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Sarah Is Depressed: Dialogue Critique

It’s been forever since I wrote anything on here.  Life is busy.  And since I’m too frazzled to write anything new, I thought another unedited excerpt from my NaNoWriMo novel would do nicely.  After all, this is the place where I write the embarrassing stuff I’m too afraid to show anyone that actually knows me.  This fits that criteria.

This is about Sarah, the future love of Bradley’s life.  She is David‘s current “distraction.”

I appreciate any feedback but I want you to focus on the dialogue.  Is it believable?  Forced?  Does the dialogue between Mel and Sarah reveal anything about their character?  If so, what is your impression of them?

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old telephone via stock.xchngThe phone was ringing as Sarah walked into her apartment.  She dropped her bags and ran to the kitchen.  “Hello,”  she was breathless.

“Sarah, are you alright?  It sounds like you’ve been exercising or something.”  It was Melody.

“No, I just walked into the door and had to run to the phone.”

“And that made you breathless?  Really, Sarah, I think you need to do some cardio or something.  That’s pretty sad.”

“Thanks.  Did you call for another reason than to rag me about my general lack of fitness?  Cause if that’s all, I think I’ll hang up now.”

“Geez, Sarah.  You are so touchy lately.  What is wrong with you?”

Sarah sighed.  “I’m sorry.  I’m just tired.  Always tired. What’s up?”  Sarah opened the refrigerator to get something to drink.  All that was in there was a can of diet coke, a bag of coffee, and a wrinkly apple.  She grabbed the diet coke and took a swig.  Flat.  She threw it in the trash and opened up a cabinet.  She took out the half-eaten sleeves of stale saltines and ran a glass of water while Melody prattled on.

“I was wondering if you’d like to go out to dinner tomorrow night.  I haven’t seen you in a week and I miss you.  Even though you haven’t been very good company lately.  I think it’d be good for you to get out.  Maybe we can go see a movie or something.”

“I don’t really feel like it, Mel.  I’m working a lot and when I get off I just want to come home and veg.  Know what I mean?”  Sarah nibbled on the edge of the cracker.  It tasted like cardboard.  She threw the rest in the trash.

I know what you mean, but I don’t think you do.”  Melody grumbled.

“I don’t know what you mean by that.”  Sarah sat on the kitchen chair and waited for Melody’s usual scolding.  From the moment she told Melody that Bradley had broken up with her, Melody had been treating her like she had a terminal illness.  Like she was on death’s doorstep and it was up to Melody to fulfill all her wishes and make sure she lived out a full life in the short time she had left on earth.  Sarah hated the fuss and begged off as often as she could.  She’d been wrangled into a pottery class, bad community theater, and endless shopping trips at all of Melody’s favorite stores–girly boutiques that looked like they’d been drenched in Pepto Bismol.  Sarah appreciated Melody’s attempts to cheer her up, but they made her more depressed.  Made her miss her times with Bradley, sitting on the couch and talking.  Filling her day up with activities did not help her.

“Yes, you do.  You mean you’d rather sit there in that empty apartment, mope, and not eat than put any effort into getting over…things.”

“You can say the name, ‘Bradley,’ Mel.  I promise I won’t go into hysterics or anything.  I’m doing stuff.  The tutoring is going really well.  I’m still at the Center one night a week, and I’m working.  I’ve even been to The Bean Hill a few times to see Suzanne.  See?  I’m not sitting around pining after Bradley.”  Sarah winced when she said the name.  Truth is, she didn’t like to hear or say the name.  His name made her stomach ache–pure, gut-wrenching pain.

“Yeah, right.  I’m not buying it.  You look awful, girl.  You’re too thin and you don’t do anything with yourself.  I’m worried about you.”  Melody sounded like she was crying.

“Thanks a lot.  I’ll have you know that I got hit on in the library today by a very cute guy.  I must be doing alright.”  For once, Sarah was grateful for unwanted attention.

“Hmph.  Some guys will hit on anything with breasts.  I’m sorry,” Melody quickly added before Sarah could say anything, “that wasn’t nice.”

“No, it wasn’t, but it was true.”  Sarah laughed.  “Look, Mel, if I promise to come with you tomorrow night will you promise to leave me alone for a while?  I know I’m moping.  I know I’m depressed.  I have a right to be.  I loved Bradley and he dumped me.  I know it was my fault, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.”

“Sarah?  Why won’t you tell me what happened?  It doesn’t make any sense why he would just break up with you like that.  He loves you.  I know he does.  What did you do to him?”

Sarah didn’t know what to say.  She’d been avoiding telling Melody because she knew how stupid she’d sound.  How she’d thrown away the best thing that ever happened to her for what amounted to an act of rebellion toward her mother.  It was embarrassing.  Immature.

“Sarah, are you there?  You don’t have to answer me if you don’t want to.  It’s none of my business but I just want to understand.  You guys were perfect.”

“Nobody’s perfect, Mel.  We had some issues we just couldn’t get over.  It wasn’t fair for me to keep Bradley when I couldn’t give him everything he wanted and deserved.  He wants marriage and kids.  I don’t.  That’s not something he could live with.  He did the right thing.”

“Marriage.  That’s what it was about?  I love you, dear friend, but you are an idiot.  You’re letting your mother ruin your life.  I thought that was why you moved out here in the first place.  To get away from her and get on with living your life how you see fit.  Am I wrong?”

“No,you’re not wrong, but you’re not completely right, either.  You don’t have all the information.”

“Really.  What aren’t you telling me because I want to understand.  I didn’t think we had any secrets from each other.”  Melody sounded hurt.

“We’ve all got secrets, Mel.  You tell me what really happened between you and Dirk and maybe I’ll tell you mine.”  The suspicion she’d always harbored toward Melody and Dirk’s “chaste” relationship came tumbling out before she could stop them.  She wished she could say she was sorry for it.  She wasn’t.  Melody was too pushy and judgemental.  She had it coming.

Melody’s end was quiet for a long time before Melody said in a very small voice, “Fine.  I’ll leave you alone with your secrets, Sarah.  Don’t worry about tomorrow.  I’ll talk to you later.”  She hung up the phone.

Sarah slammed down the phone.  “Good!  Now maybe you’ll leave me the hell alone.”  She opened up the cabinet and took out the sleeping pills and downed them with her glass of water.  She needed sleep.  She hadn’t slept more than 12 hours in the last week.  She was off tomorrow and planned on sleeping until she felt like waking up.  She unplugged the phone and the alarm clock and laid down on her bed.

Lying there, waiting for the pills to do their magic, she tried to read a book.  The words were blurring on the page and she threw it on the floor.  She stared at the exposed beams on her ceiling.  She saw a spider crawling on the dark wood and considered getting the broom to kill it.  She decided she was too lazy.  She watched it crawl across the ceiling, wondering which direction it would take next.  It eventually made its way to the corner, and disappeared into a crack.  She wished she could do the same.  It was her life and she was tired of everyone else thinking they knew what was best for her.  Her mother, Bradley, and now Melody.  She needed someone in her life who thought she was enough, that she could make the best decisions for herself and didn’t try to interfere.  Who had their own lives to worry about more than hers.  A stranger who had no expectations of her.

I need a break from the drama she thought as her eyes closed, bringing much-needed relief for what she hoped would be the next 12 hours.


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Baby Chloe

Steve  came home from work to a Justin Bieber song blasting through the whole house.  He put down his briefcase and searched for his wife and daughter.  He found Emily leaning in the doorway of the living room.  “Emily!  What is this crap your listening to?”  he yelled.

Emily turned around and threw her arms around her husband.   “Steve, you have to see this.”.

Steve looked in the living room at his three-year-old daughter, Chloe.  “What?  She’s rocking.  She does that all the time.”

Emily shook her head.  “Wait for it.”

“Baby, baby, oh
Baby, baby, no” sang Justin.

Chloe kept rocking.  Steve went into the living room and sat on the edge of the couch.  Chloe turned to her father and smiled.

“Babe, babe!” yelled Chloe.

Steve  gasped.  It was the first recognizable word his daughter had ever spoken.  And she had looked him in the eyes.  He fell back into the couch and Emily jumped into his lap.

“Can you believe it?  I was washing dishes while Chloe ate her lunch and I had the radio on.  When this song came on, I turned it off.  Chloe started wailing.  I thought she wanted out of her seat so I got her down.  She ran into the kitchen and started pointing to the counter and stomping her feet.  I thought she was just having another meltdown until I noticed she was pointing to the radio.  So, I turned it back on.”  Emily was speaking very fast.

“Babe, babe!” shouted Chloe again.

Steve wiped his eyes.  “You mean she actually asked you to turn on the radio?”

“Yes!  I turned on the radio and she went still for a second.  Then she started shaking her head no and pointing again.  I didn’t know what she wanted.  Then, it hit me.  She wanted this song.”  Emily waved her finger in the air.

This song?  It has to be Justin Bieber?”  Steve asked.

Emily laughed at her husband’s horror-stricken face.  “No, it has to be ‘Baby’ by Justin Bieber.  I tried everything.  The Beatles, Barney, other songs by Justin Bieber–but no– “Baby” is all that works.  Isn’t it awful?”

Steve looked at Chloe–his beautiful, silent daughter that, until today, had never looked into her daddy’s face.  She smiled and shouted, “Babe!” at the top of her lungs.

“No, honey, it isn’t awful.  That sweet voice has made a Belieber out of me.”

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This post is for the following Write On Edge Red Writing Hood prompt.

For Friday, let your character be inspired by music. It doesn’t have to be a specific song or genre, it doesn’t even have to exist anywhere outside your mind. Show us in 400 words or less how your character reacts to a piece of music. It can advance a story line or provide a character sketch–or both!

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Polishing My Tools: Writing Men

There’s a great online creative writing group called Write On Edge.  They provide information for writers, writing prompts, and fantastic community support.  There’s even a book club, of sorts, on the Twitter.

Here’s the Red Writing Hood prompt for this week.

This week, we’d like you to take an honest look in your toolbox and pull out one of the tools you believe needs a little polishing.

I don’t know if “writing men” is a tool, but, for the sake of the prompt, I’ll classify my problem under the “character development” tool.  Also, the word count is a problem.  It’s supposed to be 400.  Well, I’ll work on that next time.  (Sorry.)

This is another excerpt from my NaNoWriMo novel.  Again, unedited.  I’ll get around to editing once I finish the crappy first draft.  Whenever that is….

David

David woke up the next morning at eleven o’clock.  He’d stayed up most of the night, reading “Christianity in a Modern World.”  The more he read, the more he realized how hard it would be.  He admired Sarah, and, above all, Bradley, the more the thought about it.  He knew Sarah would give him a hard time for being late, no matter the reason.  He wasn’t about to tell her why he’d been up all night.  She’d read too much into it. He would show up and let her assume what she wished.

While in the shower, he thought about the girl he was supposed to go out with later.  She was tall, blonde, too thin, and had the IQ of a sand gnat–his typical Saturday night date.  He always had a good time, ensured by consuming large quantities of alcohol and the assurance of an overnight visit, but he wasn’t up to it today.

Standing in his towel, dripping on the carpet, he dialed the phone number written on a cocktail napkin.  It rang once and a woman’s voice said hello on the other end of the line.  “Hey, Brandy, this is David.  What’s up?”

“Um, Mandy is my roommate.  I’ll get her for you,” the woman said.  David dropped the phone to his chest and then banged it on his head before putting it back to his ear.  He heard the girl calling to Mandy.  “Hey, Brandy, that jerk is on the phone for you.”

Mandy took the phone and he heard her confused voice talking back to her roommate.  “Brandy?  What is wrong with you, Lila?”  He heard the roommate’s mumbled reply. “Shhh, Lila, he’ll hear you.  It was an honest mistake.”  Then, to him.  “Hello?”

“Good morning, Mandy.  It’s David.”

“Oh, hi David!  I was wondering if you forgot about me. I can’t wait to go out tonight.  My roommate is driving me crazy.  She’s such a bitch.”

“About that.  I can’t make it.”

The line went silent.

“Something came up and I can’t get out of it.”  David knew he didn’t sound convincing.  “Maybe we can go out next weekend?”

“You know what?  How about we just forget it.”  Her voice was cold.

Thank God.  “Don’t be that way.  I really wanted to go out tonight but I just can’t do it.  Come on, don’t be mad.  Go out with me next weekend.”

The line was silent for a few seconds before Mandy’s teasing voice said, “I really shouldn’t but I can’t say no to you.  But you already know that from last weekend, don’t you?”

David cringed.  He’d spent the better half of last Friday night kissing and groping Mandy, whom he’d known for exactly one hour, in the back table at a bar.  If she hadn’t been so drunk, he’d have brought her home.  As it was, her roommate and he had to drag her to her roommate’s car.  He made the obligatory promise to call her.  Her roommate had looked skeptical and it pissed him off.  He’d called the next day before lunch.  The short conversation made him regret the decision, but the equally satisfying prospects of a sure thing and making the roommate mad won the day.  He made the date.

Now, three days later, he definitely did not want to go out with this girl.  He refused to analyze the reasons, but he had to get out of it.

“Alright, Brandy, next Saturday.  Can you pick me up?  My car isn’t running at the moment.”

Mandy, voice absolutely arctic, answered, “Screw you, David.”  The line went dead.

David hung up the phone.  Crisis averted, he tossed the phone on the bed, and went to the bathroom to shave.  He whistled happily as he spread the shaving cream on his face and made the first swipe across his face.  The second swipe cut his face.  “Dammit.”  He grabbed a hand towel and pressed it on his face to stop the bleeding.

Serves you right.

The thought surprised David.  He’d broken a date.  That was all.  No harm done.

Liar.

He’d hurt her feelings, but it was for her own good.  His intentions weren’t honorable.

Coward.

David flipped on the radio and turned up the volume all the way.  He wiped his face and got out his electric razor.  He finished the job quickly and got dressed.  When he was putting on his clothes, his roommate, Shane, stormed into the room and unplugged the radio.  “What the hell, David?  That shit woke me up.”

“It’s noon.  About time you woke up, don’t you think?”

“I was out late.  Anyway, I don’t want to wake up to that crap any time of day.”  Shane went into the bathroom and yelled through the door.  “What the hell happened in here?  You get your period?”

“Nice, Shane.  I cut myself shaving.”

Shane opened up the door.  “Jesus, you’re not supposed to shave this way,”  he mimicked shaving, flicking the “razor” horizontally across his face.  “Where are you going, anyway?”

“To fix a girl’s computer.”  Shane put on his jacket.

“Is that what you’re calling it now?”  Shane made a crude gesture.

“Knock it off.  I’m really fixing a girl’s computer.”

“Let me guess.  Sarah.  Dude, I do not get why you spend time with that chick.  She sounds like a real…”

David threw a pair of balled-up socks at Shane and hit him in the chest.  “I said knock it off.”

Shane held up his hands.  “Whatever.  It’s your life.  At least I’m finally getting some sleep around here.  It’s quiet without all the squealing.”  Shane dodged the shoe that David threw at him.  “Touchy, aren’t we?  Are you sure you didn’t get your period?”  He ran into his room and slammed the door right before the other shoe hit it.  “Have fun with Sarah at church or wherever,” he called through the door.

David hit the door in response and left the apartment.  He looked at his car clock.  Twelve thirty.  He decided to swing by The Bean Hill and pick up a latte for Sarah.  Maybe it would keep her from ragging on him too bad.  Somehow, he doubted it.

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Work In Progress: Bradley

Like all wannabe writers, I have a work in progress.  I started my novel during National Novel Writing Month (November) and haven’t worked on it since.  I haven’t shared it with anyone.  Because I’m a chicken.

As I’ve said before, I’m tired of being timid.  So, here’s an excerpt.   It’s the first draft with no edits.  Again, I’m throwing caution to the wind.   Concrit is always welcome.  Thanks.

Broken MirrorBradley

Bradley walked home from school slowly. He’d had a bad day. A boy on the playground had pushed him in the mud and called him white trash. When Bradley got up and started to walk away, the boy continued to taunt him. Wimp. Mama’s boy. Other words that Bradley was forbidden to say. It wasn’t until the boy called his mama the b-word that he reacted.

He ran at the boy and pushed him to the ground. He was on top of him, fist reared back, when he remembered his promise to his mother. He sat there, shaking uncontrollably, willing himself not to hit the boy. The frustration made him cry. He got off the boy and walked away to laughter and shouts of “crybaby.”

He was covered in mud and the tears left streaks down his dirty face. He didn’t want to ride the bus, afraid of what the other kids would say. Afraid of what he’d do to them when they said it. He started the two mile walk home at a slow pace. He was more afraid of his mother and her concern. He didn’t want her to feel responsible.

When he finally turned onto his street, he saw a strange car parked in his driveway. A shiny, expensive car. He got the pain in his stomach again. He walked faster. Something was wrong with his mother. He had to get to her. He ran.

He burst in the door. “Mama! Are you here?” He ran to the living room, expecting to see her on the couch. A man he’d never seen before was there instead, looking through some papers. “Where’s my mama?”

The man looked up and smiled kindly. “Bradley, I’m your Uncle Walter, your father’s brother.” He put the papers down on the coffee table. “Sit down, son.”

Bradley stayed in the doorway. “Where’s my mama?”

Uncle Walter took a deep breath. “Your mother had to go to the hospital, Bradley. She had a severe asthma attack.”

Bradley’s eyes darted to the cabinet where the inhaler was kept. He hadn’t been here to get it for her. “Can I go see her?”

Uncle Walter shook his head. “I’m afraid not, son.” He stood up and put his hand on Bradley’s shoulder. “Bradley, your mother went to heaven this morning.”

Bradley shook off Uncle Walter’s hand. “I want to see my mama.” Uncle Walter knelt in front of Bradley.

“I’m so sorry, Bradley. The doctors tried everything they could. Your mother’s lungs weren’t strong enough.”

Bradley turned away from his uncle. “Why didn’t anyone tell me? Why didn’t anyone come and get me?”

“It happened suddenly, Bradley. I thought it would be better to wait until you got home.”

“Why are you here? I don’t know you.”

“You were just a baby the last time I saw you. I’m here because your mama called me. She’s been real sick for a long time. She wanted me to take care of you if anything happened. I thought she’d talked to you about that.” Uncle Walter stood up and turned Bradley toward him. “You’re going to come live with me, Bradley.”

Bradley ran from the room. He went to his mother’s room. The bed was made neatly and everything was in its proper place, just where she always left it. He pictured his mother tidying up her room this morning, just like every other morning. And now she was gone.

He screamed.

He ripped the sheets off the bed. He swept her neatly aligned perfume bottles off the dresser and knocked over the mirror. The sound of breaking glass was a relief. He tore pictures off the walls, the clothes from her closet. He pushed over the dressmaker’s dummy in the corner, sending the fake pearl necklaces draped over it skidding across the hardwood floors. He slumped against the wall by the nightstand. A picture of him and his mother lay in the floor beside him. Their smiling faces stared up at him. He picked it up and stared at it, tears running freely down his cheeks. He heard footsteps. He would be in trouble, but he didn’t care. He saw Uncle Walter’s shiny black shoes on the floor beside him. He waited for the yelling or disappointed words. They didn’t come.

Uncle Walter sat down beside him. “That’s a good picture of you and your mother. She was a beautiful woman and you…so much like your father.” He reached out and stroked the picture of Bradley’s face with his finger.

“I know you’re angry, Bradley. You’re sad and probably feel helpless, too. But this…” he gestured toward the destruction, “is unacceptable. You are going to have to learn to control yourself. To take out your frustration in a different, less violent, way. Your father never learned that, God bless him, and he left this world way too soon because of it. I don’t want that for you. Do you understand?”

Bradley nodded. “Mama told me that, too.” He wiped the tears off his face.

Uncle Walter took out his handkerchief and handed it to Bradley.

“No, I’ll get it dirty.”

“That’s okay. Wipe your face.”

Bradley rubbed his face with the stiff, bright white linen handkerchief. He folded it in his lap, with the monogram showing. He rubbed his thumb absently over the raised stitches.

Uncle Walter stood up and held out his hand to help Bradley up. “You need to get cleaned up, son. You’re covered in mud.”

Bradley nodded. He started to walk to the bathroom, but the sight of his mother’s ransacked room pulled him up short. He’d destroyed his mother’s things, the things she had taken meticulous care of, the only reminders he had of her. He covered his face with his hands and sobbed. Uncle Walter pulled him in close and Bradley wrapped his arms around his uncle’s waist and squeezed as hard as he could.

Uncle Walter sat down on the edge of the bed and hugged Bradley, kissing him on the head. “It’s okay, Bradley. I’m here. I’ll help you. We’ll get through this.” Uncle and nephew cried.

One mourning his mother, the other mourning his brother and the loss of innocence of his brother’s child.

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The Reticent Writer

Reticent  (adjective)

1.  inclined to be silent or uncommunicative in speech:  reserved

2.  restrained in expression, presentation, or experience

3.  reluctant

I write.

Grocery lists, checks, book reviews,  status updates, tweets, a personal blog.  These are the things I don’t mind sharing.  They’re general.  They’re in keeping with my perceived personality.  They are safe.

I don’t want to be safe anymore.  I want to write what I want, how I want, when I want.  I don’t want to answer to anyone else.  I need a space to do that.  So here it is.

Reticent Writer

Reticent because I am reserved in real life.  I don’t want the attention, the funny looks, the awkward silences that “being me” might garner.

I am restrained by the arbitrary rules of the community in which I live.   Of who I am.  Of what I supposedly represent.  Rules not made by the One whose authority I fully recognize and respect, but by those who stand as representatives of Him.  By those whose judgement is clouded by their own interpretations and prejudices.

I am reluctant to challenge the rules.  I don’t want theological/philosophical discussions.  I don’t want tension, discord, or hurt feelings.

I want to write.

Without reserve.

Without restraint.

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This is a creative writing blog.  I’m using this space to just write.  Maybe I’ll post once a week.  Maybe once a month.  Maybe daily.  It doesn’t matter.   There are no rules here.
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