Monday, October 22, 2012

The Writing Exercise Challenge

So, Karen Einsel of karensdifferentcorners issued a writing-exercise challenge to write a story or scene using only dialogue or only description (no dialogue).  I'm not sure which I'm better at, but it seems to me that it's harder to get the whole picture with dialogue alone.  It would be pretty easy to fall into an unreal descriptive narrative that way: "Oh, look, John, we turned the corner and now there is a fire truck and a building is on fire!"  "Why, yes, and I think I just saw something out of the corner of my eye.  It had a black cape and might have been something like Batman!"

Okay, I exaggerate.  And some scenes are perhaps best rendered in pure dialogue, though I'm not sure about that.  Here are the rules of  
 “The Writing Exercise Challenge”
Mention the person or blog that tagged you :-)  (That would be Karen).
Write a short story or scene using
a. Dialogue only
b. Description only
c. Both combined
They can be as long or short as you like, as long as you get the point across to your readers.
 Now tag 3 other people or ask for participants 
And if you think there should be additional rules post a comment!
Want to challenge yourself further? Try writing outside of your genre. If you write romance, try your hand at horror. Or if you are a mystery writer, try writing a steamy romantic scene. Hey even mysteries have romance sometimes. 

So, mostly because this is what first popped into my mind, I went SF. 

"Trouble in Space"

A.  Dialogue only
    "Xark!  The murgle thrusters on engine unit 17-A aren't working.  Someone has to go out and clear them."
    "Well, it's your turn, Gerbo.  I did the last EVA."
    "If you'd made sure the idiots at that service station on Jinx had installed the filters, we wouldn't have this problem."
    "Me?  Since when is it my job to tell the technicians how to do their job?  You picked the station, so I assumed they were registered and competent.  You and your thrust-stingy ways.  You clean the murgle thrusters."
    "Maybe we can send Zerdog.  What about it, boy?"

    "He says no.  Besides, he's a space dog.  He doesn't have opposable thumbs.  Suit up, loser."
    "I hate going EVA. . . . Hand me my tether, will you?  Thanks."
    "You about ready?"
    "Yeah.  Run the check."
    ". . . Okay.  All systems sealed and running.  Radio check?"
    "Loud and clear."
    "Enter the airlock."
    "Airlock sealed."
    "Check. . . Wait!  I don't see my tether!  Where the space is my tether!?"
    "Oh, I got it all right.  See?  Oh, I forgot, you can't see me. You're tumbling loose in space.  Sayonara, loser!  I'm sick of your whining, and I don't have to listen any more!"
    "Blast you, Xark!  You damned idiot!  You've killed me, and you've killed yourself.  Without those murgle thrusters, you'll never reach We Made It.  You can die slowly in there and let Zerdog eat you.  At least I can die quickly.  When I finish laughing at your stupidity!  Hahahahaha!"
    "Haha, Gerbo!  You are the idiot.  Did you really think I'd toss you aside if the murgle thrusters weren't working?  It was a false report!  Just an excuse to get you the space out of here."
    "Curse you to the depths of a black hole, Xerk!  May your EVA suit crack and your powersource implode!"
    "That's about as nasty a curse as a spacer can make, but it won't do you any good.  I'm hitting the power thrust drive now.  Goodbye!"
    "Wait! Don't--"
    "Don't beg, Gerbo.  It's undignified.  Here I go."
    "Don't--holy meteor shower!  The thrusters are--"
    "Oh, n--!"
    "Hahahaha!  I told you you'd. . . no!  Zerdo . . . ."

B.  Description only (no dialogue)

     Xerk and Gerbo glared at each other across the control room of the tiny two-man space pod.  After months in space, each could scarcely bear the sight of the other's face.  Now the murgle thrusters were blocked, and they had argued themselves into silence, first over whose fault it was that the last maintenance had been so poorly done, and then over who had to make the dangerous and terrifying trip EVA to clear them manually.
    Gerbo's final appeal had been to their pet spacedog, Zerdog, and that having failed, he knew he had truly lost.  Well, perhaps a little time alone would be a pleasant change, however much he hated EVA as a general rule.  Slowly, carefully, he began suiting up.
    Xerk ran the suit check in near-silence.  The two had been together for so long they didn't need words, even when they hated the sight of each other.  Maybe especially then.
   Only as the airlock cycled did Gerbo realize that Xerk had murdered him.  The tether that prevented his drifting off forever into the vacuum of space was attached at only one end.  He blew out the airlock door on a puff of air, already tumbling away from the pod.  His suit thrusters, meant for tiny adjustments, not for real travel, slowed the tumble, but couldn't bring him back to the ship.  
     Xerk still had nothing to say, but Gerbo could see him though the video suit monitor, laughing as he reached for the controls.  
    Gerbo could see something else.  He laughed too, as the power surge hit the fully blocked murgle thrusters.  Xerk must've forgotten them when he hit full power.  Maybe he'd thought he'd managed a false "blocked thruster" signal.  But the explosion that vaporized the pod was no fake.
    Gerbo had time for a passing regret for Zerdog in the instant before the debris hit him, shredding his suit. 

C.  Both.  What I'd call normal writing :)

      After months at space, and despite their recent stop at Jynx for maintenance, Xerk and Gerbo had reached the point where they could scarcely bear to be in the same space pod.  With another six months to go, things had gotten ugly.
     "Those idiots at Jynx must not have installed the filters on the murgle thrusters.  They're clogged.  I told you we should have found a decent mechanic, not the cheapest shop in the galaxy."  Gerbo glared at Xerk.  This was all his fault.
     "You should have checked their work.  You'll have to go out and fix it.  I did the last EVA."
     Gerbo argued the point, not really expecting to win.  But he had to do it.  If Xerk suspected that Gerbo was desperate enough for some time to himself that he'd even look forward to an EVA, things would only get worse.  He even asked Zerdog if he'd do it.  Their canine companion barked, drooled,  and went back to sleep under the control panel.
     "Fine.  I'll do it."  Gerbo began to suit up, not allowing his annoyance with pretty much everything Xerk did or said to interfere with his careful adherence to suit protocols.  
    "Pass me my tether?" was the only thing he said until he finished.  Then he asked Xerk to run the suit check.
     His fellow Spacer, likewise taciturn but thorough, tested every joint and seal, and Gerbo put on his helmet.
     "Radio check?"
     "Loud and clear."
     "Check.  Enter the airlock."
     Gerbo pushed himself off the wall and drifted to the airlock.  Xerk followed to double-check the door, then,
     Only when he blew out the outer door did Gerbo realize that, though he had attached the free end of his tether to the tether-guard, Xerk had apparently failed to attach the other end to his suit.  No.  He'd deliberately detached it.  As Gerbo tumbled away from the pod, desperately trying to aim himself back to the ship with the woefully inadequate maneuvering thrusters on his suit, he heard Xerk laughing through the helmet radio.
     "Curse you to the depths of a black hole, Xerk!  May your EVA suit crack and your powersource implode!"
     "That's about the nastiest curse a Spacer can make, Gerbo, but it won't save your hide.  I'm hitting the power thrust and you won't be annoying me any more with your stupid habits."
     "But the murgle thrusters are clogged.  You can't go anywhere unless you help me back so I can clear them."
     Xerk laughed harder.  "You fool.  That was a false signal.  I just needed to get you EVA."
     Burning with rage, and needing to see it to believe it, Gerbo brought himself to where he could at least see the thrusters he'd been meant to clear.  He lined up behind the pod and took a look at Xerk's lie.  Then he looked again, and yelled. "Wait!  Don't. . . "
     "Don't beg, loser.  Sayonara!"
     Xerk gave Gerbo no chance to tell him that his false signal had been all too real.
     When the power surge hit the clogged murgle thrusters, the entire spacepod exploded.
    "Sorry I couldn't save you, Zerdog," Gerbo managed to say before the debris scatter shredded his suit. 
     With no air, you cannot scream.

So there you have it.  That was kind of fun.  And I'll tag any of my followers who want to give it a shot!


  1. Too funny, we are all on a sci-fi kick today! Must be the moon's orbit or the position of the planets and stars! :-)I think you did great on the dialogue! I loved all 3, but the dialogue really caught my eye. I love the interaction between characters. And I think some of our best writing comes from the quick burst of whatever pops in our heads.

  2. Thanks. All-dialogue feels like it really is its own genre (well, drama?). Have to convey a lot that isn't said.

    I think part of why I did SF is that although I don't usually write it, I've read lots. So I could make a rather derivative story easily and focus on the exercise part.

  3. I think you did a great job on all three, especially the last one with the dialogue and description combined. The story really came to life then.

    Good work! I wish blogger had a "like" button the same as Wordpress. Oh well. You can imagine me hitting the "like" button. (lol)

  4. Thanks, Casey! It does have a "+1" button, but I confess I'm not sure how that works.

    Writing the stories sure beat what I'm meant to be doing--revisions. I've finished the draft of "The Ninja Librarian Returns" and now the real work begins :p

  5. Great job, Rebecca! I must be the only one who didn't go SciFi. Really did enjoy this scene and what a great job in each dicipline. You're right- pure dialog is like its own genre, but fun practice.


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