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Wednesday Writing Exercise

March 19, 2014

“In life, it’s rare that we truly are able to listen and find someone who will listen to us. And yet it’s unusual to find the more common phenomenon – inattention – appearing on the page. Generally, in fiction, one character speaks, and the other listens, and, having listened and understood, replies.”

Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer

Write a passage in which two characters are speaking at cross-purposes without really listening to the other. Here are some scenarios you might try:

  • an office meeting
  • children in a schoolyard
  • two strangers on a bus
  • a dinner party
  • a couple in a car

I didn’t use any of these scenarios for my own attempt: 

‘This should hold you for a couple of weeks.’ I dump the bags of groceries onto my uncle’s kitchen counter and start putting them away.
Larry’s slouched, beer in hand, on his ratty couch  in front of the TV. ‘Get a load of this arsehole,’ he growls.
Briefly I glance at the screen, where the prime minister is holding a press conference announcing the deployment of fresh troops to Afghanistan. ‘I got those oven chips you asked for.’ I open the freezer door. ‘You haven’t touched these peas and carrots.’
‘When I was a young man we were out in the streets, protesting war.’
I run a butter knife under the hot tap and start chipping the packet out of the ice it’s trapped in. ”I’m going to cook these veggies for your lunch, and then I’m going to stay here to watch you eat them.’
‘No you’re not.’
‘That wasn’t a question, Larry.’

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