40% of a Dialogue Exercise

Let’s give this dialogue exercise a test run…

“Master, where will I find the last dragon?” asked Leroy.
Master grinned a bit and pulled a golden medalion from a wooden box. “Take this to the fortune cookie factory.”

“Well, that worked just great!” Greta reached for hilt of her broken sword out of the stones at the river’s edge where it had been thrown.
“Stop. That worked quite well indeed. Pick it up with this and be careful not to touch it,” said the mage. “We can track the beast now.”

“Just stop talking.”
“I will,” Carson said, “but not until I’ve finished what I came here to say.”


“How am I ever going to slay that dragon? I’m useless with a sword.”
“You know, almost no dragon ever died by the sword. The vast majority of them die of old age.”


That was a bit more work than I had time for this morning. I’ll try to come back later tonight to fill in the gaps. Overall I like this exercise, but I need to find smaller morsels within it. As it is it’s too complex to be the core repetition stuff I’m looking for.

208 words on day 830

The Making of a Dialogue Exercise


On Saturday I mentioned a post on dialogue that I thought could give some direction regarding a dialogueing exercise or two. I’d hoped with a little research I might find other helpers for such, but in the time I’ve alloted myself I haven’t. The reason I wanted to look around more is because the post I mentioned doesn’t complete its thought regarding its premise. Or at least the premise I’ve inferred.

It lists ten modes of dialogue:
1. Probing – to gain information
2. Sarcastic – to reverse the momentum
3. Abrupt – to end an interaction bluntly
4. Angry – to release tension
5. Despondent – to express negative emotions
6. Inhibiting – to disallow undermine
7. Supportive – to relate acceptance
8. Uncaring – to relate lack of concern
9. Demanding – to overwhelm opinion
10. Prohibitive – to change direction

I haven’t and I won’t take the time to vet this list or its definitions—it feels like I ought to—but I won’t. He goes on to pair each of these active dialogue pursuits with their correlative reactive partners.

Probing requires a Revealing reply.
Sarcasm requires a Serious reply.
Abruptness requires a Calm reply.
Anger requires a Nice reply.
Despondence requires a Happy reply.
Inhibition requires an Encouraging reply.
Supportiveness requires an Uncooperative reply.
Uncaring requires a Caring reply.
Demands require a Trivial reply.
Prohibiton requires an Unrestrictive reply.

I’ve translated his listing structure to appeal to my own sense of pattern, but I don’t think I’ve lost the gist. He goes on to mention the need for conflict, and I start to cheer but then he never hits the mark despite his remarkably solid set of examples. Instead he wanders into a few statements about subtext and deeper which make no sense to me. Lastly, he ends with the application of the above to a movie; I htink that was fine enough, but not terribly coherent.

Anyway, that doesn’t stop me from thinking what I thought rather than what I think he said, which is that these active and reactive pairs, when used in concert, elicit conflict between speakers—and that he’s got a few that need correcting. At least one. And it’s the first one. Which may be what confused me when I first read this. If you probe someone and they reveal what they know, that’s not terribly conflicty. So let’s amend that to: Probing requires a Rebuffing reply.

Now we’re cooking.

Here’s the thing though—and maybe this was his hope for whatever he was talking about with subtext—these are overt pairings. To get to the subtext, to get to the part where the reader plays a role in the dialogue, you need to write these pairs indirectly or askew of the mark.

“Where’s the bathroom?” — “I’m not telling you.” versus “I need to pee.” — “Someone’s in there.”

475 words on day 829

Egg in a Hammock

Karoline vaulted the rim of their overlook and landed in the dirt near the bottom sunk nearly to her knees. Geir and Per skipped down the slope scattering rocks and dirt in front. Svein hesitated then stumbled down without falling.

“Put it on top. No, put the shawl on top and we’ll roll it over into the shawl,” Karoline ordered. Per did what she said and was helping her tug the egg out of it’s place in the smooth river stones while Geir squeezed between the two and kept the shawl tucked around the it. Per cursed again.

“See. It’s too heavy. Let’s just leave it. Geir? Let’s just leave it,” Svein pleaded.

“Svein, it’s just wedged in. It’s not heavy. Go find the trail,” his brother said. Geir apologized to Per and Karoline under his breath. The egg tumbled over into the hammock of Karoline’s green shawl.

Per grabbed the knotted ends and lifted it to his knees. He set it back down. “I can probably carry that for a while, but I think we need two people.”

Karoline snatched up the end of the shawl nearest her and said, “Let’s go.” Per picked up his end and the two navigated their way through the rocky nest to the opening in the trees Karoline had picked out. Geir scanned the area and the sky.

“Still clear. I don’t understand where they all went,” Geir said.

249 words on day 820

Troc’s Dagger

I think I may have worked out a workflow for using Scrivener for my 1000 Days writing. It doesn’t allow me to write from anywhere as my Write Monkey based workflow does, but I’ve not really been writing from anywhere so maybe that freedom doesn’t matter so much. I need to give it a shot for a bit, so I’ll be working from Scrivener all the rest of this month I think.

I should go back and get Partly out of her predicament and Captain Munro rescued. I not feeling it though, so I’m wrestling with that lack. There are three parts to this: one, suck it up you’re being a baby and probably just making excuses; two, there’s a reason you’re not feeling it, and you should resolve that problem first; and three, hey you don’t have to feel it if you don’t want to, so chill.

Only one of those three things is writing.

Instead I pulled up something from Gertrude and Grumphook…

“It doesn’t look like it could feed a village for month,” said Geir, “Even ours.” Four friends pressed themselves into an overlook which sloped down to a field of stones that might have been a dried riverbed if it weren’t for the barn-sized circular depressions. Geir, Svein, Per, then Karoline.

Svein asked Geir, “Are you sure that’s even an egg? It looks like all the other stones to me.” The frantic younger boy didn’t wait for an answer from his older brother before turning to their friend Per, “That’s not a nest. Is that a nest, Per?”

“It’s a nest,” Geir said to the back of Svein’s head.

Svein turned back to Geir, “Are you sure?”

Geir slapped Svein in the forehead.


Per shushed them both, and Karoline glared at all three. Quietly she said, “Those are river stones. From near the end of the Glaumr where it runs flat. They must bring them up here.”

“I’ve never seen stones round and smooth like that are your certain,” Svein asked Karoline.

“Have you been to the end of the Glaumr, Svein?” Before the younger boy could answer Karoline continued to Per, “We need to take it now—or never.”

Per brushed back his dark brown hair and cursed. “I can do now.”

“So can I,” Karoline said. Then she lifted her chin off the embankment to catch Geir’s eye over the backs of the other two.

Geir nodded, “Aye.”

“Wait. What? Do what now? I thought we were just finding it. Why would we take it too? Geir, why would we take it? And how?”

Per, who had hitched up on his knees ready to dash down the slope and grab the egg on the run, settled back down again. He said, “He’s got a point. It’s probably heavier than we think.”

A flash of wind lifted dirt and spruce needles up the embankment and all four ducked sure a landing dragon had stirred it up. After no one heard a shriek or was suddenly snatched away they looked at each other.

Geir laughed carefully. “You should see your face, Per.”

“Troc’s Dagger, Geir. You should see yourn.” Per twisted to face Karoline again. “Get your shawl off. We can carry the egg in that.”

Karoline pointed a finger at Per and kissed the air at him. “Brilliant.”

Karoline unclasped the brooch at her shoulder, loosed the green linen cloth, and rolled out. She was about to hand it to Per to help knot up corners when she realized Geir and Per were looking at each other over the back of the shivering Svein. Geir didn’t have a clue what to do with his scared younger brother; she guessed Per didn’t either. She shouldered Per out of way and pushed her shawl into his lap then she cuffed Svein. “Sit up. Look at me. Or I’ll eat you while they watch.”

Svein propped himself up but didn’t sit.

“Svein. We’re not safe here; we haven’t been since the creek we crossed I’d guess. These dragons,” Karoline’s arm swept an arc over their heads. “They see heat. And. They fly. Do you think hiding up here under some dumb old spruce will keep you hidden from their eyes? Everything up here is cold but us and that nest. We’re four black freckles on Gwena’s white bosom. Think on it, and then tell me if you want to stay balled up here by yourself while we three go grab that egg.”

“Troc’s Dag—”

“Shut up, Per. Is that knotted yet?”

Per held up the make-shift sack he’d tied from her shawl. “Hope so.”

“We come straight over the top of this overlook, roll it into the shawl, and head off to that path.” She pointed to a thin spot in the trees somewhat near the direction they’d come up. “Per, you take the egg first; you’re the strongest. We’ll make our way back to the trail we came up and should meet back near that rock we rested at before pushing up here.”

“Speed means distance,” Geir said more to his brother than any one else.

“Right. And don’t bunch up if you don’t have to. We should be harder to spot that way,” said Per.


<p style=”text-align: right;”><span style=”color: #c0c0c0;”>878 words on day 820</span></p>

Impossibly Wide

“The Captain and I have drilled for this, so bobbing the Marcail is unlikable but not unplanned. Take a deep breath, please.”

It was hard not to do as she was told, so she did take a breath.

“You did this on purpose?”

“The hull is thicker and the raiders are now behind us. And you were in a harness.”

“Sorry.” The wind swirled Partly’s brown hair into her face, and she tucked it behind her ears.

“No matter. You’re still with us and you can help. I need to you reset the [brackets] so we don’t have to stay bobbed. You’ve seen that trapdoor in the galley?”

Partly nodded. She had an idea what he was going to say next.

“I love your smile.” But she was wrong. “Climb down the railing there to the step in the deck. You can now use that as a ledge to slide over to the galley window where you get in. Climb over to that trapdoor—it should be open already. If not, get it open. Sit on the door to latch the four [brackets] back in place. It doesn’t matter the order you do them, but I find it easier to do the bottom ones first. OK?”

What he’d just described sound impossible, Partly nodded anyway because it all made sense.

“I’ve got to go.” And he did. [Partly was alone.]

She aimed her face to the front to blow her hair back, then began climbing down the gunwale railing. At one gap where a bright blue plastic panel and a terracotta red metal one met she spied a raider air-bike keeping pace with the Marcail. Long coils of rope trailed back from the woman riding it. Partly continued down to the step-ledge.

At the step-ledge she hoped to see Captain Munro again, but the swinging rope ladder must have wound down, and, if she was still there, she hung out of view. Partly turned to face out from the gunwale clutching the stanchion behind her and inspecting the leap she’d have to make over to the galley window. When she was first moving around the Marcail, the walkway back to the pilothouse ladder had felt dangerously narrow. She expected to slip at any step and slide through the haphazard gunwale into the air and to the ground far below. Looking at it sideways like this—having to get from the outside to the inside—it now looked impossibly wide.

407 words on day 810

Imperturbable Calm

“I’ll get Mr. Cameron! He can help.” Partly moved from prostrate to upright so quickly she never heard the Captain croak, “No, wait.”

Partly sprinted around the galley to the pilothouse ladder. A series of four pops and four clangs rang out below deck. The Marcail pitched sharply to a dive as she grabbed a rung with one hand. The deck underfoot became a hill and the ladder overhead an impossible set of monkey bars. For a moment she hung by one hand on the ladder parallel to the Marcail’s deck sharing Captain Munro’s fate, but she caught her toe on the railing next to her. Once she stood to get a second hand on the ladder rung, she also got a better footing on the rail.

Mr. Cameron cursed in the pilothouse above her. She was sure it was one of the few times in his life he’d done so. It was meaningful and brief.

Partly looked down past her feet and past the bow of the Marcail to the trees below. They weren’t coming up—rather they weren’t going down. The Marcail maintained it’s altitude and direction, but it did so bow down and stern up. Then Captain Munro pendulumed into view. Good, Partly thought, she’s still there.

“Mr. Cameron!”

“Just a moment, please,” he replied gently. She heard him grunt and despite clinging to the edge of the ship felt a little embarrassed interrupting his efforts.

“Miss Partly?” Partly manuevered around to see Mr. Cameron had appeared at the doorway at the end of the ladder in what was now the ceiling above her. “I’m going to need your help.”

“The Captain needs you. She’s…” Mr. Cameron put up a hand and stalled Partly’s words.

“Is Captain Munro on this boat?”

“Yes, but…” He slightly moved his palm-out hand. She stopped speaking again.

“Is Captain Munro alive?”

“Yes,” Partly said. Mr. Cameron’s steady voice and imperturbable calm warmed a part of her she hadn’t realized had gone cold. She removed one hand from the rung and brushed the grit and chilled sweat on her shorts.

“The Captain and I have drilled for this, so bobbing the Marcail is unexpected but not unplanned. Take a deep breath, please.”

369 words on day 809

Valley Number 12

If I write anything more than this single sentence then today will be a triumph of promise over necessity.


“Dal! Come take a look!” Neven shouted, not even bothering to pull her head back in the window of their new flat.

“I’m not going out on any of those,” Dal said as he continued to remove their clothes from a day bag and place them in unfamiliar cabinets.


“I said, ‘I’m not going out on…’. Would you get back in here?”

Neven turned from the shuttered window to face him and the room. Dal wondered if the alcove she stood in even had anything beneath it. Or if it jutted out from the building, out over the street, out from the safety of where he stood in the center of the room. He pinched the corners of a t-shirt with both hands to keep the fold intact then placed it into the top drawer.

“You can go out one of those walkways—or all of them for all I care—but you’re not getting me out on one.”

“But they all have walls. And I think I saw one with a cover…” Neven twisted to peer out the window, but turned back to the room.

“No. Just knowing that writing desk there is probably suspended…” Dal shivered.

“But the other building has all the shops. And, and food. How are we going to eat?”

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t go over there. Just not over a bridge.”

249 words on day 804