Lunch conversation between friends

As I mentioned before, I am trying to work on my dialogue-writing skills.  I asked for suggested scenarios.  Painted Maypole suggested a lunch conversation between friends. 


“We try to minimize the time our kids spend in the stroller.”

“Really,” Clarabelle said.  “Why is that?”

Annie took a generous sip of her Diet Coke.  “Oh, that’s just something we’re committed to as parents.”

Clarabelle glanced at her friend for a moment.  She had two choices here.  She could smile halfway, hand Walter a roll, and change the subject.  Or, she could take the bait.  She took the bait.  She almost couldn’t help herself.

“But, why?  Why would you want to limit their time in the stroller?”

“It’s just how we’ve decided to raise them,” Annie replied.  “Our values.”

Clarabelle and her husband owned three strollers at this point.  There was the little umbrella stroller, which they kept folded in the trunk of the car for visits to relatives or occasional trips to the mall.  It didn’t get much use because proximity to the mall made Clarabelle start itching all around her neck.  They had originally planned on using only this one stroller, but it had certain significant drawbacks.  The wheels were small, catching on the broken neighborhood sidewalks, and there was no tray, so Walter, who preferred his vegetable al fresco, had no place to put his broccoli as they made their way through town.  And—by far the biggest drawback—the basket was tiny.  Really, you could fit just the rain cover and a few diapers.  There was no space for groceries.

Hence, the second stroller.  This one had larger wheels and a giant basket underneath.  It suited their lifestyle perfectly.  It was heavy as the dickens, but since they spent so little time in the car, it never got folded or taken anywhere.  Clarabelle would load Walter into the stroller after breakfast, tucking cups and various forms of produce into the handlebar area, and head out for the morning.  Throughout the morning, she would scatter slices of apple or chunks of sweet potato on the tray in front of him; in his preoccupation with the passing cars and approaching dogs, he never noticed he was consuming foods he usually tossed onto the kitchen floor.  They would go to the playground, stop to pet various forms of canine, and return books to the library.  Along the way, Clarabelle would get muffins at the bakery, pop into the post office, and load up on groceries.  By the time they got home for lunch, the basket had put in a good morning’s work.

The third stroller, a second hand jogger they had bought from the neighbor for $10, was pretty much useless in terms of dropping off the dry cleaning because it had no basket, but it came in handy during heavy snows.  Even inclement weather did nothing to break their stroller habit.  So, Clarabelle was really confused.  Why would someone intentionally limit such a benign activity?

“But why?” she asked.  “What’s wrong with the stroller?”

“Nothing,” her friend reassured her.  Annie was half talking to Clarabelle, half trying to keep Kimmy from dipping her fingers into the remains of her Caesar salad.  “If that’s how you choose to raise your children.”  Annie began wiping butter out of her daughter’s hair.  “It’s just not what we want for our kids.”

Clarabelle was approaching somewhere between defensive and panicked.  Was there something really wrong with the stroller?  Had she missed some crucial piece of medical research explaining that more then 20 minutes a day of stroller time would lead to dandruff and halitosis in later life?  Should Walter be walking everywhere on his own?  This would really present a problem, as he couldn’t even walk across the kitchen on his own yet.

“But WHY?” Clarabelle asked, in exasperation.

Annie looked at her friend kindly, clearly hesitant to break the news to someone so naïve to the subtleties of proper child rearing.  “Strollers create a gap between parent and child,” she told her friend.  “They break the bond and stymie attachment.  We try to wear our children wherever we go.”

“Doesn’t that hurt after while?” Clarabelle asked.

“Oh, not for us.  We’re used to it.”  Annie fished through her wallet, pulling out a few bills and handing them to the waiter.

As the friends said goodbye at the curb, Annie turned to unlock her mini-van door.  “Do you want a ride?” she asked, as she strapped Kimmy into her car seat. Clarabelle had Bulky Stroller number two with her, but there was plenty of room in the back for it. 

“Oh, I prefer to walk,” replied Clarabelle.  “It’s just something I’m committed to as a parent.”

21 responses to “Lunch conversation between friends

  1. Oh Emily, you are WICKED, LMAO.

    How do you feel like your dialogue is weak? What part would you like to improve?

    I think your dialogue is realistic here, and supportive of the characters and story.

    How about you do something exclusively dialogue-oriented and let the dialogue tell the entire story, without supporting prose?

    Yolanda, my new BFF FER REAL FER SURE, compared my dialogue (and I stg I will love her forever for this, even if it is somewhat like saying a pea looks a lot like the Eiffel Tower LOL) to Hills Like White Elephants.

    Do you want more exercises?

    If so, read on. If not, stop at this point.

    1. Take a notebook (paper or electronic, your choice) with you to a restaurant, coffee shop, place where people sit and chat and takes notes on what they said, how they said it, cadence, idioms, etc.

    Condense it and create a single dialogue-oriented short story (go for 500 words since that’s the shortfolio site—where I will clearly never, ever be—cap).

    2. Read the play The Turning Point.

    That’s all for that one. 🙂

    3. Consider the most condensed, emotional situation in which dialogue might happen (preferably something you’ve experienced) where there is a clear build-up, climax, and denouement. Then write it. Focus on dialogue and let that stand as the sole unrolling of the story and character’s state of mind.

    Do any of those sound interesting to you?

    Using My Words

  2. I can make the next Hump Day after music and make it about dialogue. Anything to please you. 🙂

    Using My Words

  3. This is awesome. I don’t often read fiction pieces when I’m reading blogs (two different mindsets, maybe) but my strong desire to SLAP Annie made this piece compulsively readable. I love the way she keeps reiterating her non-informative response – it’s wholly believable and yet SO irritating.

    Great ending too (but we all know you can do those).

  4. The ending was fun and, like B&P, I wanted to slap Annie at her very first word….

  5. You NAILED it.


  6. I loved this. I can remember having conversations like this so many times. Great dialogue!

  7. Oh, I can so totally see this!

    (Still giggling.)


  8. This was good. And I love the comeback.

    And dear sweet, GOD, Julie is scaring the hell out of me! I don’t DO dialogue.

  9. what julie and bub and pie said.

    And thanks for taking my suggestion and running with it! 🙂

  10. **rolling on the floor laughing** – excellent, but why are you so attracted to “Timmy’s mom” type of women? (just kidding you)

  11. You did a great job – I was totally into the story and the characters. I’m Kellan – nice to meet you. See you soon.

  12. Oh, I love dialogue. That’s my favorite thing to write.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  13. P.S. I like your dialogue too. I agree with juliepippert, try using just the sparest of speech tags and see what happens.

  14. realitytesting

    I did not see that coming…at all! That was a treat to read, Emily.

  15. LOVE IT! ((((HUGS))))) sandi

  16. i loved this too…compelling, full of tension, believable. i wanted to bite Annie, quite ferociously, and thus found the ending deliciously satisfying.

    the only thing that struck me as off was the daughter of the attachment-parent-fascist being named Kimmy. too 70s mainstream. but totally off the topic you asked for feedback about. 🙂

    slinking away, very entertained by the scenario…

  17. this was great. and very true to life. i had some people poo poo our stroller too!

  18. That was a GREAT little dialogue – I could just SEE them!

  19. that was perfect “our values”
    you got it just right.

  20. Ha! Thanks for this laugh. I’ve been out of the blogging loop for a while and I’m enjoying catching up on your writing!