Daily Challenge: Is Experience a No-Show?


Image: RikScott


Today’s title may be a bit misleading.  Ah, well.

This is one of those days where the spiders and mice who live in my head haven’t had their coffee yet, so as Jefferson Airplane once said in ballad of Alice and the White Rabbit, “…and your mind is runnin’ slowwwww.”

Nonetheless, let’s chat about Narration, Description, Action and Dialogue.  Take a deep breath.

If we believe in the “Rules of Writing”—something I find myself shying away from little by little, we will remember the old saw about showing instead of telling.

The “rule” makes a kind of sense.

You can say “…they fought in divorce court”, or you can detail the battle, bringing in the sights, sounds and smells of the court.  Which would be better?  I think it would depend upon whether you want to keep the action high, or if you think detail more important in your story.

Today’s challenge is to rise above narration and description altogether.  What?  Yes.  It can be done, and you’ve probably done it yourself in the past without noticing. 

The way?  Dialogue.  All dialogue.  Just dialogue. 

I’ve taken—as an example—the liberty of tacking on one of my (very) short stories, Amber Alert below.  It is done entirely in dialogue.  You decide if it gets the job done.

Note: For those of you reading outside of the US, an “Amber Alert” is a media notification of the abduction of a child, the purpose of which is to get the population looking for the child.  You will see I’ve taken some liberties with the concept.


Amber Alert

“She’s just a little girl!”

“I know, honey, I know”

“We’ve got to do something!”

“I called the sheriff.  I told him–”

“–What did he say?”

“He said he had every deputy available out looking.”

“They’ve got to find her in time.  Oh, God, honey, what are we going to do?”

“Just…  Just… I don’t know.  It’ll be OK.  I–”

“Do you promise?  Do you promise we’ll find her?”

“We’re doing… we’re ALL doing everything we can.”

“But she’s just a little girl!  How… how is it possible?”

“I don’t… I just don’t know.”

“Oh, God!  There’s the phone.  Maybe it’s…  Answer it, please.  I can’t–”

“–it’s all right.  I’ll get it.  Hello?  Yes.  Speaking.  What?  Could you repeat–”

“Oh, Jesus, what?  What is it?”

“Shhh.  Yes, Sheriff, I’m here.  Would you repeat…  They did?  Oh, thank God.  And she’s all right?  I can’t tell you how much…  yes.  I’ll tell her.  Tha–  yes.  I’ll be sure to tell her.  When?  Good.  No, we’ll be here.  Any time at all… well, the sooner the bet–  yes.  Yes sir.  Thank you so much.”

“They found her?  She’s all right?”

“Yes, dear.  She’s fine.  Your mother’s fine.”

“And that horrible little girl?  That twisted little, what’s her name…?”


“That ugly little girl.  Did they get her?”

“No.  She got away.  I think she shot a deputy…. they say he’ll live.”

“But Mom?  She’s OK?”

“Yes, honey, your mother’s safe now.  That’s one victim Amber couldn’t hold on to.”


Again, today’s challenge is to convey a situation, some action, some story, through the less conventional method of using dialogue only.

I’d be happy to see your results.


7 responses to “Daily Challenge: Is Experience a No-Show?

  1. Well, I wonder if I’ll step over the line on this one. Not sure whether it will work; i.e. if you’re idea is to turn us all into playwrights. After, all that genre has it’s own do’s and don’ts too.

    “So you think you’re a philosopher”

    “Well, I’m not an academic teacher like you are, but yes. And at the moment I’m reading ‘Fleeing the Universal’.

    “And what might that be about?”

    “Oh! it’s a critique of post-modernism, or post rationalism. I’m really enjoying it because it gives this guy’s opinion about all the philosophers from Kant, through to my favorite writer of literary criticism, Christopher Norris. It even talks about what William Blake was really about.”

    “Well, I subscribe to the Frankfurt School myself. We have found that it is vital to adhere to the syntax and other grammatical functions, so that our choices in dialogue and debate can be measured and result in communicative action that is best for everyone.”

    “Well, this book points out that we haven’t really escaped logocentrism, and that means that even those who call themselves atheists, while preaching such theories and ideologies are actually basing their philosophies on a foundational basis in a metaphysical or hypostasis of their own making. Even Carl Jung’s thesis of the World Soul, is but one of many attempts to ‘secularize’ what was once adhered to as the belief in a Christian God. And Marxism, then, as an ideology, does precisely that as well.”

    “Are you saying that the Communicative Action theories that I have asked you to read is merely a logocentric ideology? Do you not understand that this is science.”

    “That’s what this man is saying. There is always a metaphysic underlying the particular sciences. Philosophy, to be true philosophy would have to seek only for the umbrella in which the interaction of all of the particulars could be held in mind for circumspection, and possibly more dialectical development.”

    “In other words, the philosopher, should be seeking to know God, but not to become God, or assume that the foundation contains all of the parts?”

    “Well, for me, the task is difficult enough just to try to know myself”.

    “Well, you should consider Habermas, and Critical Theory a bit more closely.”

    “Well, I’ve read up on poetic interaction too. And I kinda prefer that. Although now I realize that poetry and philosophy are still at loggerheads as far as truth is concerned”.

    “Philosophy is the answer, not poetry.

    “I didn’t say I was a poet. I just have pretensions in that direction. The self and the personal over the theory and the scientific”.

    “Well I have found your theories particularly disturbing. Especially your irony. You don’t belong at this university, because you will not align yourself with any of the course positions. I think you should talk to the Registrar about your course options.”

    “Actually, I think not. If I’m going to be thought insane, I think I’ll do it within my own head, and not get involved with psychiatric theories, or any other person’s theories or answers about what is absolute again, whether it be happiness, Spirit, or what not.”

    “You’re a hopeless case.”

    “That at least I have come to understand. It is such a good thing to know, because it gives one such incentive.”

    “Don’t forget your book. The bookmark indicates that you haven’t quite finished Habermas.”

    “Thank you, Mr. Professor. In any case, I doubt whether I could convince you of what I did or did not understand, in any event.”

    “That is true. You are certainly not a potential writer of philosophical text.”

    “Thank you very much, Mr. Professor”.

  2. Wheew! You’ve hit me ‘where it hurts’. You know that post above about the girl was one of the first of your pieces that I read. I decided right then and there that you were ‘a good writer’ and ‘one I would like to read’. Now, I have to go and think of some action. You’ve really got me working here. You’re just what I need, maestro!

  3. “Heather, what’s that smell?”

    “I don’t smell anything, mom. Didn’t you just put in the laundry.”

    “Yeah! But I’ve got dinner on. Have to get upstairs. Tell me when the dryer stops”.

    “Where’s Paws and Whiskers?”

    “Aren’t they in your room with you there?”

    “Nope. Whiskers is still in his recluse mode. Probably gone somewhere to hide again.”

    “Well, there’s Paws. He’s at the top of the stairs.”

    “Gees. I can smell it now too. What have you done. Did you put some of your dirty socks in the dryer.”

    “Don’t be funny. I used soap.”

    “Well, I think maybe you should check the dryer”.

    “Do you think it’s leaking gas or something?”

    “Well, you never know.”

    “Well, OK.”


    “Heather, come here. Did you put something black in with the dryer. You know you’re not supposed to mix the colors with the whites. Come here.”

    “OK. Let me look. But close the door. The stink is incredible”.

    “O mi gad. It’s not my socks. We’ve found Whiskers.”

  4. Black in the dryer.
    This makes me appreciate even more what a good writer you are….

  5. Ahhhh! I can do it. Sorry it was grisly. I just did it on what popped up in my head. And that was an action I’ll not forget. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m so glad that push has come to shove!!!!

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