The game that improves your dialogue

On New Year's Day, which was, I realize, like a million years ago now, we went over to a friend's house. The party didn't really get started until we played a game called Catch Phrase. Before we began, my friend was excessively excited about it. Everyone else was calmly eating bagels and lox and getting over their New Year's Eve hangovers, but my friend just wanted to start the game. Now!

I didn't really get how anyone could be that excited over a board game. Until I played it, that is.

If you've never played, here's a quick rundown. There's a little wheel thing, and when you hit the doohickey on the side, it reveals a word or phrase in a little window. You then have to give hints to your teammates until they guess what the word is. Once they've guessed, you quickly pass the little wheel on to your opponents. The team not holding the wheel when the timer runs out gets a point. The excitement is all in the timer. It beeps faster and faster as it approaches the end and your heart beats faster and faster right along with it.

It's pretty much a flawless game.

But here's the really interesting thing – if you're a dorky writer type like me. If you get a chance to play (and I strongly suggest you do), listen carefully to the way that each person gives their clues.

One person I played with would always, unconsciously, format her clues like this:

"I like to put this in my coffee." or "I like to park my car here." or "I like it when this falls from the sky."

When I gave clues, I would almost always provide a setting first and then get specific.

"On a farm, you use this to plow your fields." "To climb up on the roof, you use this thing, it has rungs."

Another friend would reference a movie or a song in his clues. Yet another guy would almost always think for a second and then say one concise sentence that would leave no doubt as to the word.

This phenomenon was amazingly consistent. Once we each established a technique that worked with our individual ways of speaking and our unique frames of reference, we rarely abandoned it.

And when you think about it, each type of clue-giving tells you a huge amount about each of my friend's characters. Right?

Think about it. You could decide what type of people these are, just from the above.

Oooh, the power of words. I love it.

Artery Cloggers
I woke up early New Year's Day with the thought of fresh banana bread in my head, so I made some for the party. With chocolate chips and walnuts. My only regret is that the anxiety and stress caused by playing such an intense game (yes, there was sweat and sore muscles afterwards, just like real exercise) left me with little appetite, so I only had a tiny slice. Guess I'll have to go make some more. Right now. Instead of working on my pilot outline. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah!

1 comment:

Josh said...

This is kind of awesome and makes me want to play Catch Phrase right now. I don't know that I ever really noticed the phenomenon until you pointed it out, but you're totally right. Maybe if we run out of things to talk about this Sunday... :)