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Cryptic and/or confusing dialogue:

patience, young padawan
I know the following about writing cryptic/confusing dialogue and answers:

  • It's evasive.
  • It tends not to offer an answer.
  • It might be roundabout.
  • It might be "important-sounding nonsense".
  • It might intermix facts and lies.

But how exactly should I go about writing it? How would I go about writing important-sounding nonsense? That's a character's shtick, so I should logically know how to do it... I don't know why I'm having so much trouble grasping this concept.

edited 20th May '11 5:45:15 AM by CrystalGlacia

 2 JHM, Fri, 20th May '11 5:15:06 AM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
Use a lot of double-edged metaphors, most relatively subtle. Tell a story with the turns of phrase. Be poetic, but use words almost scientifically. Let it be known that both parties are trying to use the most conveniently ambiguous or specific words possible so as to avoid actually lying but still convey dual impressions. Throw in references of a deeply personal nature to the characters involved but incomprehensible to those unfamiliar. Leave everything open-ended, but closed to the prying eye.

After all, it's a secret, isn't it?
Use a lot of words that normally have very general meanings, but the characters using them intend a very specific meaning. For example, one story I read had vampires using 'family' as a code for other vampires. If you didn't know that code and that the conversation partners were vampires, that usage would lead to some confusing dialogue.
If I'm asking for advice on a story idea, don't tell me it can't be done.
patience, young padawan
I think what I meant was writing the aforementioned "important-sounding nonsense". I edited it into my original post for convenience.
 5 JHM, Fri, 20th May '11 5:52:21 AM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
The just go for saying a lot of things that could mean anything. Make the aforementioned metaphors and phrase-stories as contrived and cannibalistic as possible, all of them sounding deeply meaningful but amounting or leading to nothing in particular.

Or just have someone belt Wire's "The 15th", which is basically the same thing, but with a really catchy melody to whit!

edited 20th May '11 5:54:13 AM by JHM

I know that this probably isn't the solution you are asking for, but I'm just going to put it out there because this is how I go about it:

I begin by writing the dialogue completely straight, with all of the names, dates, or meanings out there. When I'm finished or satisifed with what I have, I highlight or mark everything that I wouldn't want the (potential) readers to know. When it is time to do a re-write or edit, I go back to the marked text and put in all of applicable codes, metaphors, and double-meanings that Ettina and JHM mentioned.

My teacher's a panda
The first thing you need to figure out is the intent of the speaker. Does he know what he's trying to say, and just has a problem with finding the right words to communicate with people who aren't thinking on the same wavelength as him, or is he intentionally trying to confuse people and make them think that he knows what he's talking about, when he doesn't have a clue? Perhaps his answers do make sense to himself, but to somebody who doesn't think like he does, it's gibberish.

He could start an answer by giving a metaphor that actually makes sense, and then drifts off into more literal territory. "When it starts to rain, carry an umbrella. If you don't have an umbrella, find a newspaper or something and run very fast." Or he could mix two or more cliches together into an incomprehensible mess. "A bird in a hand is worth two to tango."

patience, young padawan
Okay. What I want my character to do is essentially screw with people and/or mess with their heads, usually for his own amusement or to watch them run after "leads" (since he's in a politics-based story) that are actually nothing but bullshit, hence my term, "important-sounding nonsense".
Then have him throw around words that are common vague references to things, like 'the man' or 'they'. You know, like:

A: They're coming.

B: Who?

A: You know. Them.
If I'm asking for advice on a story idea, don't tell me it can't be done.
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