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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wre-vise, Wre-write, Wednesday: Use a conversation for your story

Conversations--either exactly word for word, or something very close to what may have been said, make great stories. Or just story starters: Here's a couple examples:

He’s going to get me on my birthday. What? Mr. Ashcroft—he’s going to get me for my birthday. He draws a mustache on every kid on their birthday... with permanent marker. Emily certainly talked as if she was dreading the face doodling, but the grin on her face when she got home, was proof otherwise.Emily’s birthday stretched over the weekend. On Friday she her friends came for a sleepover. On Sunday she opened her gifts. But the crowning event of the birthday? Her mustache and unibrow courtesy of Mr. Ashcroft.

Another example:
Dave and I stood next to the house craning our necks, gazing 34 feet in the air at the newly closed-in roof.
He broke the silence, “It’s too steep—and it’s way up there.”
“But roofing is on the list of things we agreed to do to save money.”
“I’m worth more per hour working, than I’m saving by roofing.”
“I thought you were going to do your parts early in the mornings and late at nights and still work.”
“If I fall off the roof, we can’t afford the house.”
Earl interrupted our argument, “I have a nephew who does roofing. He’s in college, but maybe he’d be interested. I can check and see what he’d charge.”The argument abated, and Earl’s nephew Joe agreed to a very reasonable price. In fact the roof came in at budget--$5000--because the shingles were less expensive through Lowe’s.

Now lets try a rewrite of Monday's spark using conversation--this time I think I"ll have to have one with myself-- a conversation of what was going on in my head:

On the first Tuesday in January I planned to finish entering the transactions for both businesses for the last two months of the year.
Clicking on Quickbooks, “What? Can’t find xyz.qbp? Nonsense.”
I shut down Quickbooks and opened it again. “Oh, maybe my external hard drive is off. That’s it.” I shut it off, turned it on and began again.
“Still no file found. Well I can find it then.” I quickly started looking in all the obvious places.
“That’s funny—I wonder where it should be.” “I’ll just search the J drive” Nothing. “Wrong file name?” Nothing—about this time a mild panic begins to set in.
“It’s got to be here somewhere. I got the new computer in August and I KNOW I’ve entered transactions since then. Now why won’t it find it? I couldn’t have erased it.”
“The only time I messed with anything was when I..cleaned…out…the…hard….drive…to make room for scrapping stuff!!!!” Now the major panic is setting in as I repeatedly, but fruitlessly explore EVERY file on the external drive. “I couldn’t have. Well, I could have, but I WOULDN’T have.”
“Nothing. There is nothing anywhere. I actually erased 10 months of transactions in SEVEN accounts. This is going to take forever to recreate. I should’ve kept my bank statements neater. I hope I HAVE all my bank statements. I think I have a headache. I need some chocolate and a nap.”

Not all stories can use a conversation, but sometimes it's a great way to tell the story. Try it!

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