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.
RODEO #1: DIALOG
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?’
‘They feeding you?’’
‘’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?’
‘Thank goodness. Any whisky?’
‘In the drinking trough.’
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.