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.”

You

This post is a response to October’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.


Hi,

As you’ll eventually find out, I’m not exactly the best at keeping my thoughts concise, especially when my emotions or creative writing are involved. This is neither your fault nor your problem, but you’ll likely get annoyed by it at some point in the time that you know me. Have fun with that.

I like change — except when I don’t. If something changes that has a minimal impact on me, I’m usually fine with it. Change can be good. If the way we communicate didn’t evolve, you’d never be able to read this. I have garbage handwriting. But things did change. That’s a good thing.

On the other hand, if that change negatively impacts the safety, security, or well-being of those I care about, I’m less okay with change. I’m not exactly the person I wish myself to be when bad change happens. I stress. I falter. I hold fear deep within my mind. I don’t back down from any challenge, however I am the type to obsessively scrutinize every detail of that challenge in my mind until I keep myself from sleep at night.

I hope that’s not one of the traits I give you. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot I do well. I feel like I have accrued the wisdom to act in a moral, ethical, and just way in most situations. I have a natural talent to pick up most communication-heavy jobs and excel in them faster than most people can get comfortable doing that same job. I used to be an adept musician. I adore geography, writing, psychology, chemistry, philosophy, and history. I’d love for you to get those things from me.

Your mother, on the other hand, is the better person to learn from. She knows how to interact with people — real people, not just the facades of people that can be found on the internet. She’s extremely competitive, even more so than me. She’s organized to a level that gives me anxiety. She has a natural talent to take a moment and use it both as a teaching experience and a moment of consoling. You’d definitely be better off if you inherited her level of love for animals…though I’d encourage you to take after me and my love for cats. Cats are fun.

Neither of us are perfect. And if all you become is the combination of your mother and I, there’s been somewhere along the way that I’ve let you down. The hardest thing for me to learn was how to think for myself — to critically and objectively see the world not just through my own cultural lens, but also with the hopes, dreams, and ambitions of those who do not have the same luxuries I do in mind.

You’ll find that despite whatever experience I have in teaching and leading, I’m very green in knowing how to handle you. My emotions failed me when your mom told me of your existence. Ignoring the fact that I was exhausted and starving, I didn’t know how to react. My excitement was less than enthusiastic. I didn’t mean anything bad by it. You are a change. An exciting one, sure. But one I didn’t (and frankly still don’t totally) know how to handle.

There’s always been this thought in my mind that I’d be a dad. At times, the thought was nothing more than a blip in the vision of my mind — waiting, watching, stalking my thoughts in the distance. In other situations, the idea was much more prominent. Reality, of course, is far more prominent than a thought. The reality that we — our family — face is complex.

The world isn’t the place it once was, nor is it the place that will be in the future. We’re at a crossroads of history. It’s one where I truly believe that those who are compassionate, open-minded, accepting, altruistic, and well-learned will help to shape the future into a brighter world for everyone. My hope is that I can play a significant part in pointing you in the right direction so that you can be even better than those people who I just spoke of.

At some point, I will make a mistake in teaching you. I will yell when I shouldn’t. I will say something you interpret improperly. I will hurt you with my words when I don’t mean to. For that, I am so sorry in advance. Know that as you are learning, I too am learning. I’m learning how to help you learn. I’m learning how to help you be a better person than I could ever be — a person who is exceptional not just for their abilities, interests, and skills, but also for the way they treat their fellow humans.

This is my promise to you. I will help you acquire as many of the tools as possible to be the best person you can be. I will protect you when you need protection. I will guide you when you wish to learn. Above all else, I will love you so that you may love others in return.

You are safe. You are wise. You are loved.

-T

October Mid-Month Short Story Challenge

Thank you to everyone who participated in last month’s short story challenge. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the amount of involvement people have had with these prompts. Truth be told, I didn’t expect anyone to participate. So. Thank you. I do love reading new stories, so if you haven’t participated, I’d encourage you to do so — to or to encourage your writer friends to do so — this month.

Your prompt is for this month below. If you do decide to blog your short story, link back to me and I’ll be sure to promote it where I can.

  • Suggested number of words: Maximum 1000 words
  • Your theme: A letter to someone you’ve never met
  • Seven words to work into your story: fear, challenge, blip, consoling, wisdom, green, chemistry
  • Genre: None
  • Rating/Content Limitations: None

Your story should be posted on November 1st. Be sure to link back to this post so I can see your story ans share. Good luck and happy writing.

September Mid-Month Short Story Challenge

Thank you to everyone who participated in last month’s short story challenge. I’ve been going back through and adding links to Google Docs to those who have shared their stories from previous months with me on their respective month’s posts. If a few months pass and there’s enough interest and/or enough posts done, I may add a new page to the blog and curate all of the short stories there.

Your prompt is for this month below. If you do decide to blog your short story, link back to me and I’ll be sure to promote it where I can.

  • Suggested number of words: Minimum of 500 words, no maximum
  • Your theme: The demon within
  • Seven words to work into your story: red, philanthropy, safe, flight, shifty, cultural, feminism
  • Genre: None
  • Rating/Content Limitations: None
  • Other Notes: Story must be told from a first-person perspective

Your story should be posted on October 1st. Be sure to link back to this post so I can see your story ans share. Good luck and happy writing.

When You Give Up What’s Yours

A couple of months back, I made a plea on Twitter asking for post ideas. I took one of those ideas — a short story prompt challenge — and have run with it. That said, I wanted to start getting to a few of the others. One of my favorite people to follow on Twitter, Eve, suggested I talk a bit more about self-publishing. I have a couple of different posts in mind where I want to do that. One of those posts, which will come at a later date, will go into deeper detail on my experience as a self-published author1Which, to be fair, is more of what Eve was looking for, I think., expanding on this post I wrote last year.

As for this post though, I want to go down a different, more philosophical path. In a recent Vlogbrothers video, John Green talked about how he felt knowing that his newest book, Turtles All the Way Down, was going to the printer for final printing, meaning he wouldn’t be editing it again from that point forward2Apologies in advance to my wife, who generally reads my blog posts, but will be caught by surprise by watching a video that features the sound of John Green’s voice — which she strongly dislikes..

Around the 48 second mark of the video above, John talks about how Turtles All the Way Down was his book and his alone for the better part of six years. But, from the point at which it got to the printer forward, the book was no longer his. It belongs then (or now?) to the reader.

I hate that feeling — the feeling that your work, your creativity, and your art no longer belongs to you. I know part of why I dislike it. No matter how hard you try, no matter how good of a writer you are, and no matter how well you vet your work for any problem that might arise, someone is going to hate your work. It happened to me and it took me the better part of a year to get to the point where I could talk about it without sounding like a total asshat.

I know that I have plenty of room to grow as an author. I know that my writing will continue to improve as I put more work, more time, and more effort into it. I know that most people don’t write a book that’s considered to be a classic as their first work3Unless you’re Harper Lee, apparently.. I also know that reception of my book has been generally positive, at least if Amazon and Goodreads are to be believed. But still…there are critiques that have been made that I can improve upon. And I hate that I can’t do that.

There’s plenty I can do better going forward. I can flesh the short stories I write out better — be that as a novel or just as longer short stories. I need to do a better job of writing more diversely. Even from a non-writing standpoint, I need to learn how to market myself as an author and writer better. I absolutely can work on those things going forward. Even if the effort that it will take to complete those actions is significant, I believe I have the capability to do those things.

But the work I’ve already done…that eats at me just a little.

As John Green says in the video a bit earlier in the post (and I’m paraphrasing here for brevity): I just really want people to like my work, but if they don’t there’s nothing I can do. And I agree with that sentiment, mostly. I do really want people to like my work. I’d love for them to love my work, to tell all of their friends about it, then those friends tell their friends, and eventually I get picked up by an actual publisher4Again.. That’s the dream. The sales over the last six months tell me that said dream is not realistic — not with this book, at least.

To say there’s nothing I can do is a complex thought. On one hand, there really isn’t anything I can do about the book that’s already out. Unlike John Green, I’ve re-read my own book a few times since it published. Doing so has allowed me to see how my tastes for my own writing have changed, not to mention to take ideas from previous works and build ideas upon those thoughts for future works. On the other hand, there’s plenty of things I can do to work to improve myself constantly as a writer, as a person, and as a citizen of modern society. After all, in order to be a successful writer, its critical to understand that those three roles do have overlap. I’m still learning what that overlap is.