Red Writing Hood challenged us to hone our skills in an area where we feel weakest. Mine is dialogue. It comes out wooden and clunky every time, that’s why, you may have noticed, there’s rarely any direct speech in my prompt responses.
You may also have noticed that I worry. A lot. I worry about my characters being ‘normal’ enough, whether they fit into their respective worlds. They’re facing peer pressure before they’re even birthed! And of course, dialogue, it seems to me at least, is where that shows most. It’s them revealing their innermost thoughts and responding to other characters and the world around them. I don’t feel that I’ve got to grips with that myself so I fret that it shows in my characters.
This is over the word limit, I admit and apologise, but I ‘borrowed’ it from something on my simmer pile. I wanted to use this opportunity to see how my dialogue works in a ‘real’ situation. That and I’m very tired and overwhelmed this week too!
Emily stirred in the strange bed, stiff and sore all over. The covers were heavy and tight across her, the air smelt strange and something beeped nearby, regular and monotonous. She wriggled and winced at the sharp pain in her side.
“Where am I?” she asked softly.
Someone reached out and took her hand.
“Hey, it’s Carlie, remember?”
She finally focused and saw Carlie, her mom’s personal assistant, trim in her office suit and classy heels. She smiled in recognition, although still slightly bemused. Her head ached but it was the pain in her chest and side that really kicked in whenever she tried to move. She took in her surroundings, clinical and harsh. Hospital.
“When is it?”
Emily pushed a hand under the pillow to reach for her cell phone but it wasn’t there. She tried to remember what had happened, what had brought her into hospital. She couldn’t remember. She was frightened.
“It’s OK honey, you’re in the hospital.”
“I know that! Why, Carlie, what happened?”
Surely if she was in hospital, Mom would be here too. Where was her cell phone? Maybe she wasn’t allowed it in the hospital.
Again Carlie hesitated, her eyes shadowing over. Emily sensed the change in her face and got worried, she had a growing feeling deep inside her that something wasn’t right, nausea creeping through her stomach.
“Carlie, where’s Mom? Is Mom hurt too?”
“There was an accident, do you remember?”
An accident. There was a vague sense of recognition; Emily frowned as she tried to focus on the fragments that were floating in the mental fog. She could remember being in a car, was that when it happened? If she thought really hard she could see her parents and her having a meal out, but distant and fuzzy, almost like a dream rather than a memory.
“You were coming home Friday night from the restaurant, your Dad was driving …”
Emily shook her head. It could have been any one of many evenings, they loved eating out, but she still couldn’t recall that particular evening, worryingly.
“I don’t remember. Is it Saturday then?”
“Um, Tuesday. It’s Tuesday now. Your grandmother is coming out soon.”
A nurse bustled in, adjusting the IV and sending eye messages to Carlie.
“Can I sit up?”
They helped her up and propped her against the pillows. She ached.
“What’s wrong with me? Where’s Mom and Dad?”
The nurse coughed slightly and left the room.
“You’ve cracked your ribs, damaged your spleen. They were worried that you’d done something to your head but that all seems OK. Your spine wasn’t damaged. You’ve got a laceration on your forehead.”
Carlie recited the list awkwardly, nervously; Emily picked up on her jitters immediately.
“You were in the back. A car was on the wrong side …” she had to breathe deeply, subconsciously squeezing Emily’s hand a little harder. “Head on collision.” Her voice broke a little. “Ally and James didn’t make it.”
Emily didn’t know how to react. Was she meant to cry or scream or what? She froze, tense, willing it not to be true.
“I wish your grandmother had got here already.” Carlie murmured, turning away sharply.
The nausea welled up hard inside her. It couldn’t be true. This wasn’t happening. The room spun.
“Gonna be sick…”
Carlie wheeled round and grabbed a cardboard tray from the locker. Emily retched but there wasn’t much her empty insides could give. It hurt so badly though, tearing through her. She collapsed, pale and shaky onto the pillows.
The nurse came back in, more eye messages. The mess was cleared and Emily rolled onto her other side, away from Carlie, her head was spinning. She curled up as tight as she could, tethered to an IV pole and slowly wept.