Write 400-500 words of dialogue between two people who know each other well. Come up with, and think through, a subtext behind what they are saying to each other. These two people may be related, colleagues, friends, enemies or romantically entwined. They produce alternating utterances. They don’t have to be just one sentence long, but avoid protracted soliloquies. Have them talk to each other.
Write nothing else: no designators, description, stage directions, narratorial interjections. Skip all introductory pleasantries unless they serve a purpose. Have your characters say only what your reader needs to read. They don’t necessarily need names – call them “X” & “Y,” or “he” & “she,” if you like.
This dialogue may be entirely fictional, or you might base the dialogue on an actual conversation (either between you and someone else, or that you overheard between two other people) connected to a strong memory or an important moment in your life. It can be in the real world or online.
This is a dialogue composed of multiple conversations my father and I have had as well in real-life as online. It consists mostly of things my father has said without doubt, little is invented. My father always has an opinion ready, but he wants the best for me and for me to do my best. I tried to depict this. As they somehow always come up, the issues of nationality and ‘independent’ European women are present. I didn’t explicitly state what nationality he is to make the reader look up the ethnic terms. I think it’s worthwhile to learn things about another culture. The ethnic terms are not translated because my father doesn’t translate them – we speak three languages at the same time. The relationship between him and my mother is not explicitly stated to keep the reader guessing. My responses resemble my real life responses: short unless necessary.
Dialogue: ‘Padayon Lang’
“Look, I haven’t read your book, but it seems like you are holding on too much to the past. We have a saying: ‘Padayon lang’. Move on. You are getting back on your feet. There are so many possibilities out there for you. Go travel the world, go live somewhere else for a while. You have the discipline, but you have to change your mindset.”
“M-hm. I had the plan of finishing my studies and then working for a while, pay off my debt.”
“Gouda at first, then, after my debt, Butuan, Davao.”
“Like your mother.”
“No, not like mom. I’d be working as a teacher, not a missionary.”
“It’s good to have a job in your twenties. The prime of your life. After my studies I had an agricultural planning job in the North. Good money. Got to travel in South-East Asia.”
“Yes, I remember you telling this to me. A good reward after breaking your back during your studies.”
“Anyway, when you have a job the girls will come. I don’t know how it is between you and your girl – whether you are serious. If you are, go make a team. Do it together. Build something. Look at your mom. With all respect to Dutch women, the way they handle relationships is preposterous. They always want to be ‘independent’. You are stronger together, that’s a fact.”
“I know. I have dated Dutch women for more than half of my life, you know.”
“Why do you think men from Western Europe go to Asia to find women?”
“I don’t know. They like the culture?”
“It would be an interesting topic to explore. Another topic to explore is ‘Why are Asian men not very successful marrying an European lady?’”
“Look, it’s a matter of taste, as well as a culture gap. Do you want someone who always does as you say or someone with a mind of their own?”
“What I’m saying is: Explore. Expand your boundaries. You can eat boerenkool all your life or you can try adobo manok. Pangsit. Cassava cake.”
“Okay, okay, I get it. I’ll make plans. But finishing my studies is the first thing on my list. After that, painting. I have already travelled a good deal, it’s not a priority anymore. I’d rather explore what’s inside. By the way, talking about the inside, I liked Siddharta. Do you have any other good books to lend to me?”
“I have some by José Rizal, the great rebel. Noli me Tángere and El Filibusterino. Here. Return them the next time we see each other.”