**An exercise in dialogue writing – write a converstaion between a parent and their teenage child**
‘We need to talk to you about this school report, Joseph,’ said Joseph’s father, turning the volume down on the football game on the television and addressing his son who had walked into the room after an evening out with his friends.
‘Of course, Father,’ Joseph replied. ‘I expected as much.’
‘A D-minus in Maths isn’t good enough. Why are you failing Maths when you have straight A’s in every other subject?’
‘I have no idea, Father.’
‘Your teacher, Mr…’ Joseph’s father squinted at the scrawled signature at the bottom of the school report. ‘Mr. Unstable?’
‘Yes, Mr. Dunstable. Your teacher, Mr Dunstable, thought we should offer you some incentive to improve your Maths grade.’
‘I wouldn’t trust much that Mr. Dunstable says.’
‘He’s unstable.’ His father stared at him. ‘What sort of incentive?’ Joseph asked.
‘Well, your mother and I thought maybe some money might help, you know? Reward you each time your grade improves. A good way to earn a little extra cash too.’
‘Money?’ Joseph asked.
‘Sure, money,’ Joseph’s father replied.
‘How much money?’
‘I don’t know. Let’s say fifty pounds every time your grade improves. What do you think?’
‘I think it’s a disgrace.’ Joseph said.
Miles paused. ‘A disgrace?’
‘A complete disgrace.’
‘Why is it a disgrace?’ Joseph’s father asked.
‘Paying your son money to ensure he fails in his education.’
‘Pardon? You don’t understand. I’ll only give you money if you pass exams.’
‘Exactly, which will only encourage me to fail exams.’
‘I don’t think I understand,’ Joseph’s father said, a perplexed look on his face.
‘It’s really quite straightforward,’ Joseph explained. ‘You are offering me fifty pounds every time my grade in Maths increases. Correct?’ Joseph’s father nodded slowly. ‘As I have a grade D at the moment the maximum I can earn is a hundred and fifty pounds by going from grade D to grade A. Yes?’ Joseph’s father nodded again. ‘Once I’ve attained my grade A there is no further opportunity for me to earn any more money as there is no grade above A. I’ve reached my limit on earnings. Furthermore, to earn this hundred and fifty pounds would require a lot of hard work on my part, paying attention in class, studying, doing homework and so on.’
‘That’s the idea, a reward for working harder’ Joseph’s father interrupted.
‘The sensible thing to do then, to earn more money, would be to start by failing my next Maths exam to achieve a lower grade. Then I can earn fifty pounds by simply going from a grade E to a grade D, which requires hardly any work on my part. Then I ensure I fail again so a further grade E to grade D improvement would guarantee another fifty pounds. If I keep doing this I can keep accumulating money from every other exam and never reach a grade A, which would exclude any further earnings.’
‘I’m not sure that’s what I meant.’ Joseph’s father interjected.
‘It’s what you implied.’ Joseph answered. ‘This incentive would also encourage me to start failing in all my other subjects so that they too could become potential revenue streams.’ He paused. ‘You remember Frankie across the road?’
‘Yes, he used to hang round here all the time until a few months ago.’
‘And do you know why he stopped coming round?’ Joseph’s father shrugged. ‘Money.’
‘That’s right. Money. His mother offered him money to tidy his room. Every time it needed tidied Frankie would get ten pounds if he tidied it.’
‘That seems fair enough.’
‘Tsk, tsk,’ Joseph tutted at his father. ‘Frankie soon realised all he had to do to earn ten pounds was to make his room untidy.’
‘I thought he got ten pounds to tidy his room?’
‘Exactly. So to earn ten pounds he had to make sure his room was untidy to start with. Pretty soon Frankie was earning a couple of thousand pounds a week from his mother by continually tidying his room and then untidying it again. He had to give up school and his part-time job to maximise his earnings.’
‘Why didn’t his mother stop paying him?’
‘A deal’s a deal, Father. You’re nothing without your honour.’
‘Okay. Forget money then. What about just getting good enough grades to get to university? Isn’t that incentive enough?’ Joseph’s father asked.
‘Absolutely not. I wouldn’t want to disappoint you by doing that, Father.’
‘Why would going to university disappoint me?’
‘Money. I’ll never earn an honest wage by going to university.’
‘But you’ll eventually earn more if you graduate and get a good job.’
‘Graduating from university and getting a good job is the last thing I want to do.’
‘You’ve lost me,’ Joseph’s father conceded.
‘Student loans.’ Joseph explained patiently. ‘If I get to university I’ll need a student loan to cover tuition fees and living costs. If I graduate and get a well-paid job, I’ll have to pay those loans back. If I get a job that doesn’t pay enough, I won’t have to pay the loans back, but I won’t have enough money to live the lifestyle you’ve made me accustomed to. The best outcome would be to stay at university and continue to take out student loans that I would never have to pay back. Therefore I should aim to fail each year in order to never graduate, which would again mean I would have to do very little work. Is this really the sort of life you want to offer your son as an incentive to do well at school?’
Joseph’s father shook his head, exasperated. ‘What incentive do you suggest would make you improve your maths grade then?’
‘Oh, that’s easy,’ Joseph replied. ‘Money.’
‘Money. It’s what makes the world go round, Father. You should know that.’ Joseph left the room. His father looked over to Joseph’s mother, who sat looking t her husband with raised eyebrows.
‘Perhaps next time you should let me talk to him,’ she said. Joseph’s father turned back to the television and increased the volume.