Dialogue Writing Prompt

Here’s another one from the Dave Housley at Barrelhouse:

Two strangers are sitting next to one another on a bus or a train or a plane. It’s a long ride, from one city to another. Each one secretly hopes to get something from the other. For example: one of them wants a job or money or a place to stay in the city where they’re headed. The other one wants love or a one-night stand or, I don’t know, the other person’s prosthetic leg. Neither of them mentions directly what he or she wants. They pretend to make casual small-talk, but each one is actually trying to manipulate the conversation in order to reach his or her secret goal. Write the conversation — or at least, write part of it.

You don’t have to write ONLY in dialogue. You can write this just like any other piece of fiction. Good luck — it’s a tough one.

And here’s what I came up with:

“You ever think it’d be that boring?” The sound of Lance’s question, muffled through a headset. It had been the first thing said by either of them in the last hour

“Well.” Richard’s teeth chattered, dicing up the manufactured air as he inhaled. “What did you expect?”

“I don’t know. I guess it looks so much brighter from down there.”

“Just a big rock,” said Richard. “That’s all.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Lance turned away from the portal window and let his body float aimlessly. He closed his eyes and tried to let the silence comfort him; no indicator buzzes, no alarms. It didn’t work. Just the silence of mechanical failure. “Hey. What’re your levels?”

Richard looked down at his gauge. “About half. You?”

“Same. You think—“

“Maybe we should try to be quiet. You know, conserve.”

“Right,” said Lance. “I’m just sayin’…”


Lance propped himself up and stared at his comrade. “That’s right. Such a beautiful girl.”

“She sure is,” said Richard.

“I told her this was the last time I was going up. No more stupid shit, I said. She wants kids.”


“What are your levels now?”

“Same as before,” said Richard. “A little less than half.”

“I just don’t know what to do. I mean… kids.”

“I’m sorry,” said Richard. “I’m just so sorry for everything. I’m sure she is too.”

“What?” asked Lance.

“Nothing. Nothing. We should probably stop talking. But you’re right. Things look a lot brighter from down there.”

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