Rhonda Herrington Bulmer
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August 15th, 2013
Elevator chat
by Rhonda Herrington Bulmer

The second of Lawrence Hill’s writing prompts is now posted on the Canada Writes website and this time it involves writing dialogue. Dialogue is my favourite thing in the world. I read today that you should write for yourself first and nobody else and in honour of such a great sentiment, I’m jumping in, though I’m such an exhibitionist that I feel the need to show all of you, too.

I chose to complete this exercise in play format rather than prose, since it didn’t specify one way or the other. You can check out the writing prompt here, in case you would like to try it out for yourself:


Writing Prompt #2

Put two people in an elevator. It is stuck on the 31st floor of an office tower. It has been stuck for 20 minutes and there is no sign of help yet. Begin the scene with a conversation at Minute 21 in the elevator. A page will do. These two people do not like each other. When they speak, their dialogue should be indirect. They talk around the thing that is bothering them, rather than tackling it head on. This is often the way with good dialogue in fiction.

Elevator Chat

Ms. Homburger:  I wonder how long it’s been.
Shelley:Bout twenty minutes or so.
Ms. Homburger:How can you tell?
Shelley:The hands on my watch glow in the dark.
Ms. Homburger:Ah. I forgot, you’re the girl who knows everything.
Shelley:(mutters) Didn’t know what was gonna happen this morning, though, did I?
Ms. Homburger:This is not the ideal situation–
Shelley:You know, I don’t really wanna talk about it.
Ms. Homburger:Sure, no problem. (Pause) Is your box getting heavy?
Shelley:It was, yeah. I set it down a long time ago.
Ms. Homburger:It looked pretty full to me before the lights went out. Did you have lots of stuff to bring home?
Shelley:Naw, just some pictures and a few decorations, a few office supplies.
Ms. Homburger:Thought I saw a three-hole punch in there.
Shelley:Oh, it’s mine, my father gave it to me a long time ago. Been with me through three jobs.
Ms. Homburger:And the stapler?
Shelley:From my college days.

Silence fills the elevator for a few moments.
Ms. Homburger:I must check on the new line of salt scrubs after I walk you downstairs. The test-marketing samples arrived this morning. Did you…
Shelley:(Pause) There are a couple in the box, yes. Joanne gave them to me as a memento. Would you like them back?
Ms. Homburger:Heavens, no, I didn’t mean to imply… I was just wondering if you’d noticed them.
Shelley:Yes, I did. Notice them. I helped design them, after all.
Ms. Homburger:Right. Well, there’s no sense rehashing that.
Shelley:No, I’d really rather not, if you wouldn’t mind.
Ms. Homburger:(Pause.) But I would like to add that Joanne will really benefit from the strong foundation you’ve provided for her and I’m sure that when the smoke clears, you’ll see-
Shelley:Ms. Homburger?
Ms. Homburger:Yes?
Shelley:I don’t want this three-hole punch after all. I’d really like to let you have it.

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