How to use the blog

Welcome to the Mastering Dialogue course blog!

If you are enrolled in the Mastering Dialogue Writing course, you can use this blog to publish your class assignments and other creative writing.

If you are not part of the course, you can find out more on Creative Writing Now’s online writing courses page.

Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to use the blog.

Just a few rules to keep in mind:

  1. Only post your own original work. You may publish your course exercises or your other creative writing. Please only post work that has not been previously published.
  2. Please do not use this blog for advertising or propaganda. Please do not include any links in your posts or comments.
  3. We reserve the right to remove or edit anything posted here. Please keep a backup copy of your posts.

Happy writing!

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“Am I adopted?” shouted Brian.  “Don’t try and evade my questions?  I want to know the truth.”

“I’ve always considered you my son,” said his mother. “Haven’t you always felt part of this family?”

“For God’s sake.  That’s not what I asked.  I’m not accusing you of child neglect.  I just want to know the truth.”

“Well, yes. You are,” said his mother quietly “but how did you find out?”

“Maisie told me.  She thought I needed to know.  She thought I should have a chance to talk to you before you died.  Apparently all the aunts and uncles knew and all the cousins. It seems I was about the only bloody person in the world who didn’t know.  How do you think that makes me feel?”

“Oh, Brian.  It was for your own sake,” said his mother.

“For my sake, Mother or for yours? How do you think it feels to find out at my age?  And were you ever going to tell me or were you going to die and let me go on believing this lie?” Brian put his head in his hands.

“Don’t be cross with me,” said his mother, tears coming into her eyes.  “I only ever tried to give you the best life I could and things were different then.  I was trying to protect you.  I didn’t want you to spend all your life wondering where you came from.  And your real mother didn’t come from a family like ours.”

“Don’t you think that should have been my decision? Didn’t you stop for one moment and think I had a right to know?  I don’t feel as if I have a family now.  It’s all built on a lie, isn’t it? And what about the girls?  All this time they have believed that you are their grandmother.  Lisa made a special trip to Denmark to research our ancestors.  Didn’t you feel even a little bit guilty about that? How do you think she will feel when she finds out?”

His mother grasped his hand.  “Oh, please don’t tell the girls,” she said, her voice quavering.  “They don’t need to know.”

Brian snatched his hand away and stood up.  He gazed down at his mother and shook his head slowly.  “You still don’t understand, do you, Mother?  Do you think I want to pass this betrayal on to another generation?  No. The lies stop here.”

Posted in Lesson 7 | Leave a comment

Foreign Fields

“OK. Now tell me,“ said Melanie. “You can’t keep me waiting any longer.” He had refused to tell her anything throughout their drive across the city and he had remained silent through the process of being shown to their table at the Beach Café. Then she had had to wait even longer while Nat ordered and the waiter poured their tall flutes of sparkling champagne. Now she was desperate to hear what he had to tell her.

Nat smiled at her across the table. “Well, honey,” he said. “You know how we always dreamed of living in Paris, how we used to imagine strolling along the Seine, wandering through art galleries and stopping by the market to pick up some cheeses and crusty bread on the way home?”

“Yes, I remember but it was never very realistic, was it, not once the girls came along?”

“But the girls are grown up now. What would you say if I said our dream could come true?”

“What do you mean?” stammered Melanie. “How could it? You’re retiring in two years.”

“Yes. I know but this opportunity has come up.” Nat’s eyes were shining. “The company wants me to go across and help Dale Edmonds to set up a branch in Paris. I wouldn’t be the manager. I’d just be there in an advisory role for a couple of years. As soon as Mike brought it up I thought of our dream. I know we are no longer young but we’re certainly not too old for the city of romance. I told him I’d have to talk to you about it but I knew what your answer would be. What do you think?”

Melanie swallowed hard. “That’s wonderful, darling,” she said trying hard to control the tremor in her voice.

“I knew you’d be thrilled. I couldn’t wait to tell you. Shall I say yes then?”

“Um.” She took a slow sip of her champagne. “Shall we just wait until the weekend so we can talk to the girls? And my mother. She might take a while to get used to the idea.”

“They’ll be over the moon,” said Nat. “What girl wouldn’t want to be able to pop over and visit her parents in Paris?” He raised his glass to her across the table. “Just think. This time next month we could be sipping coffee and eating croissants in Montmartre!”

Melanie forced herself to smile. “You’re right,” she said. “Davina’s been worrying herself sick about moving to Boston to college but she will learn to manage. She’s always relied on me too much and I suppose it will be good for her to be a bit more independent.”

“There you are then. And your mother can come and visit. So shall we give it a go?”

Mel pictured her increasingly frail mother who was too nervous to go to the mall on her own these days, terrified by news reports of attacks on the elderly. How would she manage to travel across the Atlantic on her own?

“Well?” said Nat. A slight note of doubt entered his voice.

Melanie looked at him. There was a new sparkle in his eyes and he was looking at her with such anticipation. Maybe it WOULD be good for Davina to find her own way.  Maybe her mother could come to Paris with one of the girls.  He had been such a great support to them all. How could she disappoint him now? “Yes let’s,” she said clinking his glass. “Here’s to Paris. Paris will be wonderful.”


Posted in Lesson 5 | Leave a comment

Now or Never

It’s now or never Zac thought as his parents stood up to leave. “Um, Mum, Dad. I’ve got something to tell you.“

“Yes, OK. Be quick or were going to be late,“ said his mother opening the door.

“I’ve decided to be a tattoo artist.“ Zac waited for the blast.

“Don’t be ridiculous,“ said his mother. “Do you think we sent you to Princedale so you could be a tattoo artist? That’s not a career. That’s a cop out.“

“But art is what I’m good at.”

“What sort of living do you really think you’ll make from tattooing? And what sorts of people will you be mixing with? Gang members? Bikies? Rap singers?“

Zac sighed. He just wished his mother would listen for once before she rubbished every idea he had. “What do you think, Dad?” He turned to his father. His father looked as if he would rather be somewhere, anywhere else.

“Your mother’s got a point, “he said glancing at his wife.

“Of course I have,“ said his mother. “Am I the only one with any sense around here? Can’t you at least offer a better suggestion, Jim? “

“You could come into the office to learn the ropes,“ said his father.

“Oh, Dad. You know I’ve always been hopeless at Maths. What sort of job could I do? Mail boy? The only thing I’ve ever been good at is art.”

“You can’t call tattooing art,“ his mother said.  “Ghastly things like skulls and hearts and anchors! Where’s the art in that?“

“It’s not like that now, Mum. All sorts of people get tattoos – models, sports stars. Tattoos are  fashionable.“

“Well, not amongst the people we know.“ His mother snorted.

“I took some of my designs into Elton’s Arcade and they really liked them. They said they were really original and they want to give me a trial. You liked them, Dad, didn’t you?“

His mother glared at her husband.  “I hope you haven’t been encouraging the boy!”

“Well there’s no denying he’s good at it. Maybe it’s worth a try.“

“Oh for goodness sake! You’re as bad as he is. We can’t talk about this now but this is not the last of this conversation, Zac. Think long and hard about this stupid idea. Maybe, by the time we see you on Sunday, you might have come to your senses.“

She swept out the door. Zac’s father looked at Zac, shrugged his shoulders helplessly and followed her out into the rain.

Posted in Lesson 6 | 2 Comments

No Future

“How about another glass of wine?” said Jason.  “I’ll order another bottle, shall I?”

“No thank you, said Sarah.” If she had to listen one more story about Jason’s project to restore his vintage Daimler, she would scream.

“Well, shall we go somewhere to dance then?  There’s a great club just around the corner.”

“I really don’t feel like dancing tonight.  I’ve had a particularly busy week.”

“Oh sorry. You must be tired after all that travel,” said Jason. “I should have realised you wouldn’t feel like dancing” He leaned forward and took her hands across the table. “Let’s just go back to my flat then, shall we?  I’d love to hear more about your job.  It sounds really exciting.”

“Thank you” she said withdrawing her hands “but I’d rather not tonight.”

“Why’s that?  Is it something I’ve said? Haven’t you enjoyed the evening?  Most people love coming to Barclays.”

“Jason,” said Sarah.  “The meal was delicious and you’ve been very generous but I would really like to go home now.  I will ask the waiter to order me a taxi.”

Posted in Lesson 4, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Second Thoughts

Matt had made his decision. He couldn’t believe he was actually going.  He felt sick at the thought of his parents’ reaction but he wouldn’t have to see their disappointment and he would return next year or maybe the year after and finish his studies.  He’d have to work a bit first so he could afford it but it was his choice, nobody else’s.

“Matt” he heard as he filled in time waiting for his flight to open.  “Where are you off to?”  It was Melanie, one of his tutors who had become a good friend.

“California,” said Matt.

“California?” said Melanie.  “How long are you going for? What about your course?  You’ve got research labs next week and you can’t miss those.”

“I’ve chucked it in,” said Matt feeling horribly embarrassed.  “I’ve had enough.”

“Why on earth would you do that.  Are you mad?”

“I’ve got no life. My mates are all flatting and earning money and having fun and I feel as if I do nothing but study.  It’s not worth it.”

Melanie’s eyes blazed. “Of course it is!  Do you think we haven’t all thought that at some stage? Do you think you’re the only one who’s got fed up with study?  Why on earth would you risk everything you’ve achieved?  What about the Matheson prize?  You’ve got a great chance of getting that this year and look what that would do for your career.”

“I know. I know,” said Matt. “I was really keen on winning the Matheson prize but my parents have been really getting to me.  They still treat me like a kid and I know I can never be as good as my perfect sister no matter how well I do. My mates are going to the US to go surfing and they’ve got a house on the beach. it’s too good an opportunity to miss.”

Melanie stood right in front of him, her hands on her hips.   She reminded him of all the help she had given him at the beginning of his course.  She counted off on her fingers the branches of Science his degree would give him access to.

“Do you want to be seen as a serious scientist or someone who gives up when the going gets tough?” she said. “Think about it Matt.  Use your considerable brain and think about what you are doing. I really rated you.  I thought you had a bit more backbone. And you’ve decided to throw it all in and go surfing with your no-hoper mates? What an absolute waste!” With that, she turned and stormed off without even saying goodbye.

Matt was stunned.  He really liked Melanie and she had gone out of her way to encourage him.  Slowly, he shook his head.  Then he picked up his bag and walked towards the exit.  She was right.  He would be an idiot to give up now and, if he stuck it out, especially if he got that Matheson prize, he would have plenty of opportunities to travel in the years to come.  He only had to last another six months after all.

Posted in Lesson 3 | Leave a comment

Growing Pains

Sam and Mary could hear the booming music as they pulled up outside the house. They could feel the vibrations of the drum beats as they opened the front door.  Mary looked round apprehensively, half expecting old Mr Dawson next door to burst out of his house waving his fists and shouting.

“Jake,” shouted Sam.  “Turn that down.  Now.”  He thumped on Jake’s door then threw it open.  “How many times…….” he yelled but he never finished that sentence.  “Oh my God,” he gasped.  “What on earth have you done?”  He strode into the room and flicked the switch on the amplifier plunging the room into silence.

Jake put down his guitar and his face fell.  “Don’t you like it?” he said.  “You’re always telling me to take more pride in my room and to get rid of all the junk and that’s what I’ve done. I think it looks cool.  So does Brad.”

“I’m not interested in what Brad thinks,” snapped Sam. “He doesn’t have to live here. Who gave you permission to paint your room purple?  Didn’t you think it might be a good idea to ask first?”

“I thought I’d give you a surprise,” said Jake fighting back tears.  “I thought you’d be pleased.  You always say you want me to do more around the place.  I’ve cleared out all my old books and toys and given them to the kids next door.  And next weekend Brad’s going to help me paint an old desk that his Mum said I could have for under the window.  We’re going to do each drawer a different colour.”

“Sam,” said Mary putting her hand on his arm, “we did tell Jake to tidy up.  And it does look a lot cleaner.  All those tatty posters have gone and there’s so much more space.”

“Yes, but purple?” spluttered Sam.  “It’s like a cave in here.  Who in their right mind would choose purple? And imagine what it will be like getting rid of the stuff when we want to repaint.”

“Well, it might not be our first choice but it’s Jake’s room.  I think you’ve made a great job of it, Jake and you must have worked hard all weekend to get it finished.  It’ll be great to have a desk for your homework. She turned to Sam.  “And let’s not worry about when we repaint.  It might not be for years.  Come and have a cup of tea.”

Posted in Lesson 2 | Leave a comment

Driver Beware

Megan slammed the door of the Norton’s Haulage office as she left.  She couldn’t wait to get home and think about something other than work, work, work.  She loved her job but, at times, she felt like everyone’s mother.  Why’s that truck late, Megan?  Have you checked on the mileage stats, Megan?  Do you know where the Morgan Brothers file is?  Can you just take care of this for me, Megan?  Honestly, these big burly men were more like two-year-olds at times.

Megan hefted up the box of files she was taking home to sort for the archives and set off for her car.

“Gidday, Megan,” called a voice.  One of the truck drivers was coming out of the yard gates.

“Do I know you?” she asked.

“Well, we did meet when I came in to pick up my application form,” said the man, “but I guess you get plenty of guys coming in and out of the office. I’m Steve, the new guy.  I started on Monday.”

“OK.  Nice to meet you, Steve,” said Megan briskly.  “I guess I’ll see you round.”  She carried on but Steve came up beside her.

“Let me take that box for you.  It looks heavy.”

“Thanks but I can manage,” said Megan walking faster.  “My car’s just down here.”

“Bet you’re pleased it’s Friday,” persisted Steve.  “Got any plans for the weekend?  Heh, you don’t fancy going to the stock cars with me tomorrow night do you?  I’ve got a couple of tickets.  We could grab a bite to eat beforehand.”

“Thank you, Steve but I don’t go out with any of the drivers,” said Megan firmly.

“I heard you went out with Greg,” said Steve.  Megan stopped and faced him.

“Well you shouldn’t believe all you hear.  Talk about women being gossips!  This place is full of it.”

“It wasn’t gossip.  Greg told me himself,” said Steve.

“Yeah?  Well Greg is a louse.  Now you know why I don’t go out with drivers,” snapped Megan.  “Do you think I want all you guys comparing notes?  Now, if you don’t mind, I just want to get home.”

Steve stood, open-mouthed, as she hurried away then shrugged his shoulders and walked back the way he had come.

Posted in Lesson 1 | 1 Comment

Mastering Dialogue Lesson 1

“Hi Babe,” he said deeply and charismatically, one shoulder leaning against the frame and his hand hooked onto his hip. He looked barely over 16 years old, still with a pimpled face but a body just emerging into its full masculinity.
Oh god, Kim thought. Here I am stuck at the bus stop and I have to deal with this.
“What’s your name?” he let his eyes wander up and down her body while he grinned from ear to ear. He didn’t even try to hide his leering.
“Ahhh, um, Kim.” She couldn’t help but be polite. She felt sorry for him yet uncomfortable and annoyed at the same time.
“Hi Kim. I’m Steve.” He leered at her. “I live on Watson Street.”
“Oh, that’s nice. What a nice place to live,” Kim tried to be as bland as possible. Why do we have to be so kind?
The bus stop, she noticed, was full of kids like him, but younger. Help would soon be on the way.
“Stevey, Stevey….”laughed a man, coming to her rescue. “We need to form a line over here, to wait for the bus. Please don’t bother this nice young woman.” And he gently swung Steve around by the shoulders while the man, the caregiver, mouthed an apology to her.

Posted in Lesson 1 | 1 Comment

Lesson 1

Finally, the event at the university Alyssa worked at was over and she gingerly slipped into her brown coat, slinging the fluffy blue and white scarf around her. She imagined putting her feet up on her couch and sipping a nice cup of tea before getting to bed.

Opening the door of the conference centre, she realised that it had started drizzling during the course of the evening. Pausing, she took a deep breath and then stepped outside into the crisp fall night and enjoying the light mist on her face. Walking through the dark streets, she let each detail of the event go through her mind, making mental notes on items to follow up the next morning at work and to prepare the post mortem for her meeting with her director.

Deep in thought, Alyssa did not notice that one of the guests of the congress had called out to catch her attention and jogged over to catch up with her. When she finally heard her name, Alyssa glanced over her shoulder. She saw this Mike/Martin or Marvin guy jog toward her, his open coat billowing out behind him. What the heck was his name again? She remembered that they had been introduced and she had briefly talked to him, before finding an excuse to get away. Conceited, that was it, Alyssa thought. That’s what she didn’t like about him.

Mike, or something like that, was impeccably dressed in his navy blue suit, light blue dress shirt and purple tie. His shoes were reflecting the street lamps on the side of the road.

‘Ugg, he is trying too hard. NO, his name is Marvin, right,’ she mused. Marvin, ticked none of Alyssa’s boxes for attractive men. He was an average looking guy, thin hair and being too concerned with his appearance. But worst of all he had a beard. For the life of her, Alyssa could not explain what it was with beards that she did not like. It was an instant turn off for her. Aside from that, this guy had this condescending tone when the two of them spoke.

Slightly panting, Martin reached Alyssa. “Alyssa, Alyssa, wait! Did you not hear me calling out for you? I called three times. I wanted to ask you if I could walk you offer a ride home? But now I see you are walking. I..”

“Oh no, that is really not necessary,” interjected Alyssa. “I quite enjoy the walk right now. Good time to relax after this long day, right?” Alyssa fidgeted and picked up her speed a bit. Feeling the need to be polite she added, “did you enjoy the congress?”

“Oh yes, I did. It was a nice enough event. Would you mind if I walked you home? I had really hoped we could have chatted a little bit longer earlier at your organization’s booth. Too bad your manager sent you on an errand, right?”

Did he just wink at her? How do I get rid of him?’ Alyssa thought. “Oh no, that is quite alright. As I said, good time to wind down. And..”

“Listen, Alyssa,” Mike interrupted. “I was wondering if you wanted to go for a drink tonight or maybe sometime this week. I thought we had instantly clicked earlier  and I wanted to get to know you a bit better. ”

“Uhm, really? Oh. Thanks. I am just really busy right now and simply exhausted at the end of the day. Sorry.”

“But what about the weekend?  That would work better, right? I know this really nice restaurant in downtown with live music on the weekends,” Mike trailed off.

‘Self-confident much, huh?’ thought Alyssa. ‘He did not get the hint. Not one bit.’

“Sorry, it was Michael, right? I am sorry, this was a crazy night and I didn’t catch your name right.”

“Yes, yes, you were right. Michael it is. But my friends call me Mike,” Mike smiled at her.

“So Mike, sorry, that was nice of you, but I really have to get going now. It’s late. I don’t even know you. It was nice to meet you. Have a good night.” Alyssa tried to hurry away, but Mike caught her wrist and swung her back around. “Alyssa wait. I, …”

Alyssa snapped “Hey, let me go!” she snatched her hand back. “Take your hands off me.” I said no, did you not get the hint?”

As few passers by started noticing their conversation, Mike let go of Alyssa’s hand. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you. I just want to walk you home and…”

“No Mike, sorry!” Alyssa remarked sharply. I’ll be fine by myself. Good night.” Without awaiting his reply she hastily ran away and caught up with other people walking down the road. At an intersection, Alyssa hopped onto the next bus and when the doors had closed she fell into the next empty seat, her heart pounding.

Posted in Lesson 1 | Leave a comment

Mastering Dialogue, Lesson 1, Exercise 2

Jessica walked down the street with long strides, kicking up the dry leaves with every step. Just a few minutes ago, she had left the office for the day and looked forward to meeting her sister Joyce at the new Aftermath Lounge & Bar for a relaxing drink. As she rounded the last corner onto High Street, she all but collided with a short, rotund man, barely keeping her balance.

„Sorry,“ she exclaimed.

„Watch where you‘re going, woman!“ shouted the man, red in the face, with an angry voice. Then he looked at her and did a classic double take. „Is that you, Jessica?“ he asked incredously. „Jessica Snyder! I almost didn‘t recognize you. It‘s Barney, Barney Blunt! I haven‘t seen you in ages! How do you do?“

Jessica had stopped in her tracks when he adressed her so familiarly. Barney Blunt? She couldn‘t place the name nor the face. Who was he?

„I‘m sorry, I don‘t recognize you, Mr. Blunt,“ she replied cautiosly.

„Ow, come on, Jessica! Don‘t you remember? I was always hanging out with Joyce, Mary, John and the others!“ Now he looked expectantly at her.

Suddenly she remembered a rather short and thickset boy, hanging around her sister‘s clique, somewhat younger than they and rather unprepossessing with pimples and stringy hair. He hadn‘t improved much, she thought.

„Ah, yes, now I remember. You were always hanging around Joyce and her friends when we were in highschool.“ That sounded rude, she noticed. „How are you?“ she added, and immediatly whished she hadn‘t. Even back then, she couldn‘t abide him.

He beamed. „Well, I say, I have done rather well lately. You know, flipping houses. There is really money in that, good money. I just bought another house, back there on Maple Way,“ he boasted. Maple Way was an expensive neighborhood only a few blocks from where they were standing.

“Uh, that’s nice. Sorry, I have to go. Nice seeing you!” she tried to end the conversation and get away from him. Suddenly he grabbed her arm. She shrank back and he let go immediately.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you. But I want to invite you for dinner, like, to celebrate… how about tomorrow evening, at Carlisle’s” he stated pompously, naming the most expensive restaurant in town.

Shaking her head, Jessica took a step sideways, trying to pass by him. “No, thank you. I have other plans,” she replied. “Good bye!”

“Wait! What about another day? Jessica, please!” Now he sounded whiny.

“Sorry, no. Like I said, I have other plans,” she repeated. She really did not want to go out with him, but he insisted again. Now his voice had an unpleasant low, nasal tone and his eyes had a cold glint.

“Come on. It’s only dinner. Or are you so high and mighty nowadays that you snub an old friend like this?” Although he hadn’t raised his voice, he sounded downright menacing.

Jessica had gotten angrier with each word. She gritted her teeth. Who did he think he was? Controlling her irritation, she took a deep breath.

“Barney, I’m not going out with you. Please leave me alone. Bye.” She turned and started to walk away.

“Didn’t change at all, like back then. Arrogant bitch. Some day, you will regret this, I swear,” he muttered angrily as he stared after her.

At first, she went by the Aftermath Lounge & Bar, looking back over her shoulder. When she couldn‘t see him any longer, she turned and slipped through the door.

Alex S., Nov. 2nd, 2017

Posted in Lesson 1 | Leave a comment