Academic Writing

Dialogue and Detail

The assignment for week three is…

As you have with the two previous assignments, pay attention to how Purpura (2006) and Hemingway (1927) use detail and the importance of being specific. The noticing activities that I am asking you to do before you write are also great research skills to develop.

Using Hemingway as a model, write a dialogue between two people who are having a discussion about something important. (Do not tell us what is important but let us sense it through the carefully chosen detail and the dialogue.) Write about half to a full page.

This activity will be first read in small groups as well as some large group examples/discussion.


Baiting the Bear

amelia_poolI sit in my car as I leave the township of Pearth (names and locations have been cunningly disguised to conceal the identities of the not-so innocent). It’s a hot summer’s day, and the sun is bright enough to make me squint as I wait for the traffic signals to change. I strum my fingers against the steering wheel, somewhat out of time to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Pride and Joy.

Texas blues, a beautiful day, I’ve finished work and I’m looking forward to a swim in the pool with my wife and youngest daughter when I get home. Life is good, eh?

Although my air-conditioning is at full blast, I have my window down as I enjoy the music, the breeze and the sense of release on my way home from a challenging day. Across the road I see one of the township police lift his head and stare in my direction. He ambles across the street to stand by my open window, hands on hips, fingertips of his right hand lightly touching the grip of his standard issue SIG Sauer P226 sidearm. I wonder idly if that’s supposed to intimidate me. Maybe it’s a subconscious boost to his own self-confidence? Or does he really expect the fat forty-something technology consultant, who administers the Pearth Police Service computer network, to produce a weapon?

It’s fair to say that I’ve never trusted the police, across the Atlantic or here in Canada. I’ve never met a police officer that has ever convinced me that they’ve had my best interests at heart.

I know this guy, and I’m convinced that in any other walk of life, we’d still thoroughly dislike each other. Constable Nazi looks down at me from behind his genuine Ray Ban mirrored shades ($5.99 from e-Bay), and does his best Clint Eastwood, “Don’t you think you should turn that down?” His fingers are still stroking his semi-automatic SIG, and I’m sure I can hear him say, “Go ahead punk… make my day.” Or maybe not.

I look up at my reflection in the curved glass. There’s sweat around his hairline, and moist skin under the day-old stubble at his throat, and—yes—in true stereotypical fashion, the sticky remains of a Tim Horton’s jam donut on his uniform shirt. “Nope officer, I’m good. And if I listen real hard I can just hear my mobile phone.” Ah, saved by the lights: green and go. Constable Eastwood is still standing in the middle of the road as I cross the junction. I shall probably pay for that I think, as I look in my rear-view mirror.

The next day, I am struggling to troubleshoot the serpentine insanity of hundreds of multi-coloured cables, that comprise the computer network and sound system for the township’s main courtroom. Over my shoulder, Constable Nazi appears, still wearing his shades in the subdued lighting of the courtroom. “You were quite the smart-mouth at the lights yesterday.” He drawls, somewhere between Eastwood and Batman.

I try not to turn into his coffee and diner-breakfast breath as I reply, “Case of mistaken identity officer. I’m a smart mouth everywhere.”

Constable Batman cracks a thin smile. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t touch his eyes, “They told me you thought you were f***ing funny.”

“You should catch my stand-up.”

“Be careful someone don’t knock you down.”

“Really? B-movie threats?” I’m laughing openly now, and Constable Halitosis is clearly annoyed. “Listen, I’m busy here. You & your boys won’t put away any innocent civilians this afternoon, if I don’t get the court system back up and running.” I’m grunting with the effort of tracing cables under the judge’s bench, and rapidly losing patience. “Why don’t you p*** off and tell your sewing circle I’m out of here in three weeks, so they’ll have to find someone else to gossip about. Have a nice day.”

There’s a pause before he just can’t stop himself from asking, “And where the hell are you going?”

“I’m going to learn things officer. You know, try and better myself. Of course, some of us have further to go than others.”


“I won’t be putting you down as a referee then?” I call to his retreating back.

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