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This summer has afforded me the opportunity to read a bit, write a little, and watch an inordinate amount of TV. I haven’t done as much reading as I would like, but just very recently I came across an old textbook. You may be thinking: “An old textbook! What fun! What sheer joy you must of felt at such a find!” Oh yes. There was joy. I think tears were involved too.

This particular book was (and hopefully still is) a part of some creative writing course. Except I never took a creative writing course, so I’m at a loss as to how this book ended up on my shelf. I picked it up and began rifling through the pages, not thinking much about it until I stumbled across the chapter titled “characters.” This is when I became excited. But not too excited. I’m not a weirdo. It was just the right amount of excitement.

Regardless, whenever I try to write creative fiction, I struggle tremendously with developing characters through dialogue. It’s something I genuinely suck at. Anyways, this book has a few exercises that I thought I might try out. I’m going to post some here, and you (whoever you are) can try them as well. It’s a challenge, yo!

Here is the first prompt:

Write a “dialogue” between two characters, only one of whom can speak. Here is the catch: write only the words of the one, only the appearance and actions of the other. 

Here is my short response:

“Look at me when I’m talking to you,” demanded Mr. Figaro.

Jack looked up, scowling. He didn’t look his step-father directly in the eye, which drove the old man into a rage.

Mr. Figaro pounded his fist against the wall, and yelled, “You don’t speak to your mother like that, understand? Honestly… I should cane you. Boys your age don’t talk like that, especially at the dinner table. OK?”

Jack scratched his head and shrugged. Mr. Figaro grunted something about kids. He walked out of Jack’s room, leaving the boy alone to bathe in the tension. But just as quickly as Mr. Figaro had left, he returned.

“Where did you learn that word, anyways?” asked Mr. Figaro cooly.

Jack looked down. He began fumbling with some of his toy blocks in an attempt to ignore the question, but Mr. Figaro wouldn’t have it.

“Well!” shouted Mr. Figaro. “Look at me when I’m talking to you, boy! I have a good mind to give you a caning. That’d teach you, huh?”

Tears came down Jack’s face. He sniffled but remained silent.

“Alright,” said Mr. Figaro. “I’ve been a patient man. This is your last chance. Tell me where you heard that word.”

For the first time Jack stared into Mr. Figaro’s eyes, revealing the source of the forbidden word.

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