Exploring the art of fiction


Tag: Dialogue

The Caregiver by Bernard Grant

  “Can you get to Heaven with broken teeth?” Louis asks Margaret. “Sure can,” Margaret says, as she yanks his dresser drawer, derailing the shelf and spilling clothes onto the floor. Two hours into her shift, already exhausted and dreading…

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My Heart Goes Out by Amanda Bloom

  Fred was a runner, so it’s been hard to keep him still. Now we’re both still, save for his tremors. A once-in-a-lifetime athlete, they called him. And not that he didn’t run fast, he did, but Brewster was a…

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Delaware by James Davidson

  Amy had never noticed it before. It might have just appeared during the night, but it was so innocuous, it could have been waiting there, unobserved, for years. This childish symbol, something like a diamond with rays emanating from…

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Winters by Marilyn Hope

  “You’re a spring now,” says Hee-Bon, wintering Soo-Na’s complexion with a chilly setting powder. “Pink undertones, freckles—lot of sun in you. And I love your hair. Mom’s going to hate it. Why’d you dye it so bright?” Because her…

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The Knife Intifada by Dewaine Farria

  The night sky above the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shufat burned with magnesium. Sizzling flares swayed to the earth on tiny parachutes, trailing smoke tendrils like a demon’s nostrils. Yaccoub leaned over his elbow onto the ambulance’s open windowsill,…

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Passing by Thaïs Miller

  I. Jason On the brink of Armageddon, I find myself in Stark County, drinking. We’re underground in a bunker, a former stockroom in the basement of a grocery store that’s been converted into a wartime bar. Patrons, in their…

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Heart Trouble by Rex Adams

  The nurses, cafeteria workers, surgeons, Harold, they all irritated Darla. So did the old man in the room next door. He was dying, had been for days. Family kept streaming out of the elevator, stomping down the hallway and…

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Author’s Note

Every now and again I get lucky and a story just falls out of my head onto the page. Sure, there is work to do after the initial draft, but the structure, characters, dialogue, setting—these elements remain the same.

“Heart Trouble” is not one of those stories. It took me nearly a decade to complete, and what remains looks nothing like it did when I started. I told the story from different points of view and in a variety of settings. I abandoned Darla and Harold many times, frustrated and certain I couldn’t work the necessities out.

But Darla wouldn’t abandon me. During much of this period I worked on the road, away from my family. I’d be crashed out in a single-wide trailer in North Dakota, or chasing a paving train down the highway in the middle of the night, and Darla would show up, demanding my attention.

I went back to work. I found Darla and Harold in the VA Hospital in Seattle. The story suddenly felt true, so I continued on. “Heart Trouble” was a mess. It blew up to over fifty pages. I cut, revised, cut some more. I threw in a suicide scene, which was a heavy-handed attempt at squeezing out a tear, so I cut again. The title changed a number of times. Once in a while I’d give Darla and Harold a break, but I knew I’d return to them, that I would finish their story.

This decade of work taught me that I can’t always dictate a story’s direction. Sometimes I have to turn the characters loose and just pound away at the keys, knowing that much of what I’m putting down will get trashed. This is particularly true with dialogue. When I let the characters talk freely, without interruptions from me, the dialogue has a chance at authenticity. I always end up with an excessive amount of needless banter, but hopefully I’ll have enough skill and insight to whittle away until I find the good stuff.


REX ADAMS grew up on a farm and ranch outside of Coulee City, Washington. He makes his living in the construction industry. His stories have appeared in Sky Island Journal, Confrontation, the Writers in the Attic: Song anthology, BULL: Men’s Fiction, and elsewhere. His fiction recently received nominations for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. He lives near Marsing, Idaho with his wife and two young daughters.