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May 25, 2012 / gracerussell1

“You had me at hello”

Where would we be without “You had me at hello” or “You can’t handle the truth”? I find one of the most important and memorable aspects of telling a story is dialogue. We use it everyday, we use it to communicate and express ourselves, so why should it be any different when writing it?

In “My Little Brother On Drugs” by Jenny Everett [1], dialogue is used to communicate with the readers. Everett infuses dialogue, description and science to re-tell her experience of her 9-year-old brother taking prescribed growth hormones.

“…Keep the skin dimpled, otherwise all the medicine wont go in me. When you take out the needle, do it straight up and fast. And, Jenny, please don’t hit a vein. That huwts me.”

This short piece of dialogue from Everett’s story expresses her brother’s personality and allows the reader to sympathize with his position and admire his bravery. Everett takes the readers on her own journey; she wants them to experience her world and her personal feelings. Everett uses dialogue as a platform to engage her readers.

‘I pierce the fatty tissue and wince…’

Descriptive sentences like the one above forces the reader to attach feelings to pictures in their mind. It connects the reader to the story. Everett has no lack of descriptive sentences in her story, and thus it allows her to pass her own feelings and emotions onto the reader, cleverly enabling me to relate to her story, even though I don’t even have a brother.

I think Jenny’s story could strike a cord with most of her readers. Her use of dialogue makes you familiar with her characters, while her descriptive work enables you to relate to her own emotions.

Dialogue and description make Everett’s story memorable.

What other aspects do you think make a story memorable?

1. Everett, J. (2005). My little brother on drugs. In  J. Weiner &  T. Folger (Eds), The Best American Science and Nature Writing (pp 53-63). New York: Houghton Mifflin Company

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12 Comments

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  1. amber0699 / May 25 2012 3:48 am

    I believe that the Everett also did a nice job with brief explanations of dry subjects such as the history and of growth hormone medication and terms such as hypothyroidism, in a simple and understandable way. I agree with you in that Everett’s use of dialogue and description made the story an easy and memorable read and added to the overall communication of science. I liked the quotes from the text that you used in your post. An improvement might have been to include more description on how story progresses, but sometimes short and sweet is very effective. Nice work!

    • gracerussell1 / Jun 1 2012 1:47 am

      Yeah, i also found that her simplified yet informative way of telling her readers about the growth hormone was done so effectively. Parts like these had a great potential of being extremely tedious and boring, but Everette does it well.
      Thanks for the comment and advice 🙂

  2. selinamj / May 25 2012 3:54 am

    Ok I am not going to lie I read this post because of title….it’s one of my favourite songs. But I’m glad I did, this is a really interesting topic and, as I discovered, a reflection on a really great way to communicate science.
    Even though the article was long I found it enjoyable and I was hooked because of the emotion that Everett kept injecting into it. It was good that she interspersed the facts and science with her personal story as it made it easier to read, relatable and memorable.
    After reading the article not only did I understand her families situation I also feel that I learnt a lot about human growth hormone and how it is used. A topic that I probably wouldn’t have looked up myself…especially considering I am quite tall.
    So yes I think the dialogue was imperative to communicating her message but I think the real expression of emotion and the detailing of the human story was also essential.

    • gracerussell1 / Jun 1 2012 1:52 am

      I was hooked after the first page, like you said is was an enjoyable read, and i found at the end of the story, i actually learnt a lot about a subject i had no previous knowledge of. I love the fact you bought up how Everett interspersed the facts with science in a very personal story. Her ability to weave in such important information, yet make it an enjoyable read is much credibility to her writing style.
      Thanks for the comment.

  3. noelynn / May 27 2012 8:23 pm

    Great post gracerussell1. With the simplified version of Everette’s writing, I find it interesting to read. I agree with you pointing out that “dialogue and description make Everette’s story memorable.” It may also be true that she related her experience which involves her expression of emotion that kept the readers intrigue to read and find out more.

    Also, like amber0699 highlighted, that while Everette encouraged dialogue, she could use more descriptions to engage a good tone for a memorable story. The descriptions would probably be such that Everette describes her experience (emotion).

    However, in all, the post was simple and to the point. Great work!

    • gracerussell1 / Jun 1 2012 1:55 am

      Thanks for the comment noelynn. Everett’s use of dialogue was a plenty, i do believe she could have made use of her description a bit more – with so much science involved in the story it lends it self to much descriptive passages, especially when she describes the science behind her experience. However, the description that she did use was very effective.

  4. kellyfitzsimons1 / May 29 2012 1:36 am

    I certainly agree with you, gracerussell1- The dialogue and descriptive language that Everett adopts throughout this story makes it memorable, engaging and enjoyable to read.
    Also, like selinamj highlighted, even though the story was long, the continual injection of emotion, personal stories and dialogue kept me hooked.

    For this story, an important aspect that made it memorable for me, was the use of first person narration from the sisters point of view. Her openness and honesty about her anxiety towards this new growth hormone made me emphasise with her. Also, it highlighted the complexity of the issue and as selinamj mentioned, I feel like I now understand the issue to a greater extent.

    I also agree with amber0699 in that the science and history behind the growth hormone has been incorporated into the story nicely. It allowed for me to gain a better understanding into the science behind this issue without boring or confusing me. In my opinion, this ability is vital when communicating science topics to the general public.

    Overall, well done on an engaging blog.

    • gracerussell1 / Jun 1 2012 1:59 am

      A great point about narration, it never crossed my mind, but through the use of point of view, Everett was able to tell her story with emotion as well as experience. It gives the reader a sense of 2 degree separation from the issue, just as she was. However she does it with an engaging sense so you feel emerged in her story.
      Thanks for bringing that up 🙂

  5. priscillalyf / May 30 2012 11:45 am

    Everett’s “My Little Brother on Drugs” uses good dialogue and description to tell her story. It gets the reader interested in the story by telling the reader their personal story with what they experienced. This also sets the mood of the story, where, in this case this is a more serious story. It gives the emotion to the author and the author’s brother by explaining in detail what was done and expressing her brother’s personality. By expressing her brother’s personality and what Everett is feeling the reader feels sorry for her brother and experiences what pain they are both going through. Everett also feels sorry for her brother, but helps him out to be supportive of him.

    For sure dialogue and description makes a story memorable but also, analogies with things that we are familiar with, for example people who have experienced being poked with needles and have been at the hospital will have more sympathy for Everett’s brother because they know how much it can hurt. Also, people who have had loved ones gone through similar experiences will generally have more sympathy. Another aspect that makes a story memorable would be like kellyfitzsimons1 said, the use of first person narration, puts the reader in her shoes and the reader is able to experience what she has experienced.

    Good job on the post!

    • gracerussell1 / Jun 1 2012 2:03 am

      Good point about the exploitation of personal experience by her readers. I would have to agree that people that have ever been through this kind of experience, or know someone who has, will have greater sympathy towards Everett’s personal story.

      Thank so much for your in depth comment 🙂

  6. ashfonty / May 31 2012 1:26 am

    I agree that Everett has used dialogue really well here to make an otherwise bland topic quite emotive. A large part of her story is about the logistics and legalisation of this growth hormone. I don’t think I would have been so likely to keep reading about it from the second page if she hadn’t introduced her brother and the dialogue that they’ve had while injecting the hormone.

    It’s hard to imagine a 9-year old feeling the need to inject themselves with growth hormones, however with the inclusion of quotes like, ‘People would sit with me at lunch, I’d have more friends, and people in my class wouldn’t make fun of me and call me Little Everett’, it does make the action more comprehensible. I don’t think I would relate to this passage without statements like these. Injecting hormones into a 9-year old is a fairly controversial topic, however Everett has done a great job of using dialogue and descriptive language to make me agree with her point of view.

  7. KeikoK / May 31 2012 8:26 am

    The use of dialogue is one of the very important and memorable tips of telling a story.
    People do remember the stories from the conversations.
    Many of my friends remember the dialogs from movies and apply it to the general conversations.
    As you mentioned above, it definitely is effective to tell a memorable story.

    The other aspects to make a story memorable I think is “Picture.”
    As priscillalyf mentioned in her blog
    (https://sciencewritingblog.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/comicspowerful-communication-tool-in-the-medical-profession/), I think the use of pictures is also very important to create a memorable story to the audience. I sometimes draw the picture on the notebook during the class to remind myself later when I revise it. But the problem of this tip is that I need to draw the pictures, which are related to lectures otherwise, I wouldn’t remind myself even from the picture!

    Great post!

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