“For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.”
—Catherine Drinker Bowen

This Playwright Explains How to Write Great Dialogue

This guest post is by Maggie Sulc. Maggie is a playwright, dramaturg (I had to look that one up), and screenwriter from Texas, Tennessee, and, most recently, Toronto. You can follow her on her blog, Gladlybeyondaustinausten, and on Twitter (@austinausten).

You’ve hit that point in the writing process. You’ve had that story or poem germinating in your head for a long time. You know the characters backward and forward from their biggest dreams to their pickiest pet peeves. Now all that’s needed to move the piece forward is for them to speak—and for you to write their dialogue—except the words aren’t coming. They are standing there tongue-tied and silent. How do you find your characters’ voices? How do you write dialogue that sings?

playwright dialogue

Photo by Graham (creative commons). Adapted by The Write Practice.

I’m lucky in this case. I know now that I’m good at dialogue. This is a very a good thing considering I’m a playwright. But even after I’d written my first two plays, I didn’t count dialogue as one of my strengths. It was just what the form called for and that’s what my first two big writing projects had to be: plays.

Then a couple of years ago I wrote a short story for a fiction workshop. When we started the discussion on my story, the other students started giggling. “What?” I asked, nervous to be diving back into fiction again.

“We knew this one was your’s before we started reading,” they said.

How? Because of the pages of dialogue.

In my fiction class, this embarrassed me at first. I don’t like boiling scriptwriting down to fiction hold everything but the speaking parts. But, as I began to get requests from fiction buddies and even some poets about how to craft good dialogue I realized that there is some truth behind the power of dialogue in playwriting.

Good Stories Have Great Dialogue

Without engaging dialogue, a stage play usually dies. It sounds stilted and it falls prey to the same trap that catches many an amateur writer of any genre: telling, and not showing.

“I’m angry at you, can’t you tell?”

“Can’t you see that I’m trying to convince you to get out of this room?”

(Really obvious examples, I know, but it’s surprising how easy statements like these slip in when you’re more focused on plot than form.)

How to Write Effective Dialogue

Great playwrights (or fiction writers or poets or creative nonfiction authors, for that matter) can do a lot with just words. Read the prologue to Henry V if you’re not sure why William Shakespeare is such a big deal centuries later.

No audience will give its full attention to a play whose dialogue is stilted.
—George Wellwarth (tweet that)

Great writers don’t simply write to move the plot forward or describe every detail in order to create a vivid world for the audience on stage. They create that world through just a few details and, more importantly, through dialogue combined with action.

An Essential DON’T When Writing Dialogue

Great writers also don’t record verbatim what people say in everyday conversation; verbatim theatre is a genre in its own right but it takes a lot of work to gather enough material to create a worthwhile production.

Why? We stammer, stutter, leave sentences half-finished, jabber about boring tidbits, and fill the time with meaningless small talk.

Try recording the next conversation you hear on the bus or street corner. Your hand might start to cramp with all the “Um” and “Ah” before you reach the meat of their dialogue.

Want to Write Great Dialogue? Here’s a Tip from Acting

Learn from the process actors use to get into their character. When the actor (or editor) gets a manuscript, the first thing they will ask is “What does this character want? What is the obstacle blocking him or her?”

As he or she reads through your dialogue, the actor will then note how your character tries to convey, protect, share, or fight for what he or she wants and when this tactic changes.

Your language can be poetic and lyrical or blunt and straightforward, but if there isn’t a clear desire behind it, then there’s no reason for it to be spoken and, therefore, it shouldn’t be dialogue.

Would you consider yourself good at writing dialogue? Share in the comments section.


Create two characters with opposing desires. For example, a mother and daughter are fighting. The mother wants her daughter to stay at an in-state college or university. The daughter wants to go as far away as possible.

Write their argument but here’s the trick: don’t take sides. As the writer, you equally defend and fight for both characters’ main objectives. Use your best tactics to play for both teams and see where this leads you.

Write for at least fifteen minutes. When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, be sure to leave feedback for a few other practitioners.

Happy dialoguing!

About Guest Blogger

This article is by a guest blogger. Would you like to write for The Write Practice? Check out our guest post guidelines.

  • Jennifer McGinnis

    This was a good practice. I wrote a dialogue for 15 minutes, but I don’t think it’s exactly right if it were part of a book. It would have to be tightened up and given better direction. I would have to have a better idea of where I was going with it. But, FWIW, this is the dialogue I came up with in 15 minutes. It doesn’t have an ending, per se, because I quit when the alarm went off. Here goes:

    “Mom, I don’t want to go to the U of M. Or anything local. I want to go away, far away. As far as possible. Oxford, if I could get in.”

    “But why? Do you hate us so much?”

    “Don’t be stupid.”

    “Katie, you know that we have savings for your college education. But not enough to send you half way across the world. We’ll have to take out additional loans just to send you to the local University.”

    “Oh, because of course I couldn’t get any scholarships. Have you noticed my grades, mother? And my extra curriculars?”

    “Of course, but that’s not the kind of thing you can just count on. You can count on us. Your parents.”

    “It’s not your education. I’m going to be 18. A grown up. I’m glad for your help, but it’s time for me to make it on my own, you know? Do the things I want to do.”

    “Turning 18 isn’t some magic date, Katie. It doesn’t magically endow you with anything except the legal right to vote and sign contracts. And be legally responsible for your life. But it doesn’t suddenly change who you are.”

    “And who is that?”

    “Our daughter! I’m not going to suddenly stop caring about you, taking care of you. I’m not going to just leave you out in the cold because of this magic number you’ve hit in years.”

    “I’m not asking you to do that. I just think college is a time for me to spread my wings. I know, corny. But seriously, I’ve been in this same small town for all my life. Everybody and everything I know is here. There’s a whole world out there, and I want to become a part of it.”

    “I understand that, believe me, I do. I had the same kind of dreams when I was your age.”

    “That’s the perfect example of why I should go, Mom. Look what happened to you. You went to the local university. You found dad, got married, had us kids, and never left your home town. I don’t want to end up like that.”

    “My life hasn’t exactly been a misery, you know.”

    “Of course, I understand that, Mom. I’m just saying it’s not the life I want. I want to go places, do things, meet people totally different from anyone I’ve ever known. I want to have a lover who barely speaks English and let him show me his world.”


    “Oh, please, Mom. Don’t be all prude on me. I want to live. And learn.”

    “So we’ve been holding you back. From living. You know, we’ve worked pretty hard to give you all sorts of opportunities. You went on every band trip, every year. You went to Paris with your French class, for God’s sake. Oh, please don’t tell me you were sleeping with French men while you were there.”

    “Mom, I was only 16. Of course not. But if I go there for college, then I could if I wanted to.”

    “Is that what this is about? You want to have sex with foreigners?”

    “No, Mom, that is not what this is about. This is about my life. My future. Bottom line, are you saying you won’t support me if I choose to go to a college in another country?”

    “No, Katie, I’m not saying that. Your college fund is for your college education. I just… I can’t picture not seeing you for months at a time. You’re my first child. I’m not ready to let you go so far away.”

    “That’s not really fair to me, though, is it?”

    “I don’t know what to do here. I mean, do I really let you decide?”

    • Ah the perils of letting go, I have been tempted to be that mom…I chuckled at the French guy idea 🙂 I could tell the dialog was developing the more you wrote. I love how the free writing helps get the ideas out. thanks for being brave and posting.

    • I agree with Jennifer. Thanks for posting. I agree it would have to be tightened up to be part of something larger. My main question when I read it is: what started the argument? Did a piece of mail come about applying to an out of state college that the mom found before her daughter got home? Bones of the scene like that could quickly tighten it up and make it more specific.

    • Prince A.

      I enjoyed this. It had a depth that was building. I mean, I was captivated and I chuckled not only because the whole french guy bit was funny, but it’s not a far difference from how mothers would really respond. It had a realistic quality, but an artistic style.

  • Lauren Timmins

    “Jason, for the last time, put the toilet seat down when you leave the bathroom!”

    “Okay! I know! You don’t have to scream at me!”

    “I’m not screaming! I’ve told you-”

    “Yes you are! You’re shouting at me! Screaming in that pissy voice you get when you’re mad!”

    “It’s not pissy! I’m sick of telling you over, and over, and over to do things! You don’t do anything in this house! All you do is sit in that chair and drink beer. That’s it.”

    “What about you? You don’t have a job! We’re living off of my disability!”

    “We could be better off if you didn’t spend half of it on alcohol! Oh, don’t give me that look.”

    “What look?”

    “You know what it is. The I-am-completely-innocent-you’re-lying look.”

    “I don’t spend half our money on alcohol! You’re being melodramatic, and you are making my head hurt, and you are screaming at me. What happened, Abigail? What did I do that suddenly turned you into this screaming bitch?”

    “You changed, John.”

    “After what?”

    “After Haley died. You haven’t been the same since. You drink, you stopped painting, you quiet your job, and now all you do is sit and wallow in misery.”

    “You just let it go like it was nothing. The day after the funeral you were fine. You didn’t cry, didn’t get nightmares, weren’t consumed with wondering if you had a part in it.”

    “She’s gone, John. And she’s not coming back. You have got to let it go.”

    “She’s our daughter. How the hell am I supposed to let that go? I let her go to that party. I let her stay. Then she was killed in that accident. So tell me, how am I supposed to let that go?”

    • Jennifer McGinnis

      That is very strong emotional scene. Thanks for sharing!

    • This is great Lauren, You really had me caught up in what was first just an annoying complaint building to the root of the issue. It gave a “surprise” effect. I appreciate your example of carrying the emotions to a climax. This helps me see how dialogue can work by itself.

    • Starting with the small and then ramping up to the real reason behind the dialogue was great.
      But I do wonder: how long ago did this accident happen? Is it still really raw? Are they okay at this point in their grief to talk about it? What would they both already know that they don’t even have to say out loud–because they are married and grieving over the same dead child?
      Great premise though. You found a great argument and followed it to an interesting, rich place.

    • Definitely agree with Maggie, starting with the small and almost petty arguments nearly always hides a bigger, deeply-seated reason to argue and you led to that very well! It felt like a natural crescendo.
      Not so sure about the little bits of telling in the dialogue where surely, Abigail would know what he means – like “Then she was killed in that accident” or, “You changed/ After what” just so you can lead to your “after Haley died” bit. Maybe try to weave in some more mystery for the reader and introduce her death very implicitly as both parties would know exactly what they are talking about…

    • Prince A.

      The build up was really great. I never thought of having dialogue unfold like a plot, which is the impression I get when reading your dialogue here. I definitely learned some things reading this piece.

    • Chae

      Very good at being objective and not picking sides. I like that.

  • Helaine Grenova

    “Do we have to go outside today? It’s
    like freezing out.”

    Mother glances at her whiney
    daughter Sydney and states bluntly “it is 50 degrees and sunny. We only need to
    go outside to pick the tomatoes. If you co-operate it will take all of five
    minutes then you can get back to you warm blanket and book. What are you reading

    “If you ever cared to pay attention
    to what I like, you would know that I am not reading anything right now. I am
    writing my newest short story. I announced that at breakfast today. If you paid
    a semblance of attention to me you would have known that.”

    “Well maybe
    if you stopped running your mouth all the time than I would pay attention to
    you. And maybe you shouldn’t be so hypocritical yourself. You had to ask me
    three times yesterday when the family reunion would be. Not that you care about
    seeing you grandparents again.”

    Sydney whines “you know that I love my grandparents but I don’t know them, like
    at all. They keep treating me like I’m five. I am nearly eighteen! When will
    people treat me like an adult? It’s like you guys don’t realize that I’m growing
    up. I do have some of my own ideas and such.”

    “I know
    that sweetheart, but it is hard for us to see you grown up. We ‘old people’ can
    remember when you were knee high to a grasshopper. To imagine you grown up
    after so few years…it is disconcerting. When did you grow up?”

    “I grew up
    one day while you were at work. You are never home anymore and Dad is gone. If
    you could be bothered to spend any time at home then you would know that I am
    growing up. Did you even know that I made first honors this quarter at school?
    Would you even care if you knew?”

    “Is that
    what this attitude is about? You think I intentionally stay at work and work
    long hours to avoid you? Well little missy I can assure you that that isn’t
    true. Not one little bit. I have to work long hours to keep you in clothes and
    shoes. It is expensive to buy you all of the latest technology and brands.”

    • Great start. It looks like you got to the real reason behind the argument near the end there–that the parents are working and never there. That could give you more to explore.

    • Prince A.

      I like the characters, especially of the teenager. The small argument builds and builds and we begin to see layers of who they are and what they really want. I saw what Sydney wanted more than what her mother wanted. My assumption is that the mother wants her daughter to stay young and listen to her. Overall, really nice read.

  • Marta

    “Are you seriously going to sit there and act like you didn’t hear me?”
    “Pretty much.” He said staring at his computer screen.
    “So, you don’t have anything to say to the fact that I’m leaving? Our marriage is ending? No questions, comments or concerns? Maybe that’s why it’s come to this you arrogant jerk.”
    “What is it you want me to say, Lexy? Arrogant? If anyone here is arrogant, it’s you. You don’t care what I need or want as long as I don’t get in the way of your “career”. Look, whatever. You just can’t stand that I’m not crying and begging you not to leave. If you want to leave, leave.”

    • His responses are great. What is he looking at on the computer? Could that enter the conversation? Would he even say too much to her or would he be entirely distracted by the computer?

  • “Jazz, I was…”

    “No, please, me first!”

    Laurent had shaved his beard, he looked just like the night of New Year’s Eve.

    “I have to tell you something and I know… I know it’s way too late but…”

    “Jazz!” Laurent grabbed her shoulders.

    “I am so sorry, I haven’t been your friend.. I haven’t, I just wanted you all to myself and…”

    “Jazz!” Reiterated Laurent with a smile. “I’m coming with you!”

    She froze.

    “I turned it down. I’m coming with you.”

    Speechless, she wiped her eyes and swallowed dry.

    “You… You did what?” she mumbled, struggling to process Laurent’s words.

    “It’s no big deal” he shrugged, “I’ll apply again next year!”

    She burst into tears. It was now or never. She pulled out the letter from her pocket and handed it to him. A perplexed look on his face, Laurent unfolded the paper.

    “What is…” he mumbled, his eyes scanning the page, confusion quickly turning into shock.

    “Jazz… Where did you find this?”

    She took a deep breath and explained everything. How she’d spent three hours fumbling in the dark and found the letter. How she’d kept it to herself and known all along that he had been accepted into Harvard, how she was so afraid of losing him and how she couldn’t lie any more.

    Laurent heard her out until she had nothing more left to say and then silence settled in. All around them, congratulations were being offered, screams of joy and pride, students sighing and tapping each other on the back, satisfied and hopeful for the future.

    “I was just your marionette…” he finally muttered, his eyebrows frowning like she’d never seen them before. “You manipulated me at your ease…”

    “Laurent please… I was just…”

    “I thought you were my friend! I fell in love with you for god’s sake! With your kindness, your compassion, your devotion and…” His voice was rising and a few heads turned to eavesdrop on their conversation.

    “I never meant to hurt you, I just couldn’t…”

    “You just couldn’t what? You couldn’t let me go but you did well enough watching me struggle for five months? You watched me, Jazz! You knew how important this was to me and I had to live every day not even knowing if I’d gotten in or not!” He crumpled the letter and threw it on the floor. “And you know why I didn’t know? Because I was waiting to open it with you, to share this moment with you!”

    Jazz’s eyes were filling with tears, she begged him for forgiveness but all he granted her with was a cold, livid look.

    “Let me just ask you one thing. Did it ever occur to you what could’ve happened if I hadn’t received the second letter? Did it…” He froze mid-sentence. “Oh my god… I turned it down… I turned it down to be with you, because I cared about you, I was
    ready to give up my future for you…”

    Jazz could barely catch her breath. Her mind was a maze and there was no way out. She was trapped, surrounded by high walls and no view of the sky. The barrage in her eyes had broken and water was now spilling out with force, blurring her vision. She tried holding Laurent’s hand but all her apologies were met with rejection.

    “Enjoy the ball. I’ve got a phone call to make”, he said and stormed out with further a due, leaving Jazz feeling sorry for herself.

  • Prince A.

    I enjoyed this post a lot and I spent maybe an extra 10min on the practice. Plus, I’ll probably be editing and correcting myself as a I am typing my work. Dialogue is somethings I’ve been wanting to work with. The argument is hopefully self-explanatory of their opposing sides.

    Jack is walking back into the cell where his friend Louie has stood at attention. Jack watches the guards walk away and then walks up to Louie.

    “I just talked with my contact. Get ready because in about 30 minutes the plan will be—”

    “No! Stop! Just call it off!”

    “C’mon! We’ve been through this, Louie. You aren’t meant to be here.”

    “Tell that to the man I killed.”

    “It was self-defense.”

    “That doesn’t make the blood on my hands any less red.” Staring at his own hands.

    “That guy was a fucking idiot to hold that gun up to you. He was trigger happy, not you.”

    “No, he was a security guard doing his job and I shot him.”

    “From where I was standing, he had it coming.”

    “His face is imprinted on my brain, Jack. Don’t you know what that means?! I can’t escape what I’ve done. I can’t escape this fate.”

    “Why are you doing this? I got arrested just to put this whole operation into the works. For you! Dammit! Do you here me, Louie? You are an innocent man.”

    “What if he had kids?”

    “You have kids! You have a wife. A life! And it’s not in here.”

    “I can’t face them. Not any of them. If I stay here, maybe I can atone for my sins.”

    “No. You’re coming with me, Louie.”

    “I deserve to be here.”

    Jack grabs louie by the collar and forces him against the wall.

    “You listen to me. In a few minutes, we will follow the escape plan and leave this hell. The fresh air may do you some good and help you think straight.”

    “I won’t follow you.”

    “I promised Mary I would bring her husband home. She needs you.”

    Louie struggling.

    “No. Shut up! I need to—”

    “If I have to, I will bring you by force. You hear me?”

    “Guards! Guards!”

    Jack punches the wall in anger.

    “Fuck you, Louie! FUCK YOU!”

    • Jennifer McGinnis

      This is intense. I really get the feelings of each character clearly. I could take either side, though being a law abiding citizen, leaned towards the not escaping side. 🙂 But as far as in a story, both sides were presented as equally valid, and I flipped back and forth between who I agreed with. Excellent.

  • tylergregory

    “I got it!” she said, waving the letter in her hand above her head.

    Mary turned from her desk and smiled a smile her daughter recognized with a sinking

    “Mom, it’s a full scholarship!” Carry said, her smile now gone.

    “That’s great, baby” She held out her hand and
    Carry sprang into her mother’s bedroom to hand the acceptance letter over.

    Carry watched her mother’s eyes reading each word with great care. Then the eyes rose from the letter to her daughter’s hopeful face.

    Mary took a deep breath, handed the letter back in silence.

    “What? Why aren’t you happy for me?”

    “Because New York City is five thousand miles away.”

    “Oh, please, really? That’s your answer? It’s one of the best dern schools in the whole dern nation!”

    “Carry, honey, you grew up on this farm. What do you know about taking subways and taxi cabs, and–”

    “You want me to spend my life in this little—“

    “I want you to just think for a second. How
    are you going to like living in a city of nine trillion people?” Do you have any idea how expensive New York is?”

    “Mom, I am not going to marry a goddamn farmer, and end up…”

    “Don’t you cuss!” Marry said.

    They stared at each other in a long moment of silence.

    “You are not going to end up like what?”

    “I am going to New York!”

    “You are going to do as your father and I—“

    “Elworth? You want me to go to Elworth, and what? What… study home eck? I hate it here!” Carry turned then and ran from the room, slowing just enough to slam the door behind her.

    The End…

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  • Jinx
    stared straight ahead with her hands clasped behind her back. Soldiers waited
    in patient lines around her — each perfect
    replicas in posture, attitude and buzz cuts. Well, except for her, of course.
    She wouldn’t let anyone come near her
    with a razor.

    “What’s this about, then?” Sergeant Jules

    She glanced down at him with a frown. “How
    would I know?”

    “Just thought you might have some inside info.”

    Jinx rolled her eyes to the ceiling, her
    lips compressing. So Pearce hadn’t been kidding about the rumours. When had that started? And why?

    “No, Jules. I know as much as you do.”

    She scanned the crowd again. Where was Pearce? Vanbuuren had summoned him
    hours ago.

    Jules interrupted her train of thought.
    “Hey, what you doing tonight?”


    “Tonight. What you doing?”


    “Before that.”


    “Between eating and sleeping.”

    She glared at him. “Why?”

    “Thought you might be up for a little… you
    know… rough and tumble.” Jules glanced up at her, eyebrows hopping
    suggestively. She tightened the grip on her wrist and inhaled through her nose.

    “Jules. The only action you’re ever going to get from me is when I take
    you to the surface and kick the living shit—”

    “Do you have something to share, Sergeant

    Her head snapped forward. A sea of faces
    turned back to look at her. General Standers had arrived. He was paused halfway
    up the stairs to the dais, eyebrows lifted in enquiry. A blush raced up her
    neck. She shook her head and he nodded, resuming his journey.

    Beside her, Jules snickered.

  • “It was enough last year, and the year before. “ Ace pushed away his bowl, frowning. “You want to buy a cow or something?”

    “No—” Ray bit off what he’d been going to say.

    His father took a breath that strained his shirt even further. Ace flinched, expecting a button to come flying off any second.

    “We need a big haul, because it’s going to be your buy-in.”

    Silence sank down between them. Ace blinked and rose to his feet. Ray surged forward, grabbing his wrist. He dragged Ace down until his stomach touched the top of his soup bowl.

    Ace had to force his words through gritted teeth. “I—won’t—do—it.”

    “You seem to think you have some sort of choice.” His father’s arm muscles twitched as Ace tried to retract his wrist, but he might as well have been trying to lift a car over his head. “You don’t.”

    “Of course—”

    Ray stabbed at the tabletop with his index finger. “While you live here, under my roof, eating my food, you follow my rules.” Muscles corded his father’s neck.

    “I refuse to work for that piece of shit tyrant—”

    “You earn three tokens a week, Ace. Three.” Ray held up three fingers.

    Did his father think he’d lost the ability to count?

    “What if something happens to me? Huh? How the hell are you going to take care of your mother?” Ray demanded.

    “I didn’t know she needed—”

    Ray’s fist slammed down on the table, rattling the crockery and cutlery. Ace was surprised there wasn’t a crack in the thick wood. When he looked up, his father’s face was ashen.

    “How dare you?” his father hissed. “She’s your mother, Ace. You know what they’ll do if she can’t pay rent.” Ray’s grip tightened, squeezed the bones in Ace’s wrist together. “You know what they’ll do to her.”

    Ace tried to keep anger from his voice. “You’re hurting me.”

    “I should be doing a lot worse, you ungrateful—”

    “What the hell are you two doing?” Selena demanded.

    They spun around to stare at her. She stood in the doorway, soap suds on her hands, her fair skin mottled red. “I said talk, not tear out each other’s throats!”

    Ray hastily released Ace. They both sank down in their chairs. Ray cleared his throat as he arranged the crockery. Ace wiped at his shirt where a few spots of soup dampened the cloth.

    His mother tipped her head toward Ace, staring at Ray. “Have you asked him yet?”

    “I was trying—” Ray began.

    Selena lifted her eyebrows and Ray stopped talking. She turned to Ace, her damp hands clutching her waist.

    “Your father wants to know if you’re interested in joining the military.”

    “No,” Ace said. His shoulders began to crawl. His father was no doubt subjecting him to a level ten death stare.

    “Well, there we go. Now Ace, help me—”

    “Ace is going.” Ray’s chair skittered out behind him and crashed into the wall. Selena jerked at the sound.

    His mother gave her head a small shake. “My love, I—”

    “Selena. I have spoken.”

    Ace turned back to his mother. His shoulders sank at her suddenly wide-eyed expression.

    “My love, we should talk—”

    “I have spoken,” Ray repeated.

    Ace slowly got to his feet, in case any sudden movements would trigger physical violence. Ray watched him, his hands curling up into huge fists. He tried a calm, reasonable tone on his father.

    “Pa, there’s a reason why—”

    Ray growled. Ace stopped talking and took a small step back.

    “I don’t care about your petty excuses, Ace. So what if the Leider’s corrupt? So is everyone else in this life. So what if he uses money to control us? I can’t live without it. Neither can you. Neither can your mother.”

    “Of course you can—”

    “I don’t care about your pathetic excuses. Because that’s all they are. Excuses.”

    “Ray…” Selena’s soft voice had no effect on his father.

    “Enough is enough, Ace. I’ve been scavenging every day of my life to find enough food for this family. Every single day I’m up there.” Ray stabbed at the ceiling. “Gone for days, weeks, trying to keep this family going. Every day since the two of you were born—”

    Selena gasped. Ace’s chest tightened, his breathing growing quick.

    “For you—” Ray started again, his lips quivering. He broke eye contact with Ace when he looked at Selena. “For your mother.”

    Selena ran from the kitchen. Her muffled sobs grew faint as she moved down the hallway. Ray sat down heavily. Sadness etched deep shadows in his face, ageing him.

  • R. Knight

    It sounded fun so I tried this exercise. I did have trouble defending both sides at the same time. Maybe it’s how my brain works, but I had to sympathize with Joan first and then go back and help Tom make his point:

    “Joan, look at me. I want you to see the real me.”

    “You mean look out into the darkness? And give you the faint impression that I am looking at you? Seeing you? Caring about you? I can’t see you, Tom. I can’t care about anything you say, you know that.”

    “I know, but still, I am talking to you so at least listen. I want you to be happy, I really do. I want to be happy, and I want you to be happy.”

    “No. You are selfish. You want me all to yourself. You haven’t even known me that long. And you’re not listening to me when I say this is over, which means you don’t actually care about my happiness, you just want to hear what you want to hear. You should let me go.”

    “I guess I’m not ready to. Maybe I’m hoping you would change your mind. Maybe I’m hoping there is this one secret tiny thing I could say or do that made you reconsider. A magic key to unlocking our relationship.”

    “What relationship? You have some abstract idea in your head about the sort of person I am, that is really just an image of the sort of person you wish I were. You don’t know anything about me.”

    “Yes I do. I do. I think I do.”

    “You think you do. That’s the problem. Please, Tom, let me go.”

    “I have. I just wanted to talk to you again. Even if you are only a memory.”

    “I know, Tom. Any time.”

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  • James R. R. Griffin

    “How could you be so selfish!”
    “Selfish?! Mom it’s MY education”
    “Well it’s our money and I won’t have you using it to follow some girl off to college when we could be sending you to U of M”
    “She isn’t just some girl mom we’ve been together for years”
    “See! You don’t even care about what college it is all you care about is her”
    “It’s a good college! It has a well rounded engineering program and great connections”
    “As great as U of M?”
    “No, but it is a good compromise between what I want”
    “A good compromise! I haven’t even had a say in the matter”
    “That’s because it isn’t your decision to make!”
    “Well I’m sorry that I care about you”
    “It’s not as if I’m leaving the country mom I’m only going to be a couple states away”
    “I just don’t think you will end up happy”
    “Just because you and dad didn’t work out doesn’t mean me and Jenny won’t”
    “Don’t you compare our marriage to you and your girlfriend who’ve barely known each other for three years”
    “It’s the same principle”
    “Would you marry her?”
    “Mom we’re getting off topic the point is I’m an adult now and I’m going to do what I want and that includes getting the education I want”
    “Then you can pay for it”

  • Chae

    “Do like Moses, let my people go.”

    “I’m atheist. Your people have homework to do.”

    “Please Mother. I’m practically begging you. I’ll be home by eight; I promise.”

    “There are things you need to learn in life Crystal. You may hate me now but later you’ll see.”

    “See what? The only thing I’m trying to see is a movie and you won’t let me go.”

    “Responsibility is more important than flaunting your stuff to boys.”

    “You gave it to me to flaunt.”

    “Don’t get smart with me kid. And besides, Grandmother spent a lot of time making us that lovely antique couch in there. Watch a movie here; much better than the stuffy theater anyway.”

    “Whatever- just- whatever. I’m so done.”

    “Tears? Really? Over that boy?”

    “That boy actually respects me.”

    “Goodness child. All I’m saying is finish your homework. There will be other days. Save your money for God’s sake.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Has he paid for you once? Your father did so much-”

    “Oh my God. You tried to use Dad against me. Wow I’m in shock right now. I’m leaving, not even because I want to but for the sake of our crumbling household.”



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  • Ana Felicia Prieto

    Dad and Daughter

    Daughter: Why don’t you trust me? I haven’t given you a single reason not to trust me since my last screw up!

    Dad: This isn’t up for discussion, I’ve already told you no.

    Daughter: This isn’t fair! I made one mistake and I have to suffer for it, but my sister makes the same mistake I had and she gets no punishment.

    Dad: This isn’t about your sister, this is about you. You know what you did and now you must endure the consequences.

    Daughter: How can I earn your trust back if you don’t give me an opportunity to it back. I’m going to school, I get decent grades – I am home every day and do nothing but take the garbage out. I’m doing everything you’ve asked of me and beyond. I’m not perfect dad, but neither are you.

    Dad: Enough! I have told you my say so this discussion is over, don’t bring it back up again. Go to your room young lady!

    Daughter: No.

    Dad: What did you just say?

    Daughter: I said no. I’m not leaving til you see my side of things. I was stupid and reckless, but you’re not the only one giving me a hard time about my mistake. I’m beating myself up every day because I didn’t listen to you. But I’ve learned to forgive myself so I can move one. It’d be best if you did the same. But Dad I can’t move in if you don’t let me.

    Dad: Don’t you think I want to move on? I want to but I can’t, because after everything you and that boy did and all the stuff that happened after, just thinking about it makes me angry. I can’t trust my own daughter to hang out with anyone but her family because if I let her go out the whole time I’m going to be thinking that she’s lying to me about where she’s at, whom she’s with and what she’s doing, I can’t let you be a teen because you wanted to be an adult and you decided to make the grown up decision to have sex and you ended up pregnant! But no only that both you and that boy game your word that you would do that, but you went behind my back and did it anyway. But not only that I ended up having to pick up the mess that boy left you in. And while my daughter is still mending a broken heart and grieving over a loss that BOY! Is running around Scott free making the same promise to another girl’s father, while I’m here making sure my own daughter doesn’t kill herself because of some selfish kid! It’s not that I don’t trust you – I just don’t trust anyone else with your well-being anymore, other than your mother and myself.

    Daughter: Dad you can’t protect me forever, I know your intentions aren’t anything but pure. But Daddy I’m going to get hurt no matter how hard you try, you can’t baby proof the world. You can’t teach me and guide me all you want but that doesn’t mean I won’t run into bad people along the road. You can let go now Daddy, just let go.