Dialogue Only

This post is a response to November’s mid-month short story challenge. Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the prompt, share your story, and read those written by others.


“I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”

“What’s that?”

“People keep saying that one of the stories I wrote is the funniest thing they’ve ever read.”

“That’s a good thing, right?”

“I mean, typically it would be. But it’s the worst piece of shit I’ve ever written.”

“It can’t be that bad.”

“It’s the one I told you about that I tried to write as shittily as possible. The one where the basement dweller and the girl with the lazy eye go on a date, then they start banging fifteen minutes into getting coffee.”

“You’re fucking with me, right?”

“Nope.”

“You wrote that solely for the purpose of making fun of the meet cute.”

“There weren’t even character names in the first draft! No one had names! In a story that is seventy percent dialogue.”

“No one would read that shit.”

“Nor should they. I doing everything I can to keep myself from having convulsions just thinking about it.”

“And yet people like it?”

“Apparently.”

“There’s got to be something good in it. Let’s break it down. The setting?”

“Coffee shop in a suburb. Barista is a bit of a wild caricature of a coffee shop hipster crossed with an overconfident snake oil salesman.”

“That’s out then.”

“Yep.”

“What about the characters? They’re both pretty flawed, right?”

“Oh yeah. Physically, emotionally, psychologically — they’re a trainwreck in every way.”

“There’s a lot of growth that can come from characters like that.”

“Didn’t do it. Not in this story at least. I drilled home that they were grotesque fuck ups. There’s no scrappy comeback to relevance from a guy basically living out of his car. The over-medicated woman remains over-medicated and un-redeemed.”

“Is there anything that makes the reader feel like things will get better for them?”

“They fuck at the end.”

“Sex is good. Erotica is in right now. How did you write it?”

“I didn’t.”

“Why not?”

“My family reads my work. They’re already not fans of my writing. I can’t imagine adding graphically explained sex — especially to this story — would help my cause any.”

“Well, what about where you wrote it? Some people do their best work in the same place. Maybe you wrote this story at the same place you’ve written some of your other quality work.”

“I think I wrote it sitting in an airport after my flight was delayed from a snowstorm. I saw a guy who inspired the barista serving hamburgers at an airport restaurant and just went from there. I’ve only been back to that airport once and didn’t have my computer with me.”

“Fuck.”

“Right?”

“I’ve read it. It’s not a good piece.”

“It’s not.”

“You sound like a bit of an insensitive asshole as the narrator.”

“I do.”

“And people liked it?”

“Even the people who bitched and moaned about some of my other stuff liked it. I don’t get it. Dialogue doesn’t tell a story.”

“It’s part of a story.”

“Sure. I’ll give you that. But if the primary driving force of your story is your dialogue, you’re not writing it well. It’s a lot like how people who only photoblog aren’t really writers.”

“I thought you gave up on that point of view once you realized there’s money in it.”

“No. I gave up on saying they weren’t bloggers when I found out how much money some people made. There’s clearly money in it, so they’re making money blogging. What they aren’t doing is making money writing.”

“Could be worse. Could be a social media influencer.”

“That’s not a real thing.”

“It is and they’re just as filled with irrational confidence as you might think.”

“Fuck. Am I getting old? Did I miss when things that aren’t supposed to be funny got funny? When could you start doing nothing all day and become famous for it? Is this just a fugue state?”

“It’s none of that. You just have to keep working to get better. You have to learn.”

“So I have to learn why this story’s funny?”

“No. It’s shit. People can be dumb. But you do need to learn to work through this plateau you’re in and improve what you’re not good at.”

“Like writing dialogue?”

“Like writing compelling dialogue.”

“Shouldn’t all dialogue be compelling? I mean, I get that not all dialogue in real life is compelling. But no one gives a shit about two people talking about how they need to get a gadget to open the lid of a pickle jar because the factory sealed them on too tightly.”

“But if you don’t write something boring, nothing will ever be compelling.”

“True. Hey, did you notice that we’ve been talking about writing for nearly 800 words and haven’t once been in the genre we’re supposed to be in?”

“What genre are we supposed to be this month?”

“Science fiction.”

“Who thought that was a good idea?”

“Fuck if I know. Probably someone who wrote the prompt and is desperately hoping that someone — anyone — will actually do it this month.”

“Do you think anyone else will?”

“Nah.”

“That’s a shame.”

Dialogue Only

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.