Writing Challenge – Part Four

One thing I hate writing is dialogue, and I’m sure I’m not alone. It always sounds false and forced to me, especially when I read it out loud. It’s a brutal pain to do, and I hate it. Absolutely hate it. I could quite happily sit and write something that is absolutely dialogue-free.

And I hate writing variations of “He said”. They always end up forced. The endless repetition of “said” winds me up. The desperate inclusion of as many variations (shouted, shrieked, cried, wept, moaned, complained, whispered, murmured, called, stated, asked, questioned, etc.) just feels like an author got hold of a thesaurus, and takes me right out of a story. Similarly, when dialogue goes on, especially between multiple parties, and there’s no indication of who’s speaking, and as a reader, I just get lost. And, finally, when everyone talks in exactly the same way, or in such a consciously different way, that it destroys the moment.

Hate it. Hate it all.

And I’m just as guilty of it as anyone. The best authors make it seem effortless. The reader can tell who’s speaking almost from the dialogue alone. The words flow naturally. Adjectives are used sparingly, supporting the dialogue. It reads like a real conversation.

So, that’s the next challenge. Dialogue, and dialogue only. Nothing that isn’t pure speech. It can’t be one person just relating a story to another, though. Too easy. No word limit on this one.


“Paw! Lookit! Lookit!”

“Hold on, boy. I’m coming.”


“I said hold on, Caleb.”

“But, it’s getting away, Paw.”

“Just you keep clear of it, Caleb. Whatever it is.”

“I am, Paw, but hurry.”

“I’m coming, Caleb. Just let me catch my breath a minute. Hill’s steeper’n I recollect.”

“You want me to help you, Paw?”

“Nah, Caleb. You just keep your eyes on that, whatever it is, and I’ll be there in a moment. Yes?”

“Yessir. I’m watching it.”

“What… what’s it doing, Caleb? You want to tell me what you can see?”

“Yes, Paw. It’s trying to crawl away. It’s awful slow, though.”

“Heh. Slower than your Paw?”

“Almost, Paw. Looks like it’s got a busted leg, I think. Seems to be dragging that one behind it.”

“Is it bleeding?”

“I can’t see any blood. Do you want me to go have a closer look, Paw?”

“No, no. You steer clear, boy. I’ll take a look when I get there, don’t you worry none.”

“It doesn’t look happy, Paw.”

“Can’t imagine it would, what with a busted leg. Wasn’t exactly jumping for joy when mine got caught, now was I?”

“No, Paw. You was saying some real bad words, though.”

“Hah! That I was, boy. That I was. And don’t think I ain’t heard you saying the same things when you think I can’t hear you.”

“Sorry, Paw.”

“It’s ok, boy. I said worse’n that when I was your age. You just try to keep it quiet, ‘specially when you’re with others out there.”

“Yes, Paw.”

“Is it still moving?”

“Yes, Paw. Looks like it’s in awful pain, Paw.”

“I can imagine. You hold on there, Caleb. I’m coming now.”

“You need a hand?”

“Maybe just a little, boy. It’s getting harder to get up this last bit.”

“OK, Paw. You want my hand or my shoulder?”

“Hand’ll do just fine, boy, thank you.”

“OK, Paw. I got you. Just a little bit to go, and then you come see it.”

“On three, boy. Give me the strongest pull you can.”


“One. Two. Three, and pull!”

“I’m getting strong now, ain’t I, Paw?”

“You… you are indeed, Caleb. You got a good grip on you, too.”

“You gonna come lookit now, Paw?”

“OK, boy. Just… just let me catch my breath again.”

“All right, Paw. I’m gonna go see if it’s gone any further.”

“You do that, boy. I’ll just stay here for a moment.”

“Hey, Paw! It’s still there. I think it’s takin’ a breather, just like you.”

“Well, it is a mighty fine day, Caleb. Maybe it’s just enjoyin’ the sunshine.”

“Could be, Paw. It’s got its eyes closed against the sun.”

“Sun is awful bright up here.”

“Think it might be sleeping, Paw.”

“Getting about that time when a nap looks awful good, Caleb.”

“Looks kinda peaceful, Paw.”

“Maybe give it some peace.”

“OK, Paw.”

“Think I’m just going to take a seat here myself, boy. Don’t suppose you got any water up with you, do you?”

“No, Paw. You want me to run get you some?”

“No. Yes. Maybe. You think you can do that for me?”

“Yes, Paw. You feeling ok?”

“Just feeling a little tired, Caleb. Like your little friend over there.”

“You don’t look too good, Paw.”

“I’m fine, boy. You go get me some water. Think I’m just going to sit here and close my eyes for a spell.”

“OK, Paw.”

“And Caleb?”

“Yes, Paw?”

“Maybe see if you can jog on over to Doc Samson’s. Tell him your Paw’s having himself a little turn. Ask him if he can come on over.”

“OK, Paw.”

“Thank you, Caleb.”

“That’s OK, Paw. You want anything else?”

“No, Caleb. You get going now. I’m just… just going to close my eyes for a spell.”

“All right, Paw. I’ll be back quick as I can.”

“Oh, and Caleb?”

“Yes, Paw?”

“Love you, son.”

“Love you too, Paw.”


First draft only, but surprisingly, I actually enjoyed writing this. I’ve been making a conscious effort to avoid wandering into my default genres (horror, sci-fi, fantasy), and although this took a tentative step in that direction, I deliberately tried to steer it back into something else. I tried to speak the dialogue out loud as I wrote it. Overall – could it tell more? Yes. Would I edit it? Absolutely. There’s a bit too much repetition in there, especially from Caleb. That’s often how dialogue can work in real life, but can make for painful reading. I felt I was able to get events over without having to use descriptive prose, and leave a nice indication of what was happening at the end – particularly as Paw’s final line is the only time he calls Caleb ‘son’. As an exercise for tackling something I often get frustrated with, pretty good. Challenging, but once in the flow, it worked.



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