This is the product of a writing exercise, where you write only dialogue – with no descriptors, scene settings, attribution tags or explanations. This is a helpful exercise when you’re trying to get some dialogue down, but the details are killing your flow. Sometimes, writing all the descriptors and narrative interrupts the thought process that sets a compelling scene, but the dialogue really drives it and allows your imagination to fill in the blanks. Then you can come back later and flesh it out – without worrying about losing your train of thought. This section will be part of my upcoming novel. I differentiate between speakers by using quotes for one and leaving them off for the other. Thanks to Joanna Penn for the idea! I read it somewhere on her site some time ago (can’t recall the exact post. Sorry!)


What happened? Are you all right? Geez, Ian, get her head around, we can’t stay broadside to the swells!

“I didn’t do anything – everything was fine, and then the wind just came up out of nowhere!”

Oh, give me a break, you were asleep at the wheel! How hard is it to keep your eyes open for four hours? You sleep all the time anyway – how could you possibly be tired? Get her head around! Let me do it. Let go, I’ve got the conn. LET GO, IAN! Just get the mainsail in. There’s too much wind to carry that much sail. We should get the storm jib up and stick with that. What’s wrong with the engine?!?  .

“I dunno. I didn’t do anything to it. I wasn’t even running it.”

Chris! See if you can get the engine going! I can’t get it to start from up here! C’mon, Ian, don’t just stand there, lower the main!

“It’s jammed! It won’t come down. Son of a…”

The windlass is locked. Release the lock, Ian!

“You think I’m stupid? I did release it, it just won’t turn!”

Come on, everything can’t break at the same time. Yank on the sail! It might be putting too much pressure on the windlass for the gears to bite.

“It’s too tight, I can’t get a hold of it.”

Grab it at the channel at the base of the mast. Hang on!

“Did you see that?”

See what? Where? C’mon, turn, you pig!

“It’s right over there! Behind us – there – it’s right there!”

I don’t see anything. Stop screwing around and help me get the mainsail in!

“I’m telling you, look behind us! There’s a ship back there!”

I don’t care if there’s a white whale back there, we need to get this sail off her before we get knocked down again! Help me get this sheet loose!

“I can’t get it. It’s stuck – just cut it!”

If we cut it, the boom’ll be flying around wild and knock the snot out of everything. We need to get it loose so we can spill some wind without losing control of the boom. We’re too hard pressed with the mainsail up, and I can’t bring her head around to spill it, or we’ll broach to! Go below and get Chris – tell him to forget the engine for now and get up here!


CHRIS! Man overboard! Ian, get up here! Chris went over the side! Ian!

“Dude, we’re sinking! There’s a foot of water in the cabin, we gotta get the raft! Where’s Chris?!?”

He got knocked off! See if you can spot him, he went over the starboard side. She’s not gonna right herself this time, not with the mast and all the rigging dragging like that. Do you see him? Move your foot! I can’t get at the emergency locker – get outta the way!

“Where am I gonna go, dude!?!? I can’t see anything out there. He’s gone, man, we gotta get off!”

Ian, we can’t get off without the raft, and I can’t get the raft if you don’t GET YOUR DAMN FOOT OFF THE EMERGENCY LOCKER! Hurry up and get it over – not on that side, Ian! You’ll foul it in the rigging! CHRIS!! Put it over the port rail. CHRIS!! The PORT RAIL! LEFT SIDE, IAN!! Hang on to the painter or you’ll lose the raft in the wind when it inflates. CHRIS!!

“He’s gone, Conn! I can’t hold onto this thing forever – get off! Jump!


“C’mon, Conn, let him go! Get off!!”