We’ve discussed how difficult it is to write good dialogs. We’ve talked about avoiding dialog tags. We’ve talked about using “beats.”
But have we really put that talk into action?
Now we will.
WARNING: THIS IS THE TOUGHEST FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE EVER
Write a conversation between four characters.
What, that’s it?
Hey, it’s harder than you think. Heck, it’s difficult to write a conversation between two characters that follows the rules of interesting dialog (which is to make it interesting. Tough rules.)
Four characters in the same room/same setting (not over the phone) will have a conversation. Each must speak at least twice, and none can speak for a 500-word soliloquy. It’s a conversation.
SEXES: You will take four characters, both male and female, doesn’t matter how many of each; they all must speak (so the guy can’t be dead and the women mourning him, unless he’s a ghost.) You can have three men and one woman, you can have two and two, or one man and three women, whatever you want. You get to name them, you get to create their back stories.
EACH character must speak at least twice. No 500-word monologues. I’d prefer they each speak more than twice, but that’s your call.
SETTING: You get to choose the setting but all four characters are present to each other, so they are gathered in a limited setting like a bar or a lifeboat or a college dorm room or a workplace, hostages locked in a bank vault, friends visiting a graveyard, a family reunion at a park and they are gathered under the shelter while the kids play softball, driving in a car, whatever. They cannot be on the phone talking to each other. They need to be relatively contained, as in, they don’t all get up and run away. They can be sitting in a stadium watching the Super Bowl but they can’t be coming and going, they’d have to be sitting in a row or maybe they could be players in a huddle, but not players spread out all over the field, okay?
DIALOG TAGS: Verboten – to an extent. As your characters converse, you can’t use dialogue tags like “she said” or “he cried” or “Bill said” or “Mary exclaimed” or “Jane said slyly.” You CAN use a few tags – a few – because you may have to, but try use beats (small pieces of action) instead, with potential he/she/name attached:
Clark took a sip of his beer. “That’s how we do it, honey. We’re the Griswolds.”
Ellen patted Audrey on the back. “Kids, when this is over, your father may be going away for a while.”
That kind of thing.
ADVERBS: One per 1000 words, especially if it ends in “ly.” So, you can have one. Because
WORD LIMIT: 1000 words. (And you probably don’t need an adjective in just a thousand words.)
Thrill us with your skills!
Having four people converse, making them all interact in the conversation in a meaningful way, NOT letting them get up and run away or otherwise move much… that happens all the time in life! But we rarely see it done in stories, and even more rare, see it done well. Here’s your chance.
Do a good job.
(Hey, what was the special surprise? Oh, that’s not today. That’s tomorrow. But you’ll like it, I think. At least I hope you do. I’m excited about it.
Check the fine print. It says announcing a special surprise. I announced it. There’ll be one. Tomorrow.)
You know the drill:
- Describe your setting – or don’t. Your call, but it should be obvious from reading your piece.
- Write a story up to 1000 words that is obviously utilizing four characters in a limited setting. You pick the genre.
- EXTRA POINTS if you make it funny.
- Post your story below in the comments with a link to your blog.
- You also post it on you blog (No blog? Just copy paste the whole thing here.)
- Mention me and what the heck this is so people don’t think you’ve gone bonkers.
- Read and comment on OTHER people’s entries. That makes it fun. Allegedly.
- You have one week. Noon Friday a week from this posting date (beautiful, sunny and warm Tampa, Florida, USA time.)
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.