Dream On

“Giant Mouses can’t talk. Go away.”

“Sure we can. I’m talking.”

She rolled over away from him, pulled up the covers. “Hmpff. And you’re too big, and not mousey enough.”


“You know…” She fluffed her pillow, dropped her head. “Mousey. Furry and dirty. And creepy. And they don’t wear red plaid vests. Or borrow my fuzzy slippers. G’night.”

“My feet were cold. Back to your dreams?”


“I thought you quit dreaming.”

“I did. About real things, anyway. Dream dreams are different.”

“I’m different. And not mousey enough, but here I am, and I’m no dream. If it’s in your head it’s real. You didn’t get that from all those liberal arts classes and bong hits back in college?”

“Nuh-uh. They’re dreams. Maybe my mind connecting with itself, or the great cosmic whatever, or cleaning house or something. Go. Away.”

“The other night, when all the dogs were brindle Great Danes with heads like pit bulls? They told you not to run but you ran anyway. One of them grabbed your arm before you turned into a tree. That was a good one. Just as real as if you’d been there.” He chuckled. “You were scared shitless. And Tuesday night? Remember? You went to buy a car from someone you met in an expensive bar that was trying to look like a subway station who turned into your eighth-grade crush. You got to his desk, he laughed and said no girl like you could drive a car like what you wanted and gave you a black Valentine instead of car keys. You woke up heartbroken, looked for the card under your pillow. All of that is real. It happened. You logged it just like when you were standing in line, so embarrassed you almost peed, just to buy that lacy bra that’s too small for a guy who isn’t coming back.”

“He was a bad dream. Those were all bad dreams. You’re a bad dream.” She pulled the covers over her head, offered a sleepy, muffled, “Go Away, mouse. Or rat or…”

“They weren’t bad dreams. A bad dream is no dream at all. Look.” He pulled a lightning bug out of his pocket for a night light, turned the covers back down around her shoulders. “There are wants, and wishes. And then there are dreams. Sometime or other we all want fame, or fortune or wish ten or twenty pounds would take a walk. Some of us make plans. How many kids, which jobs. Maybe what we want works and maybe in all that planning we succeed and miss something we wish we hadn’t. We all want to be loved. We all wish we could find someone who could love us. We want our children to be healthy, and wish they stay un-hurt by the world. You still awake?”

She snuggled down a little further into the pillows. “Mmm hmmm….promise…”

“All those wishes and wants. As we get older they change, but a wish is still a wish. On a star, on a birthday candle, on a heads-up penny. But they’re sitting in that same room with wants. Now that I’m old and lazy, maybe I want a decent bacon and grilled onion cheeseburger that won’t kill me and isn’t five bucks. And an amber beer with some attitude. I can wish for a magical place that has both, and want it to be close by, maybe with delivery. You can want a lover on Friday night and wish they’d stay forever. Wishes and wants. Wants and wishes. You can stop wanting and wishing, that’s okay. In fact, sometimes dropping that in the can by the door of your consciousness is a good idea. Let those things happen without a shove. Offer, belong, let it go if it collapses on you. Do it again. Let wishes and wants turn into the unexpected postcards life sends you, awake or asleep. Cherish them for what they are. They aren’t dreams.”

“‘Let it go, live in the here and now?’ Puh-leeze. I don’t need a giant fucking mouse thing to give me an ‘I can be the most beautiful me’ MEME speech at midnight-thirty.” She grabbed the pillow he’d been leaning on, put it over her head.

“We put our hope in things and people and adventures we want, how want we them to be and wish they’ll turn out like we hoped for and that’s not where hope belongs. Listen up.” He changed the cross of his legs, set the lightning bug on her headboard, tapped it once to turn it down before he pulled the pillow off her head.

“What happens at night? Those aren’t dreams. That’s your brain running on everything that gets thrown at it. Reality isn’t required for it to crank up a visuals binge watch. Asleep or awake, your brain is getting down with itself in there. As far as ol’ brain is concerned the only difference between asleep and awake is just that matter of keeping you from falling down. No ma’am. Dreams, real dreams, are an altogether different thing.”

“How do you know? You’re a giant mousey sort of figment of my imagination and I’m tired. Why can’t you just go away?”

“Because you said, as a result of life and everything in it, that you quit dreaming.”

“Well look at me now, Mister Mouse Thing. Wide awake and listening to you go on, and on…”

“I’m telling you, this isn’t a dream, it’s another experience, that’s all.”

“One I could do without. Go away, plaid vest mouse thing. Let me sleep. I need to sleep. I need to dream…”

“Thank you. You said it, not me. Now I can go.”

“Good. Not that you’re a bad giant mouse thing, but…”

“I get that a lot. But know this. When your head hits the pillow, when the feathers tickle your brain, that’s not dreaming. It is what it is.”

“Great. Whatever it is, I need some. G’night, mouse. Go away. Please. Leave my slippers.”

He tucked her covers around her, touched her forehead with his finger.

“Plaid vest mousey thing, can I ask you something?”

“Can I keep the slippers?”


“Damn. Ask away.”

“If they aren’t dreams when I’m asleep, and everything is just wishes and wants, why won’t you let me quit dreaming?”

“Because a dream, a real dream, is a wish your heart makes. Without a little piece of our heart in our wishes our dreams are empty, and we’ve lost everything.”



Nice to Meet You

Jackson bypassed sign-in and the new intern receptionist at 1700, walked the length of the hall to the PR office, let himself in. With a hand on either jamb no beard, old jeans, blue and white squares thrift store bowling shirt Jackson leaned in the doorway of Paula Whittier’s graphic design office.

“You’re Paula, huh? Nice earrings. Nicer crib. You rate a Double-Wide?”

“Yes. I had them knock out a wall for me because I work big. They also installed a big can under my desk marked ‘shit’, specifically for jive-ass salesmen’s compliments.” She continued to peer through a magnifying glass at photos scattered on a light desk the size of a ping pong table. “And it’s Ms. Whittier to vendors, please, and thank you. I don’t remember any appointments, so,” she switched off her light table and spun towards the door. “Whoa. Who let you in? I heard heaven starts on nineteen.”

“You kissed a frog once. Here I am.”

“Permission to vomit. I was six. Prince?”

“Jackson. That’s it, either way. Story or you can leave it.”

“Studley! You’re not just a voice on the phone! Um…They told me this one. Yvonne. Paula Yvonne when my mom was mad. Your name game? Yawn. Something this side of disco?”

“Permission to fold under trendsetter pressure. Paula and Yvonne, that’s extra Fifties. Bobby sox, girl bands, bad TV, worse movies. Mom made out by the jukebox with greasers, married penny loafers?”

“Smart and decent arm candy.”

“Same to you but way more of it.”

“Uh-oh, swoon attack. Marry me?”

“Sure. Lunch first?”

“You are a God.”

“First miracle. Cleavage Trace, on your blue Batgirl phone. Today.”

“Not in this dimension. Tell me another one ‘cause they’re so pretty?”

“Straight up. Ringing before lunch farts rumble.”

“Very wrong. Ethics forbid a blowjob, even if true.”

“Forbidden fruit is sweetest, but on legal authority? Blow is a figure of speech.”

“Not a Puffer fan?”

“Sick can’t be unseen. For real, Trace needs help. Concept, cover, merchandise. Work him.”

“’For real’ is so stale. Say it’s true. What should I wear to his party?”

“You is perfect. Listen, jam, take it where it needs to go. Spool it, print it, call a courier.”

“Talk the talk, bad boy. He’ll love me just the way I are?”

“Don’t go shavin’. I heard wedding bells and lunch. I do requests at the top of every hour.”

“Extreme burgers and onion rings I’ve never seen. Elmore’s? In a dark booth.”

“Whoa, demanding with a touch of bitch. Same-side dark booth romantic?”

“Down boy. Elbow room required. Fact on bitch, I own it.”

“Dreams do come true. I’m cab bait. You’re driving.”

“I’m not locally grown. Homes of the Rich and Famous tour?”

“Jesus. What have you done for me tomorrow?”

“My stereo is brain damage. Manilow’s Greatest-Live in Ecuador. Bootleg.”

“An all-day repeater. Up for a trade? Various Artists, Pan Flute Christmas.

“All over it. No ‘Sleigh Bells’ equals deal-breaker.”

“Track three.” He opened the PR office door, held it for her. “Ladies first.”

Context Example 2

Tension from both sides, meeting the “new person.” Quick, cut and dried. The nervous person, the cheerful person, the efficient person, stacked, turn over conversation. Also introducing the “accent” issue without writing dialect forever. We get told that the Scottish girls have an accent, and so does the American. One time. After that it’s all rhythm and the occasional colloquialism. Yay or nay

Again- semi context at close to the front of a chapter.

She crossed the wet, puddle infested street, lugging her big, hot red American Tourister suitcase and make-up case. She’d had to put her leather purse on her shoulder under her red London Fog. Her hair was wet and stringy and it was cold enough to make her nose red. She dropped the knocker twice.

The girl who answered didn’t miss many meals. Deanna heard her brother say, “Winter bred and corn fed. A real farmer’s daughter.” The girl had deep auburn hair, some freckles under a light dusting of face powder, and twinkly eyes. “You’ll be Deanna. Bloody landing beacon, you are. Come on, don’t stand about in the rain. Cat? Our lass from the colonies is arrived.”

Another girl appeared in the dark back corner of the room, dishtowel in hand. “Bloody…She’ll not be run down on Merton in that.” Dishtowel girl gave Deanna the once over, frowned at her low heel dress shoes. “No Wellies? You weren’t told it rains here?” It took Deanna a few seconds to process that from “Nwellies? Ya wernatole eh rines ere?”

“Yes. No wellies. Those are rain boots? Rubbers, my dad says, and mom says galoshes. Do I need them? I sort of threw all this together in a big hurry.”

“Will you have a listen to her? Sounds a bit off, but she’s a fine eyeful of lass, I’d say.” Merriam had taken her coat and hung it on a coat rack that stood in the middle of a drip pan. “Scotch, love? We’ve a beer as well.”


“Fizzy drinks are in a cold case at the shop ‘round the corner.” She pointed at a small, square box under the sink. “Fridge space is premium, beer wins the day over fizzy. Have a sit. Cat?”

Catorina explained the flat layout, without moving anything but her arm. “Down the side, our Merriam, you, our new lass, and the loo in the corner, just there. Across the back the table for study and fine dining. Kitchen, as it is. Not much in the way of cupboard, we share all that’s there, the odd cups and plates. Choose what you like, we’re not much for standing on Her Majesty’s ceremony here.” There was a recent small, four burner gas stove top with what she’d discover was the ubiquitous teapot on top, an oven underneath, and an old, chipped sink with counter space and cabinets top and bottom on either side.

Context Example 1

Trying to start a conversation with an unwilling participant. In semi-context – 1970s. In this excerpt I was trying to connect two people, both strangers in a strange land. The male hasn’t got a lot of baggage except for some heartbreak and confusion and being inadvertently waylaid by hallucinogens in New Mexico on his way to USC. He’s the piano bar background. The female character is supposed to unfold as the chapter progresses and her issues send him on a short quest to find her help. Here’s how he breaks the ice. Does it work?


Jackson stepped out the back door of the hotel kitchen after lunch shift with a couple of waiters, one male, one female, to burn one, post lunch rush.

The girl, Missy, was close to his age. Everyone called the guy Five-Oh because he dyed his hair, combed two-thirds of it back in a duck’s butt to cover the tanned or spray painted bald spot, left the front hanging greasy like Jack Lord from Hawaii Five-O. He was weird, too thin and nervous, probably a speed freak. But he knew somebody who grew killer, lime green hydroponic weed and he was loose with it.

Missy was too thin herself, wouldn’t talk to anyone but her customers. After her shift she changed into the same long, hippie-print tapestry skirt and a white, cap sleeve t-shirt, hit the joint with them and headed west on foot. After a week of everything he said to her hitting a wall Jackson followed her. It looked like she was going to walk to where the west side met the desert if he didn’t stop her.

He caught up at a light, pulled out the first conversation starter he could find. “Nice bracelet. Indian?”

“I knew you were back there, space man. I missed the ‘walk’ light on purpose and waited up so we could bale this and stack it in the barn. I don’t need a boyfriend or a new savior or a better job or a better way or better sex or Avon or Amway or the New York City Sunday paper or anything you’re selling. Leave me alone.”

“I asked about the bracelet.” It was thin leather covered in beads and more of a cuff, almost like Indian biker wear, and laced on with orange yarn.

“Indian, yeah. I don’t know what kind. It was wide enough for what I needed, and the bead pattern was cool.” He thought she was going to bite a hole in her lip. “I lace it on and forget it. Thanks. Gotta go.” She took off across the street without the walk light, dodged a couple of cars and kept on west. He watched for a minute, jogged in the heat all the way back to his car and drove west on Flamingo. He crossed under the interstate, saw her a quarter mile ahead, rolled up in front of her, stopped and got out.

“This is stupid. Missy’s not your name, nobody’s really named Missy and nobody in Vegas nicked you with it.”

“I’m not from Vegas and it’s not your problem, is it?”

“I’m from bale it and put in the barn country myself, you don’t talk through your nose, and Missy is still bullshit.” He could see her frustration with him ramping up.

“Do you get away with this, wherever you’re from, talking to girls like we need to talk back and telling us it’s bullshit if we don’t? I told you —”

“You didn’t tell me anything, it’s hot as hell and you aren’t walking like you’re going anywhere. You can ride in the back with the tire iron like the last girl that got in my car, but get off your feet and outta the heat, tell me where you need to go.” They stared at each other for a few seconds, he drummed his fingers on the top of his car while she fidgeted with the leather cuff. “Hey, I liked that one. Feet, heat.” She still wasn’t sold, but she let a quick, small smile get out. He was gaining ground.

“What, now you’re some kind of prairie poet or something? I heard twang. Texas? Not tin can enough to be Okie.”

“Okie born and raised. But I’ve spent a lot of time getting it out of my nose and down into a drawl.”

“You’re not there yet. Maybe North Texas?” She gave up a very small grin, crawled into the back seat. “Wow, baa-ad. The air conditioner even works!”

He pulled away from the curb, had no choice but silence since his radio had been stolen, idled them out Flamingo in third.

“Nice hole you have in your dash.” She cradled the lug wrench across her lap, opened his back window a crack, lit a long, white filtered cigarette and blew “Kansas” out with the smoke.

“No Kansas without a tape player.”

“Me, you Okie clown. I’m from Kansas. I could almost throw a rock and hit Oklahoma if I wanted, where I lived.”

In the mirror he watched her make a face while she leaned, twisted, pulled a seatbelt buckle out from under her backside. “Now I’m living across town the other way in a runaway shelter so you aren’t taking me ‘home’ anywhere around here, if that was your big ‘help Missy out’ idea.”

Dialogue Dialogues

This Menu is for examples and discussion about writing “modern” dialogue. How, and when to break the “rules,” techniques and suggestions for group dialogue, dynamic situation based dialogue, dialogue tags and the dreaded “said” rule. The examples are not up here as any sort of “here’s how,” but as dialogue conversation starters. Anyone can contribute. Manners apply. Suggestions by and for all are open.

My feeling is dialogue drives characters and scenes and interactions. You may feel differently. I would like to see/read what anyone else is doing to get past the sticking points of writing realistic, character driven dialogue. Post a comment or reference your page if you have examples to share. Like I said, what’s posted here are personal workarounds and broken rules.

For the sake of context, complete scene examples may be used. Be polite.