Monthly competition November 2020

About Forums Den of Writers Monthly Competition Monthly competition November 2020

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  • #9083
    Sandra
    Participant

    Opening with ‘I dreamt about you last night –’ I’d like you to write an all-dialogue piece between two people in no more than 350 words, at the end of which we have an understanding of each of them as individuals and the state of their relationship.
    Deadline 10 p.m. Monday 30th November.

    #9132
    Seagreen
    Participant

    Are we allowed ‘he said/she said’ and scratching of heads, or is it pure dialogue you’re looking for?

    #9133
    Sandra
    Participant

    Good question @Seagreen. I checked with the story that inspired it (A L Kennedy’s ‘Sympathy’) and the answer’s pure dialogue, please. The difficulty of it is part of the challenge.

    #9135
    Neil Evans
    Participant

    ‘I dreamt of you last night, y’know’
    ‘Oh yeah, anything good? You should try this, sit down, its good’
    ‘Some of it, yeah. The old parts, y’know, before…..that’
    ‘Come on, Steph…..we agreed. It was the only way’
    ‘Was it? Really? We could have just left, run away, started again just you & me. She’d never have known where to send them if we were careful’
    ‘Everything I had is here, everything we have now. C’mon, sit down before this gets cold’
    ‘I’m not hungry, Nath. Not at the moment’
    ‘Look, are you okay? You’re happy right? This is what you wanted, you & me’
    ‘I thought I did, Yeah. I mean….yeah, of course. I just wish we hadn’t had to do it like that’
    ‘Sometimes…….sometimes, Steph, you have to make hard choices in life to get what you want. There’s no other way’
    ‘There could have been, Nath. If we’d just left we’d have had each other, but you wanted the money didn’t you, you needed the money’
    ‘I’d earned it, Steph. I’d put up with her for too long, that’s why she had to go, don’t you see? That’s why she had to die. That’s why we killed her. Look, if you’re not eating then I’ll have it before it gets cold’
    ‘You killed her, Nathan, not me. I wanted to run’
    ‘Look, okay, I killed her if that makes you feel better. I was the one that pulled the trigger & put her at the bottom of the lake. Happier now…..?’
    ‘I loved you, y’know’
    ‘…but I did it for us, for our future, Steph. Hold on, what did you say?’
    ‘I love you, Nath, thats what I said’
    ‘You’ve got a strange way of showing it, we haven’t had sex for weeks ha…..only joking, I know it shook you up, what had to be done’
    ‘I’ll always love the old you’
    ‘Whats that supposed to mean? Did you hear that? Sounded like a car door’
    ‘I’m sorry, Nath’
    ‘What for? More car doors, & voices? Fuck me we’re in the middle of nowhere……oh shit!’

    #9136
    Seagreen
    Participant

    ‘I dreamt about you last night, or rather I dream about this every night.’
    ‘You’re not John. Who are you? Do I know you?’
    ‘It’s me, Gran. It’s David.’
    ‘I don’t know anyone called David.’
    ‘Sure you do, Gran. It’s just that you don’t remember. I’m Moira’s son. You remember Moira, don’t you? She was your daughter.’
    ‘Moira’s dead. She had a heart attack.’
    ‘Yes, she did. Which seems a bit unfair, don’t you think, considering she was only 59 when she died and here you are at 91, still hanging on.’
    ‘A child shouldn’t die before a parent. It’s not right.’
    ‘You’ll get no arguments from me on that score, Gran. In fact, it’s part of the reason I’m here. What if I told you there was a way for you to be with Moira? Would you like that?’
    ‘Moira’s dead. She had a heart attack.’
    ‘I know that, Gran. What I’m saying is that there’s a way for you to be with her in heaven. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?’
    ‘You’re not John. Who are you?’
    ‘I told you, I’m David. I’m your grandson.’
    ‘What do you want?’
    ‘Well, now that you ask, I want my Mum’s share of this house, but that’s not going to happen while you’re still living in it. You see my problem, don’t you? My dad and Uncle John are talking about putting you into a nursing home, but if they do that, I figure they’ll have to sell the house to pay for your care. As I see it, the best way forward is for you to have that fall they’re so worried about. A tumble down the stairs when the carers aren’t here and the job’s a good-un. It’s win-win, really. You don’t get put into a home for pissy old crumblies and I don’t lose out on my inheritance. What do you think?’
    ‘I think John will be upset if I fall. That’s why he put cameras in all the rooms to keep an eye on me.’

    #9137
    Janette
    Participant

    When The Magic Ends

    ‘I dreamt about you last night.’
    ‘Sally, about that.’
    ‘No, please don’t say it. Things used to be so magical.’
    ‘But that was then, can’t you see? People move on. You’re not that kid I first met. There are others –’
    ‘Always were. From the very start you didn’t try to hide it let alone show any remorse. That deep chuckle of yours, as you sat them on your knee, whispering promises to each other, always cut me to the quick. So cruel. But I forgave you and I can again. Can’t we please try?.’
    ‘You’ve always known you couldn’t have me to yourself. Not because I’m cruel, at least I try not to be. it’s just, well, it’s part of who I am. You mustn’t be jealous.’
    ‘I know. I know. And I accepted it because at the end of the day it was me you’d come to, bearing gifts – so many, over the years, each one lovingly wrapped, not that it was all about presents. I loved your generous soul, your selflessness and kindness. You melted my heart and I counted the days to our next meeting. And you wonder that I dreamt of you. Wrote to you.’
    ‘But Sally, you’ve changed. You must know that. I suppose I should be touched you still believe in me; not many would. But this – this is getting unhealthy and I’m asking you to cease with the letters.’
    ‘You liked the letters, you said. And now, magically, you don’t? It’s you that’s changed, Santa.’
    ‘Sally, for the final time, accept I’m part of your past.’
    ‘And you say you’re not cruel. Just like your friend the tooth fairy, you are. I was onto dentures before I cottoned on.’

    287 words

    #9138
    Squidge
    Participant

    The Sanctum of Dreams

    “I dreamt about you last night. You were in the sanctum.”
    “Well, that’s hardly surprising, is it? Given what’s about to happen.”
    “No. I suppose not. It was just so…”
    “So…what? Are you going to share? Or just sit there looking worried? I’m not a mind reader.”
    “Yet.”
    “Ha! True. Well, tell me about it. I don’t like to see you frowning.”
    “Are you sure? It wasn’t pleasant. More of a nightmare.”
    “Oh, great. No, don’t go! Please. I’ll have to get used to it, won’t I? Knowing the bad as well as the good. I’d sooner start with your dream than anyone else’s. Give me your hand…there, that’s better. Now, tell me.”
    “You…were in the sanctum. Standing. In front of an altar.”
    “There isn’t an altar–”
    “I know. It’s only a dream. You had your back to me, and piled on the altar were the dreams of others. Each one a strand. Some short, some long, many somewhere between. Dark, light, glittering, dull. Like cords and ribbons… As sharp as razors, some of them. And I was suddenly afraid. So afraid. For you.”
    “Cassia. Cassia, my love, don’t cry, please. You know it won’t be easy for me. You’ve always known.”
    “And I’ve loved you in spite of knowing it. You picked all those dreams up in your arms and turned from the altar… Gods help me, when you turned…”
    “You’re trembling. Let me hold you.”
    “They attached themselves to you, Alchek. The sharp dreams, the dark ones. Wrapped themselves around your head. Sliced into your flesh, cutting and carving. I tried to pull them away, tore at them til my hands were bleeding–”
    “It was a dream, Cassia, a dream!”
    “No! It was real. I felt the sting of their edges! My hands feel it still. But I couldn’t save you. Your face…your beautiful face…turned into something bloody and monstrous…”
    “Cassia, listen to me. I have been prepared for what’s to come. It will not change me.”
    “Are you sure, Alchek? Are you really sure? Because just before I woke, I didn’t recognise you at all.”

    350 words

    #9152
    Raine
    Participant

    Morning

    ‘I dreamt of you last night.’
    Good morning, darling.
    ‘We were walking the dog down that lane, do you remember, brambleberry lane, we called it.’
    Of course I remember.
    ‘We used to pick berries in the summer until our hands were black. Do you remember that? How you’d untangle us from the thorns and produce a handkerchief from your sleeve to try to dry our hands.’
    A woman should always have a handkerchief to hand.
    ‘You’re probably telling me I should keep a hanky up my sleeve too.’
    Are you eating enough? You look like a stiff wind would blow you away.
    ‘It’s been hard, since I last came to see you. I don’t know … Oh, I just remembered. I dreamed about the river too. We were sitting on your bench listening to the parakeets, watching the swans. I don’t think it was a real memory.’
    Real enough, darling.
    ‘I wish it was.’
    Come along now. No need to droop, you aren’t a flower. Now, I saw you the other day having lunch with that nice man. Tell me about him.
    ‘So, I met someone, I think. It’s early days, like, but he’s … nice.’
    Don’t you go running away from this one. You let him spoil you.
    ‘He’s very kind.’
    Then trust him. You’re a one for expecting the worst.
    ‘I just … I’m not sure I’m in the right place for a relationship-
    Right place? Love is not geography, darling.
    -you’ll laugh at me for that. I just … I just couldn’t take it if I loved him and he left, you know?’
    Don’t be daft. Why would anyone want to leave you?
    ‘I can’t take losing anyone else.’
    Oh darling.
    ‘I know it’s stupid, but I just can’t.’
    I didn’t-
    ‘You left me.’
    I didn’t.
    ‘You left me, and I’m so lonely, and so sad. I can’t seem to stop being sad.’
    Oh darling.
    ‘I miss you.’
    But I’m right here.
    ‘Talking to you like this. It isn’t enough.’
    Love is always enough, and I never left you. Be strong, darling. Dream.

    342 words

    #9153
    Daedalus
    Participant

    “I dreamt about you last night. No, don’t look like that.”
    “Like what?”
    “Like it’s a line or… like I’m being…?”
    “What?”
    “I dunno. Overly sentimental.”
    “OK. I won’t then.

    …Well you can’t leave it hanging like that. What was I doing in this dream?”
    “That’s the thing. I can’t actually remember. You know what dreams are like.”
    “I know what my dreams are like. Stuff about a pile of road atlases and some random bloke being annoyed with me for wearing green. Did I tell you about the dreams where I can fly, but only about an inch off the ground?”
    “It sounds familiar.”
    “Just typical. I can’t even do that properly.”
    “So this dream?”
    “Oh yeah. I thought you said you couldn’t remember?”
    “Well I can’t. Not remember as such. But, y’know. I can feel it.”
    “Feel it?”
    “I can still feel it. It’s like… Oh god.”
    “Are you OK?”
    “I… I… I had this dream. And I woke up. And it’s like… I had lived this whole other life… Or there was this other me… And you were there.”
    “‘And you… and you… Toto, we’re home!’ Ha ha ha!”
    “I knew I shouldn’t have said anything.”
    “Sorry, sorry. Couldn’t help it.

    …Ah come on, it was funny. Admit it.

    Sorry. Look, it was just… Oh, don’t sulk. Did I miss a turning?”
    “I dunno. The satnav didn’t say anything.”
    “Hmm. Ah well, go on with your dream.”
    “Well like I say, all that’s left is a feeling. Like a… residue. Feels like I’m a different person somehow. Like I got changed on the inside during the dream and now…”
    “That sounds pretty mad. You sure it was just a dream?”
    “Huh. That’s just it. I’m not sure. It was like… something terrible happened, and like I’d been mour… But I can’t remember. And now I’m here and it all feels so familiar.”
    “Are you sure you’re OK to go to this thing?

    Ben? Do you still want to go?”

    “Hm. Yeah. It’s your thing, I don’t want to… We’re halfway there already anyway.”

    346 words

    #9156
    Athelstone
    Moderator

    I dreamt about you last night.

    Really? I haven’t thought about you for ages.

    Ooh! Harsh.

    Aha – Sorry, Jack. That sounded terrible. I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just, well, you know – the kids and all that. I don’t have much time for myself.

    How old are they now?

    Callum’s ten and Orla will be seven on Saturday. Most of this shopping is for her.

    Callum and Orla. You’ve got a real Irish thing going on there.

    Yeah, Ben’s side of the family. His gran was an Orla.

    Right – hang on, Callum’s ten? Jeez, I’d forgotten, it must be fifteen years since… Tempus fugit and all that.

    Time flies, doesn’t it, Jack.

    Time wounds all heels.

    Eh?

    I had a mate who said that all the time. Talking of time, do you have enough for a coffee?

    What?

    Time. Do you have enough time for a coffee?

    Oh, I don’t know, Jack. I’ve got so much to do.

    Yes, but we’ve got so much to talk about.

    Jack. Sweetheart. I’d love to stop and chat all day. But –

    But what? All I’m asking for is fifteen minutes of your time after, how long, fifteen years?

    Yes, Jack – exactly. Fifteen years. I’m sorry you’re still dreaming about me, but I said everything I had to say back then.

    I didn’t say everything. I wanted to say…I should have said…

    Said what, Jack? What exactly?

    Jesus Christ. I should have said I loved you. I should have said I never wanted to be without you. I should have said have children with me. Grow old with me.

    But you didn’t. And then Ben did.

    Yes, good old Ben did. Hey, would it have made any difference if I had said it? Tell me that and I won’t bother you for, I dunno, another fifteen years.

    Are you kidding? Tell you? Tell you that I loved you too and that I still do? You’re dreaming.

    You still love me too?

    No, Jack, you’re really dreaming. You are actually still dreaming. Wake up Jack.

    344

    #9157
    Sandra
    Participant

    Seven stories already in this month’s competition – and seven days to go, so if you’re dreaming up a dialogue please don’t leave it too long. And if you are in need of inspiration, you’ll get it by reading those already posted.

    #9162
    Xander Michael
    Participant

    Another Session

    “I dreamt about you last night.”
    “Hmm.”
    “That’s it?”
    “What do you want me to say? ‘Tell me more?’ This isn’t the first time you’ve started a session this way.”
    “Does it bug you that I dream about you?”
    “Should it? We see each other twice a week now, it’s not surprising that I have a place in your subconscious.”
    “So?”
    “Yes, go ahead.”
    “This was a good one. You’ll like it. We were hiking in the woods – these woods here, but not these woods, dream woods, but nearby.”
    “Hiking? I hope I wasn’t wearing horrid cargo pants and a fleece hoodie?”
    “Actually, you were.”
    “Oh. Go on.”
    “I was behind you watching your pony tail sway back and forth, the nice long hair you used to have before. Then I heard a painful cry behind me and I turned around to see you on the ground behind me clutching your ankle. You’d broken it or sprained it somehow.”
    “Which was it?”
    “Dunno. What’s it matter?”
    “It does matter! I mean, if we’re trying to interpret your dream, it could. If my leg broke then it could mean that you don’t feel that these sessions are working for you, that this system is broken in someway.”
    “Or … it could mean that I think you need taking care of too. You’re always there for me, but it’s a one way street.”
    “Not really. You pay me. Well, your parents do.”
    “Whatever. This is the cool part; even though I’m just a scrawny teen, I picked you up and carried you through the woods until I saw a cabin. Then I woke up.”
    “You’re kidding.”
    “Nope, but I’m sure I would have been able to make it. You weren’t heavy at all.”
    “Right.”
    “Sorry, I didn’t mean anything by that.”
    “That’s fine, Tyler, I know you didn’t. It’s just that—“
    “What? Is it weird that I dreamt that?”
    “No, not that you dreamt it, but … tell me, was the cabin red with a white trim?”
    “Yeah!! How do you know that?”
    “It seems that I dreamt about you last night.”

    350 words including title

    #9180
    Doug
    Participant

    I’ll post mine tomorrow. Couldn’t post it before then, for seasonal reasons.

    A question for our members in Britain and other countries: Do you have a certain name for the start of Christmas season? I don’t know how it came to be “Black Friday” in the US, shopping frenzy or no. When I was a kid, that term was unheard of; it sounds like a horror movie title. It’d be better suited for the first Friday in October, kicking off our month of having to dodge zombies, ghoulies and beasties, and hopefully we’ll live to eat the candy rewards at the end. But, Christmas?

    So anyway, just curious. I’ll add my entry here tomorrow when it’s…I don’t want to say that term. I’ll just say, First Day of the Season!

    #9181
    Doug
    Participant

    Thanks for the replies. Crazy season? Well, who can deny it? As I type this it’s 6:50am in the eastern US, and folks are no doubt lining up outside the big-box stores, readying for the stampede.

    And now, here’s my entry.

    ###

    “I dreamt about you last night.”

    “Excuse me, Ebenezer?”

    “Yes, Jacob. I was possessed of a very strange dream, and it was about you.”

    “Ah. Then it must have been a dream all of business, and that can only be a good dream. Did we foreclose on another poor wretch?”

    “I’m afraid not Jacob, it wasn’t nearly that pleasant. In this dream, you had died.”

    “What?”

    “Yes. And that was only the beginning. This was seven years after that event, and your ghost had come to visit me. Fettered head to foot in chains.”

    “What? Preposterous.”

    “The whole dream must have been brought on by an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, or a fragment of an underdone potato. You informed me of impending visits from three more spirits, as if your own chain-clanking shade wasn’t unsettling enough, and–ugh!–I shudder to recall it. Especially how it all–echhh–ended!”

    “How did it end, Ebenezer, how?”

    “I…I raised Cratchit’s salary.”

    “He was in the dream, too?–Wait. Did you say you had raised an employee’s salary? And this after you let him talk you into restoring that crippled son of his to health?”

    “Jacob, your face is turning white, as white as my own, I’m sure.”

    “Ah–but, Ebenezer, it was only a dream, ha ha, a silly dream about a sillier holiday! We’ll have a capital laugh about it come Christmas Day, when Cratchit and the others are here, toiling away. And no doubt complaining about the paucity of coal on the fire…”

    “Jacob, you’re coughing! And look rather off-color. We will get you to a physician at once. I know that normally we ignore these little trifles, doctors being expensive, but I believe that if we clench our teeth now and force ourselves to hand over the fee, we’ll be glad we did.”

    “Now, Ebenezer–”

    “Jacob, I insist! If this is some rascally scheme of the supernatural, we must prevent it at all costs! Now come. Yes, I insist.”

    ###

    This sort of popped out. A Christmas Carol is my favorite story of all time, but I’m saddened at how it’s been done to death, done to death again, done to death over and over every which way, and still done to death after that. Let it rest in peace, for pity’s sake! (Connie Willis even wrote a short yarn about this, called “Adaptation.”) So I liked the idea of Scrooge somehow able to prevent Marley from becoming “dead as a doornail” to prevent the whole thing from happening. Of course, this means old Scrooge goes on bah-humbugging his way through life. But at this point that looks better to me than all the done-to-deaths.

    Since it also means poor Tiny Tim is doomed, I made a provision for that in the story.

    Holiday cheers,
    ~Doug

    #9183
    Sandra
    Participant

    Hugely impressed with the variety of proper, fully-fledged and entertaining tales arising from that simple six word start, each then heading in its unique and individual direction; a process which I find fascinating and reassuring, i.e. there is no one and only right way of doing it and all are of equal merit.

    Neil

    Instant scene setting, attention grabbing, insisting the reader keeps reading ¬ What “the only way”? And Steph’s concern, Nath’s attempts at persuasion, while heartily stuffing his face – so many subtle, well-placed clues, yet the ending a surprise.

    Seagreen

    Another tale of betrayal, beginning with well-evoked confusion and the very strong voice of an avaricious grandson trying to sound reasonable. (That ‘pissy old crumblies’ less than tactful!) So glad that Gran has more wits about her than he bargained for.

    Janette

    A true ramping up of creepiness, this tale suggested it was going in one nasty direction before veering into another; less creepy and desperately sad.

    Squidge

    This a dream apparently spurred by forthcoming change, that became physical nightmare, with others’ dreams transformed into a variegated shower of weaponry, attacking and damaging. One that the dreamer must’ve been very relieved to wake up from.

    Raine

    Isn’t it wonderful how words, used well, so quickly create situations, people, and another world? This so different to the previous ones, but so efficient at transporting me into another situation. Weird, but entirely believable, the slightly ‘off’ stiltedness so well done, that I saw it all in monochrome.

    Daedalus

    Oh, that amorphous quality of a barely grasp-able sense of a dream! – so familiar. And then the realisation of a missed turning, the suggestion of the ‘thing’ they’re heading towards – which I read as a down-to-earth ending – likely literally – but might very well have been something else, but above all the dishonesty and or misunderstanding between the two. So much said but not spelt out. .

    Athelstone

    This subtly and so well evoked an unexpected meeting between one needy failure attempting to turn back the clock, and a fully mature contented-elsewhere wife and mother, initially amused and kind and then slow-fading tolerant irritation.

    Xander

    Another unexpected direction! Another rambling and incoherent dream told during a counselling session, ending with a brilliant tit-for-tat.

    Doug

    From dream to Dickens, another inspired twist. Ebenezer alarming Jacob with tales of his death and of the raising of Bob Cratchit’s salary, before insisting on summoning a doctor.

    I have really struggled to pick any one above the rest; applying, then abandoning various criteria, when, as usual it comes down the one that resonated just a little more strongly than the others, to which end I’m declaring Athelstone the winner, and resisting listing the too-many others which qualified as honourables
    Thank you all for participating.

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by Sandra.
    #9185
    Seagreen
    Participant

    Woohoo! Well done Ath! 😊 And thanks, Sandra, for stimulating dormant brain cells .

    #9187
    Doug
    Participant

    Congrats, Athelstone! Treat yourself to something nice. Raising a cup of writing fuel (coffee). 🙂

    ~Doug

    #9188
    Janette
    Participant

    Well done, and well deserved, Ath!
    And thanks, Sandra for such an interesting challenge.

    #9189
    Athelstone
    Moderator

    Smashing comp, Sandra and a similarly smashing selection of entries. So I’m really pleased to be picked!

    #9197
    Xander Michael
    Participant

    Good job Athelstone! Love the comp and all the entries! Great challenge to not be allowed any prose.

    #9198
    Daedalus
    Participant

    Great competition Sandra, am really intrigued to read the story that inspired it now. Well done Ath, and everyone else, good set of stories

    #9199
    Sandra
    Participant

    @Daedalus: the story is in ‘What becomes’, the theme of which comes from the song, and is the tale of a man and a woman, previously unknown to each other, having sex in a hotel bedroom.
    I’ve never tried an all-dialogue story, but have to say what were served up here showed similar skills to Kennedy’s.

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by Sandra.
    #9202
    Raine
    Participant

    Oh YAY – congrats @athelstone. Very well deserved. And thank-you @sandradavies for such an ace prompt. It was a valuable lesson to me that i really can strip out a lot of my speech tags, actions etc and the world may not crumble!

    #9203
    Sandra
    Participant

    @Raineexactly! When I first read A L Kennedy’s tale, I had to re-read to see how it was done. Then di my best to emulate.

    #9205
    Daedalus
    Participant

    @sandradavies thanks, I will look that up. I’m a fan of keeping speech tags/descriptions to a minimum and I often write scenes with dialogue first and then build the other stuff around it, so this is very much up my street

    #9206
    Sandra
    Participant

    @Daedalus, I know exactly what you mean: most of my novels start with a conversation between two characters, me thinking they’ll be the opening chapter, then, as things develop, I find they’ve moved to the middle of the middle.

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