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Location: Cantonment, Florida, United States

Well, uh, hmm...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Writing Exercise

Here's a writing exercise I did recently. It was part of a series of exercises designed to improve dialogue writing. This particular assignment was to write a story, but from the perspective of one person to another. There must be interruptions, questions, responses, etc. from the person who is listening to the story. Here it is...

Avery and Philip sat across from each other at a picnic table in Central Park. They had a ratty chessboard made of solid wood between them. Avery was deep in thought, and was winning. Philip hunched over the board, his poker face studying his few remaining pieces. Avery took the opportunity to tell his opponent a story.

"You know, last week, my daughter came to visit me." Avery said.

"Do tell." Philip did not look up as he said this, but remained focused on the game.

"Yeah, I was so glad to see her. I thought she was going to ask me for money, that's all college students ever want."

"Mmmhmm." Philip reached for his last rook, but put his hand to his chin, instead.

"So she showed up with this guy. He looked like he was maybe ten years older than her."

"She." Philip still didn't look up.

"What?" Avery was annoyed at the interruption

"Grammatically, that sentence should end in 'she.'" Philip moved his rook two spaces. Avery took it with his queen.

"Anyway, she's talking about how great he is, and I'm getting this feeling like there's something going on between them that shouldn't. When he left the room, Angie starts telling me that she wants to spend the rest of her life with him." Philip looked up for the first time as Avery said this.

"Wait, Angie said that? But she's always been so shy," Philip said, "what happened?"

"Yeah, it was weird. So I asked her what she meant by that. I noticed her eyes were doing that thing, you know, where she can't keep eye contact?"

"I know what you mean. She did that when she wrecked your car." Philip reached for a pawn, but reconsidered as Avery went for a bishop.

"Exactly. So I knew something was going on. So I said to her, 'you want to marry this guy or something?' And she started crying. That's when the guy, whatshisface, comes back in. He's looking at me like I'm a monster or something, and starts talking about how he's going to rescue her from my 'oppression.'" As Avery talked, Philip lost two more pieces, a bishop and his queen. He was down to a knight, two pawns, and his king.

"What did you do?" Philip said.

"I was about to say something to the guy when Angie stands up and starts tearing this guy a new one. It was bizarre. A minute before she's telling me how wonderful he is, and then she lays into him. She's saying how she hates his drinking, how he's lazy, and how she hates him pressuring her into marriage and all this stuff."

"That's incredible."

"Yeah, so I'm just sitting with my chin on the floor as she tells him off, and then he starts crying."

"No kidding?"


"What did you do?"

"After she was finished shouting at him, he starts shouting. While he's crying, no less. So I've got two people in my living room, crying and shouting. I tell 'em both to can it and just calmly explain to me what's going on."

"What did they say?" Philip moved his king one space, trying to buy time. Avery took one of his pawns.

"He's been telling her that they need to get married so they can get tax write offs and such, and how it would be great for them. He's just a bum with no job, still living with his parents and she's easily manipulated which is why he's been going with her."

"That's a sticky situation. How did you resolve it?"

"I told him to get the hell out of my house and never talk to my daughter again. He doesn't want to leave, so then I throw him out. He's swearing up a storm and," Avery laughed a little, "has the nerve to ask Angie for a ride home."

"Really?" Philip looked shocked.

"Yeah, really. I told him to take a hike before I call the cops on him and he cheeses it. So Angie spent the night at my house. We had a good long conversation about guys and how she should wait and get more experience in the world before she commits like that."

"Bravo." Philip gave a polite clap.

"Yeah. Then she asked me for money." Avery cackled, and Philip let a noble bellow.

"That's good. Sounds like you did the right thing." Philip moved his knight to face Avery's bishop. Avery moved his queen four spaces left and smiled.

"Checkmate. See you tomorrow?"


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