequently talk fast and cut each other off. But it comes off as realistic more so than older films. Maybe let me watch some more episodes to check.
  • February 11, 2014
    Lakija
    ^^^^I actually think that is the term for it. Yeah...
  • February 12, 2014
    Arivne
  • February 12, 2014
    Arivne
    The Humphrey Bogart, Oceans Eleven, Gilmore Girls, Dragnet and Dick Figures examples are all basically "This trope happens in this series/work/person's works", which makes them Zero Context Examples.

    They need more specific information about how they're this trope.
  • February 12, 2014
    DRCEQ
    Compare with Volleying Insults, which is usually used with this trope.
  • March 28, 2015
    DAN004
    Bump
  • March 28, 2015
    Folamh3

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