Exercise 9, Part 1: Telling it Slant

As an update to my last post about my friend Tiran, his battle with AML, and the livestream he and his partner were hosting to raise money for the San Diego Blood Bank and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society: the livestream was a huge success and I am so proud to have been a part of it. All told, the DJs who participated in the livestream raised $2600.00 to be split evenly between the two charities! Almost 1000 people tuned in – the support, both monetary and attendance, was so heartening.

I’m picking back up with the exercises from Ursula Le Guin’s book Steering the Craft. I’ve gone full circle on these: from dreading what to do when I run out of exercises to being ready to be done with them so I can move on to different posts! I will talk about writing goals before November and the whole rigamarole of Nanowrimo kicks into high gear.

At least Chapter 9 is not about POV – it is about the different types of indirect narration. She talks about the added burden of being a fantasy or Sci-Fi writer here. Since you aren’t able to draw on the common reality of our world, you must do a lot of indirect narration without doing “infodumps” about your fictional world or culture.

The first exercise is about telling a story through dialogue alone.

“Exercise Nine: Telling it Slant

Part One: A & B

The goal of this exercise is to tell a story and present two characters through dialogue alone.

Write a page or two – word count would be misleading, as dialogue leaves a lot of unfilled lines – a page or two of pure dialogue.

Write it like a play, with A and B as the characters’ names. No stage directions. No description of the characters. Nothing but what A says and what B says…”

Page 97, Steering the Craft

Without further ado, my Telling it Slant:

>> A: “What should we do now?”

B: “That – that is a very good question. I have no idea.”

A: “Do you think if we keep walking down the trail towards them they will stop shooting? You know, when they see us and realize that we mean to get into the car?”

B: “I would certainly hope so! That would be the next level of criminality if they didn’t.”

A: “Well, the alternative is that we stand here and wait – try to get their attention from up on the hill.”

B: “Go ahead, wave your arms and shout at the men doing target practice at your car. Let’s see how that goes.”

A: “What am I going to tell my insurance company?”

B: “Does a standard auto policy cover fixing bullet holes?”
A: “Oh god, probably not. You never hear about that, at any rate – you never hear someone say ‘look at my car, just got it back from the auto body shop yesterday, looking good as new after that drive by shooting.’”

B: “You can claim these are extraordinary circumstances.”

A: “I don’t know about where you grew up, but where I come from a drive-by shooting is extraordinary.”

B: “You know what I mean – we are in the middle of nowhere! Parked at a legitimate trailhead on BLM land. How did you know that these yahoos here were going to set up their mobile shooting range around your car?”

A: “I think we should walk to the car. Be sure they see us and stop shooting and get in the car.”

B: “What if the car is riddled with bullet holes?”

A: “We get in and drive away, assuming that’s possible.”

B: “You won’t say anything?”

A: “Of course not! Are you nuts? Rule number one of the wilderness: get to safety first. The esthetics of my car will have to wait. Oh – my poor car! It didn’t deserve this!”

B: “After you, fearless leader.”

A: “Yep.”

A: “Okay, okay, they see us. They are lowering their weapons. I’ll give a quick wave.”

B: “Good lord, they are drinking. Those giant beer cans – what are they called? 40s. Drinking and shooting shouldn’t mix.”

A: “Jesus H, keep your voice down. You can hear everything out here a mile away.”

B: “Are you going to check the car over?”

A: “No! Don’t you get it? Just get in before they change their mind. Throw your backpack in the trunk and get in.”

B: “Whew, that’s better. I didn’t see any bullet holes.”

A: “Yup, will check that later. Buckle up, we are getting out of here. Engine is starting, good good.”

B: “They appear to be decent shots. That’s good.”

A: “This seems to be a regular activity for them, I imagine they get a lot of practice.”

B: “I don’t think they are allowed to do that – just plop down some hay bales anywhere they feel like and shooting willy nilly.”

A: “Probably not, but it is BLM land. Stands for Bureau of Lack of Management.”

B: “Oh, that’s a good one. I’ll have to remember that. You would think shooting would attract the Border Patrol.”

A: “They are a bunch of white guys.”

B: “You can’t tell that from the sounds of their bullets – supposed to be that Border Patrol has all kinds of surveillance around here – you saw the camera in the tree on the trail.”

A: “No, but what? The Border Patrol comes out, sees those three white guys with their truck and their cheap beer and rifles and says ‘carry on with your all-American activity, sorry to bother you.’”

B: “Ha ha, well, probably. We’ve benefited from that privilege too.”

A: “I know, I know – how many times have we rolled up to a check point, rolled down the window only to be waved on before we’ve even come to a complete stop? ‘Oh, hello two white people, carry on with your day.’”

B: “We occasionally get questioned.”

A: “Not seriously. Did you know my grandmother donates money to the Minutemen?”

B: “The who?”

A: “They were big a few years back, they were these militias of private citizens who said they were going to patrol the US-Mexico border and defend America where the federal government had fallen down on the job.”

B: “Charming. Your grandmother gave them money?”

A: “Oh, yes. That’s right up her alley.”

B: “Maybe those guys back there were Minutemen, practicing for their patrols.”

A: “Ha! Maybe! Sounds about right.” >>

My Telling it Slant is based on a true story about a hike a group of friends and I took very near the U.S.-Mexico border east of San Diego. There is some really beautiful desert along the border here and a number of established hiking trails go to scenic spots. But the Border Patrol is ever present in this area, even though my understanding is that most human and drug trafficking has swung much further east into more remote desert areas (or simply comes through the ports of entry). Hiking in this area for the last 12 years has yielded a number of interesting stories, including this one.

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