Dialog Unbridled at the Rodeo

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

August 28, 2018

Carrot Ranch welcomes back bull-writer, Geoff Le Pard, as one of the Rodeo Leaders for the upcoming flash fiction contests in October. It’s only fair he goes out of the chute first. Geoff’s to blame/thank for having a contest season at the Ranch in the first place.

If you haven’t caught up on his latest, Geoff has penned another book, Apprenticed to My Mother. It’s a moving tribute full of insight and human relationships. When I first read Geoff’s writing, he was a greenhorn blogger, but his post about his parents captivated me the most. Then, there’s his humor that comes in 50 shades, not to mention his mastery of dialog.

And this ain’t his first rodeo.

In September, we will be qualifying five writers to compete in the TUFFest Ride which starts October 1. Check out full details and dates for 24-hour prompted free-writes. After the TUFFest ride is out the gates with five writers competing every Monday, you’ll have a chance to compete in the five Flash Fiction Rodeo events.

On October 3, Geoff Le Pard leads the pack. I’ll let him explain below.

Contest runs October 3-10
By Geoff Le Pard, Rodeo Leader

Writers are notorious people watchers. It’s a small miracle we don’t get done for stalking more often. Part of that idea-thieving we do involves listening to what people say – phrases, the modes of speech, dialect, etc. People convey ideas and feelings with words. We can learn a lot about them, such as where they are from, their education and so on. Conversations include accents and tone. We can assess mood from tone: anger, joy, frustration. When we write, unless we read what we write to our audience, our words must convey all those things.

We describe through setting, body language, and context. But strip that away and what do you have? Dialogue. Words shared between our characters. Flat, atonal words, yet capable of revelations about character and mood, even without the padding. That’s what I want. Just dialogue. No descriptions. No ‘he snarled,’ or ‘she cried.’ Let the dialogue tell me a story with the emotion shared by those words.

Do you want to tell me the names of the speakers? ‘How are you, Jon?’ ‘I’m not too bad, thanks, Colin.’ That’s how it happens in real life.

In one way it’s easy – ‘You’re crying!’ But you can achieve that in any number of ways. ‘Something in your eye?’ ‘Stop snivelling.’ ‘You ok?’

And remember those crucial pauses. Pinter was right: silences tell us a bundle. People tail off. I want ellipses. Ellipses? Those three dots … that connote the lost thread. People also interrupt. That little m-dash — is a critical dialogue tool for a writer.

But I’m not hung up on punctuation. Use ‘…’ or “…” as you prefer. If you have other ways to show those tails off etc., go for it.

And don’t forget in real life we don’t answer every question we’re asked. Not answering can tell us so much. ‘How’s Dad?’ ‘Tea?’

People are sloppy. We slur words together. ‘Wadyamean?’ If it’s coherent and fits the context, then I’m good. But please, don’t push your luck. ‘Hijonhowareyoudidyouseemyemail?’ It’s 99 words which are plenty if you’re wise.

Use dialect but use English. Slang’s great too. Swear if you want. People do. Make it real. Make me hear that conversation.

Here’s an example (99-words):

‘Hello, Dad. You ok?’

‘Excuse me…’

‘They feeding you?’’

‘Excuse me…’


‘’That’s a tortoise. You said “Dad”.’


‘I wondered. Is he… is it a he?’

‘Of course. That’s a she. Barbara. Her shell curves under her ovipositor.’

‘Goodness, is that even a word? Ha, sorry, you’re an expert. It’s just his name, isn’t it? Because he’s what? The oldest tortoise? Or do you breed them? That would be cool too. I’m wittering, aren’t I?’

‘Yes. I’m rather busy.’

‘Yes, sorry. Bye.’

‘Has she gone, son?’

‘Yes, Dad.’

‘Thank goodness. Any whisky?’

‘In the drinking trough.’

‘Good lad.’


My Judges are (TADA) Esther Chilton and Chelsea Owens. Tough but fair is, I think, an apt descriptor of them both.

Esther has always loved words and writing but started out working with figures in a bank. She was on an accelerated training programme and studying banking exams, which meant she didn’t have time for writing, so it wasn’t long before it was a thing of the past – or so she thought. Her love affair with writing ignited again when she had an accident and seriously injured her back. It meant she could no longer carry out her job working in the bank and it led her back to writing, which has now become a daily part of her life.

Winner of Writing Magazine, Writers’ News, and several other writing competitions and awards, Esther has also had the privilege of judging writing competitions.

Esther loves writing, but equally enjoys helping others, which she achieves in her role as tutor for The Writers Bureau. In addition to tutoring, she works as a freelance copyeditor offering an editing, guidance and advice service for authors and writers. She’s edited novels, non-fiction books, articles and short stories. You can find out more about it here.

Chelsea began her writing career at the age of four, composing lengthy essays such as “The Alphabet” and “My Favrit Foods.” Her composition and sarcasm have only grown since, earning her the deference and respect of nearly no one outside her immediate circle of acquaintances.

Her works have appeared in electronic messages to teachers, in the comments of social media posts, and on the backside of napkins slipped into her children’s lunches. She also almost won the chance to be considered in mentioning her story in the list of submissions for a few online contests.

When not cleaning (an infuriatingly large amount of the time), eating, sleeping, parenting, driving, reading her blog feed, budgeting, and cooking; Chelsea breathes in and sometimes out again. She also writes daily on her blog: chelseaannowens.com.


Rules and prompt revealed October 3, 2018, at 12:00 a.m. (EST). Set your watches to New York City. You will have until October 10, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. (EST) to complete the Dialog contest. Geoff, Chelsea, and Esther will announce the prize winner plus second and third place on November 9. Carrot Ranch will post a collection of qualifying entries.

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  1. syncwithdeep

    That was an insight to writing dialogs charli.. I had always thought dialogs would bore the reader. Something new i learnt today.. Do we need to submit a story before oct 3rd? I am interested to explore and learn something new here.

    • Charli Mills

      Deepa, dialog can be so much more as Geoff describes. He really masters the contortions of characters through dialog. The Rodeo starts in October. Geoff Le Pard will lead the Dialog contest and the rules, prompt and form will post right here at Carrot Ranch on October 3. You’ll have until October 10 to respond. It’ll be fun!

      • syncwithdeep

        oh ok Charli. Thanks much for the information

    • TanGental

      Looking forward to your entry Deepa!

      • syncwithdeep

        Thank you so much. Positively i am too ????????

  2. denmaniacs4

    “Dialogue. Really Geoff?”

    “No, Tie Dye a log. It’s a whole different schtick.”

    “Oh, pardon me, you mean tie dye a stick.”

    “Would that you could , lad.”

    “Got it. Tie dye a wooden stick.”

    “Finally…now go fetch it.”

    “Bark, Geoff.”

    “Good boy.”

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! I think you are going to have fun with this one, Bill! Geoff…good luck! 😀

    • floatinggold

      That was a good one!

    • TanGental

      I’m in awe, or maybe in sane but whichever it is I want more…

  3. abhiray59

    Great! Look forward to participate.

    • TanGental

      Looking forward to your entry

    • Charli Mills

      Glad you are looking forward to it!

  4. Ritu

    How exciting!
    I do love His Geoffleship and his dialogue pieces!

    • TanGental

      So you’re going to try then?

      • Ritu

        I most definitely will ????

    • Charli Mills

      The Dialog Master will be roping in the arena! Now we know what first challenge we face.

      • Ritu

        Whoop whoop! Bring it on!

  5. Esther Chilton

    I’m so excited to be part of this and I can’t wait to read the stories 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I’m so thrilled to have you onboard (on-horse?) with the Rodeo, Esther! I hope you get some great stories to judge!

  6. Annecdotist

    “How do you spell dialogue?”
    “Who’s asking?”
    “I’m asking. Can’t you hear me?”
    “That’s the problem, see! I can read you, but I can’t hear you.”
    “Why do you need to hear me if you can read?”
    “So I can answer your question.”
    “But you read my question.”
    “Yup, but I didn’t hear it.”
    “Isn’t there a voice you can switch on in your head?”
    “Not for this.”
    “Not for ‘How do you spell dialogue?’?”
    “You’ve got it.”
    “I don’t feel like I’ve got it. This is the most frustrating dialogue ever.”
    “Are you sure? What about a dialog?”

    • TanGental

      See Anne, you’ve found a voice. Maybe one left out in the sun a little long… see you in October

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Brilliant, Anne! The complexities of language across dictation and the pond!

  7. Sherri Matthews

    Phew, swearing allowed. Looking forward to your contest, Geoff!

    • Lisa A. Listwa

      That’s what I said, too! LOL

      • TanGental

        You too Lisa! Shocked I am. But wondering what you have in mind too…

      • Sherri Matthews

        Haha…great minds Lisa… 😀

    • TanGental

      Why am I not surprised? Just make it impressive!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha — I think Geoff just told you to swear impressively! 😀

      • Sherri Matthews

        Haha…let’s see… 😀

  8. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Pal, you think it kin be done, tellin’ tales with jist dialogue?”
    “What’re ya talkin’ ‘bout Kid?”
    “Talkin’ ‘bout Le Pard’s Rodeo challenge.”
    “More like a contest, Kid.”
    “Do tell.”
    “Zactly, Kid, zactly.”
    “I swear you sure are exasperatin’, Pal.”
    “Phewie, I do aspirate, an’ yep, yer aloud ta swear.”
    “Allowed, not aloud.”
    “Fer cryin’ out loud Kid, he’s gotta hear ya!”
    “I got nuthin’ ta say.”
    “Ain’t never stopped ya b’fore… What’re ya thinkin’ on now Kid?”
    “Thinkin’ on what swear word ta call you.”
    “Me?! Swear at Le Pard. Jeez, you sure are hard ta talk to.”

    • TanGental

      The first to swear and slang it, dang it, I guess you’ll bang it, no, hang it, I’m done. Can’t wait!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Guess what the word count is on that there comment?

      • TanGental

        I wouldn’t expect anything else

    • Charli Mills

      Last year Geoff asked everyone to be funny and writers froze. This year he says talk among your selves and swear and everybody becomes comedic! I expected Pal and Kid to stir things up! 😀

  9. Jules

    OK – I wasn’t quite sure where to go. But then another prompt popped up and … well I’m guessing this isn’t the entry part of your contest – but other folks have put there two cents in here so …
    (remember Icon doesn’t go to post, Title is post link)

    “Forking Future”

    “Mac! Wake up.”

    “Go away”

    “Mac! Really now we’ve got to go.”

    “Let me sleep.”

    “Can’t do that …HAL is coming”

    “Would you just let me alone. Please.”

    “You can’t sleep through this Mac.”

    “Let me be a bear that hibernates. Go plotz.”

    “I wish I could, but you know you’ve got to get moving. Our Uber is here.”

    “But I don’t see a driver… what is that thing out there?”

    “I told you… HAL, AI was coming didn’t I?”

    “An electric horseless carriage is going to take us where we need to go?”

    “Yes, I believe it is.”


    • TanGental

      Very good Jules. You’re right of course that the real prompt rules and start date on October are a way off but no harm exercising those dialogue muscles!

      • Jules

        I also played with the names… Mac (Apple) and Hal…remember ‘2001 a space Odyssey’ and that HAL was …perhaps a play on IBMs AI (artificial intelligence)…
        Puns are funz 😀

    • Charli Mills

      Everyone is warming up! I can see Geoff and Co. are going to have their hands full. Drivers! Clever, Jules!

  10. Sarah Brentyn

    I LOVE this challenge! I used to write ‘D.O.’ (dialogue only) micro fiction on Twitter with a tweep of mine for fun. This going to be awesome. Also, love ellipses and em dashes. What the hell? We can swear? Woot! See ya in October!

    • Sarah Brentyn

      Bloody hell. ‘This *is* going to be awesome.’ F*ckin’ autocorrect. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! Be sure to run *words through word counter, too, Sarah so there won’t be real-life swearing! So much complexity to punctuation dialog, it’s almost a second language. Glad you’ll be competing!

      • Sarah Brentyn

        I will. I usually use Word but will run it through an online word counter. Yes, dialogue-only is a big challenge (and can lead to floating head syndrome) but, done right, can be brilliant. And with 99 words, we shouldn’t have too many floating heads. 😀

  11. Norah

    Great post and examples, Geoff. You’re getting everyone excited, or talking about it at least. First out of the chute this year – you’re a tough act to follow.

    • TanGental

      Just a warm up…

    • Charli Mills

      Geoff is gracious for setting the tone!

      • Norah

        Goodness gracious me! He is!


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