I recently read an insightfully funny book, “There’s No I in Office”, a compendium of 4,293 phrases to use in conversations with your co-workers. Television writers Jacob Lentz and Paul Koehorst recognized the need for a guidebook to help cubicle denizens navigate the risky waters of office small-talk, where avoidance will likely get you labeled as anti-social and saying the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time may earn you an even worse title: anti-employed!
As a writer, I recognized another good use for the book: dialogue starter ideas. Do you have a lumberjack character? The book has a page of witticisms like “I love these plaid shirts” that are sure to get you thinking of other dialogue to build around it. Got a character that’s a U.N. translator? An entire scene could be crafted from a starter phrase like “What’s your favorite foreign swear word?” The list of professions for which the authors have drafted entries is itself a gold mine of ideas. Need to flesh out a character with an interesting career choice in their past? I can just about guarantee you’ll find a gem or two.