Flash yourself unstuck

Do you need to kickstart your writing this month? Has your November challenge so far been less than prolific? Don't worry.... several of us here at Cafe Aphra & Friends are in the same position. 

Today I successfully avoided working on my novel by starting on my next assignment in the online flash fiction writing course I am doing, courtesy of Fish Publishing (which I would warmly recommend). One of the tasks in today's section on dialogue was the following:

A husband has crashed his wife’s car and has to tell her but is avoiding coming out with it directly. The wife didn’t insure the car and at some point has to come clean about that too. Build a dialogue that has no lines of summary, no attribution, no description of tone, no characterizing of voice or words; just two voices. 

Because you have no attribution - no he said or she said - you must portray those silences and pauses through punctuation. With only their exchanges you must deliver who they are, what sort of people they are, the subtext and where they are in time and space without letting it seem forced or contrived. 

150 to 300 words. 

(Adapted from Richard Bausch’s exercise - Character and situation through Dialogue)

I immediately felt motivated to start writing and once again witnessed the power of flash fiction to get us unstuck when we are in a writing rut. The results may not have been been brilliant, but I had fun doing it and it gave me a sense of satisfaction at having achieved something - indeed, at having finished something! A rare gift indeed.

So I thought, how about suggesting this to all us NaNo writers out there this month who are looking for a way back into writing and rediscovering the joy of it? 

If anyone feels like giving it a go, they can post up their results here as a comment or email them in and we'll publish them as part of our Flash Fiction Fridays series. (Check out this week's great story by Derek Dohren by the way, 'Elena'.) 

Go on - try it! 
What have you got to lose?


  1. "I immediately felt motivated to start writing..." Way to go, Sara - that's what's it all about and that sense of bite and motivation and enjoyment is the real reason that we all pick up our pens. I can't wait to hear your story when you're ready to share. In the meantime, keep writing.

    1. This little scenario developed, thanks for the inspiration I really was struggling to take 5 min to write
      “Oh, hello there, you Egyptian Goddess, my Nefertiti, from what Ellyssian fields have you voyaged to make my life complete.”
      “Started early today, I see.”
      “Just a drop of the amber nectar to take the sharpness of the day’s events,”
      “Any excuse, I guess”
      “Would my ebullient Queen, care to join me in a tiny snifter before she initiates tonight’s culinary delights”
      “No she certainly wouldn’t, your Queen has a report to write tonight before she puts her feet up in front of the telly. Hey, save some for me won’t you?”
      “Umm, you remember I had to take your car in for it’s MOT, this morning?”
      “Of course I remember, senility hasn’t quite set in yet. How did it go? What’s the damage?”
      “Ah, damage,….. I think you’ve used a portentous turn of phrase there?”
      “Robert, what are you talking about? Is that the first bottle of the day or is there one in the bin, already?”
      “I am devastated that you have such a low opinion of one who lives merely to fulfil your every whim.”
      “My whim would be to have a straight conversation, for once, with a sober husband.”
      “Straight to the point, my Gestapo commander.
      I crashed your car on the way to the test place. But don’t worry, I am completely undented from head to foot.”
      “Oh, the car…is it …undented too?”
      “Sadly it has taken its last journey. May it find its peace in the great scrapyard”
      “ My car … has gone….. You crashed my car, wrote it off?….”
      “You’ve had a shock, my Morticia, take the weight off and partake of the water of life with me.”
      “Yes OK I think I will. You see emm I think we have something else we need to discuss, my Gomez…”

    2. Oh I loved this piece! Very funny. I think the way the husband speaks really works in terms of conjuring up an image for the reader, what sort of clothes he might wear and his accent, mannerisms. I can almost hear him. For me he has a greying beard and small circular spectacles, sitting by the wooden kitchen table. Thanks so much for sharing this with us, mrsslim! great stuff.

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  3. “Hi honey, how’s it going?”
    “How’s it going? You havin a nice day?”
    “You callin me at work to ask if I’m havin a nice day?”
    “Yeah, sure I am.”
    “Okay, what happened?”
    “Whaddya mean?”
    “What did you do?”
    “Hey, can’t a man even call his own wife to ask how she’s doin without being accused of-”
    “Ah come on, I ain’t got time for this.”
    “Well.... yo, there is one thing, yeah.”
    “You know that dumb ass traffic light on 42nd and Haight?”
    “Oh no.”
    “It wasn’t my fault, yo-”
    “The guy just came barrelling along without even looking-“
    “You crashed the car?”
    “No, well yeah, technically, but the point is-”
    “You crashed my goddamn car!”
    “Well, I had an accident, yeah.”
    “You asshole!”
    “Oh my God, I don’t believe it...”
    “Gee, thanks for askin if I’m alright, sweetheart! I’m so glad to see your concern.”
    “Obviously you’re alright jackass! Or you wouldn’t be callin me.”
    “Hey, that’s enough with the name-calling, yo!”
    “Don’tcha think you’re overreacting here? Just a little?”
    “Oh you have no idea...”
    “I mean the car has insurance, right, so all we need to do is the paperwork. Like I said, it wasn’t my fault, so we should get everything back. No big deal.”
    “Portcha? You there?”
    “Hm-mmh. I’m here.”
    “So I was sayin, the car’s insured, yeah, so-”
    “The car ain’t insured.”
    “What I just said.”
    “But, so... waitaminute! Whaddya do with the money for insuring the car?”
    “Took me and my girlfriends to the spa-salon.”
    “The spa-salon?”
    “Yep. On Madison Avenue.”
    “Are you shittin me?”
    “What do you think?”
    “Ah, shit.”


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