Wednesday, December 5, 2012

An All-Dialogue Short Story: Loch Ness

Several years ago, a colleague challenged me to write a story using only dialogue.  I thought that was the silliest thing ever...until I tried it.  Very very challenging.  No omniscient voice to fill in the blanks.  No colorful descriptions to help paint the scene -- just the characters' own dialects, words and attitudes drive the plot and story to completion.

Well, here's my all-dialogue story called Loch Ness.  Please leave me a comment and tell me what you think!

The Loch Ness Monster

Loch Ness

By Rochelle Campbell

“Do you hate me, Kirsten?”
“I wouldn’t say that…exactly.”
“What would you say?”
“I’d say you’d better keep your eye on the Loch.  If we’re really supposed to be looking for Nessie this would be the time.  It’s dusk. “
“I prefer a different view at the moment.  A twin peaks view…”
“See?  That’s why we have issues!”
“Ahoy there, Matey!”
“You guys couldn’t have more perfect timing!”
“Really?  Jeff staring at your boobs again?”
“Well, if she’d cover them up…”
“Why you dirty little…”
“What’s that sound?”
“Maria, Perkins, Jeff and Boob Lady – get into your positions!   This might be it.  I’m going to get the skiff in the water and take out the ROVNav6 equipment to see if I can get a bead on our favorite mythological creature.  Everyone, remember what your roles -- go!”
“Aren’t I supposed to go with you?”
“Kirsten, only I’m on the skiff, ‘member?  Too much is at risk if more than one person goes out there.  While we haven’t heard any man-eating stories about Nessie, I’m too much of a pragmatist to take any chances.  You’re working the night vision camera, right?”
“Got all your equipment?  Including your radio?”
“You know I do.”
“Right, I do.  I know everyone does because you’re all my best students.  That’s why you’re here.  Ignore Jeff.  He’s just hot for you.  You’re too good for him anyway.  Now…go.”
“Thanks, Professor Tate.”
“Yeah, yeah.  Aren't I supposed to be seeing your fanny right about now?”

"Damn, it's nippy out here.  How long do we have to stay?  It's been 3 hours already!"

"Stop whining, Jeff.  We have no idea how sensitive that 6G sonar is."

"You need to pay attention to more than Kirsten's boobs, Blockhead.  The sonar won't pick up voices.  Its focus is beneath us -- 784 feet beneath us to be precise.  Think he's captured any contacts?"

"Dunno.  I keep remembering Operation Deepscan in '87.  They captured 3 contacts that were -- what was it, Kirsten?"

"…bigger than a fish but smaller than a whale.  Why don't you ever remember that, Mare?  Oh, and Perkins, it's 812 feet -- that depth was recorded in 1989."

"See?  You're the brainiac, Missy; the blonde hair and hazel eyes are just camouflage."

"The radio traffic is bothering me, kids.  Can we cut the chatter?"

"But the sonar doesn't pick it up!"

"No, but I do."

"You sound like my Dad."

"That's because he could be!"

"Knock it off.  I'm not…well, forget it.  I'm only a few years shy.  Leave it to you guys to bring up my existentialist issues when I am attempting to solve the mother of all myths.  Good Grief, kids!"

"What was that?  Sounded like a huge blip, Professor."

"Yeah…it was."

"Leave him let him calibrate to lock in on the contact signal.  Are you already set up to record to the chart paper, Professor?"

"Damn.  Thank, Kirsten.  What would I do without you?  Got it on.  Yeah…yeah.  This things moving fast and it's big.  I have it at 190 meters and it's going deeper!  Hot damn!  Recording now for a full 2 minutes.  Think this is the longest recording in recent Nessie history…"

"You think it's Nessie?"

"This thing is huge -- bigger than a shark.  Like the size of a calf, say 9 or 10 months old."

"Professor, really?  How dumb do you think we are?  A baby cow?  That's not that big…"

"The Idiot Pills are working…"

"Perkins, quit it."

"You're defending him?  Wow.  Jeff, you may have a shot after all."


"Ow!  You hit me!"

"Someone clocked me, too."

"We're all trying to protect our ears, Blockhead.  That high-pitched keening sound is worse than nails on a blackboard."

"Professor?!  Are you all right?  The sound's coming from your direction -- Professor?"

"Anybody have a visual of him?"

"Nothing here by Castle Urquhart.  What about you, Blockhead?"

"I'm in position 1/2 a mile down from the Castle and I got nothing; can't even see his boat anymore."

"Kirsten, you're the one with the best vantage point, up on the hills with the night vision equipment.  What do you see?"

"Just a sec, got so worried, forgot I had it.  All right, scanning all sectors -- nothing!  No boat.  No, Professor.  Nothing.  It seems like he just…vanished."

"What was that damn noise?  Could that have something to do with Tate's disappearance?"

"For a numb nut, you may have a point there.  What do you think, people?  Do you think we just heard Nessie's voice?"

"If we did, did it sink the Professor's boat?"

"Or, did Nessie take him into her cave?"

"Remember the walls of the Loch are similar to all other lochs; no caves."

"Quit it, Kirsten.  This is not just a school trip anymore.  This is serious.  We just heard a God awful screech and now the Professor's not responding to his radio and we don't have visual.  This shouldn't be happening but it is so we have to think outside of the box.  We're Americans; we don't know this place like the Scottish do.  Maybe the information we have is not as current and up-to-date as the Professor likes to believe.  Maybe there is a cave or two down there."

"Well, we do have some Sonar wetsuits back at the hotel.  Wanna go look?"

"Jeff, you can't be serious."

"Way, serious.  The Professor's gone AWOL and I don't like it.  I'm getting more creeped out with every passing minute.  We can't just stand here and wait for him to reappear.  What if he doesn't?"

"Damn, I hate this.  But ladies, Jeff's right.  We can't just stand around hoping he'll show up.  What if he's drowning as we speak?"

"Was that a splash?"

"Damn him!  Jeff!!  Get out of the water!"

"Kirsten, keep an eye on him.  Start recording now, too."

"Good idea, thanks Perkins."

"Jeff's nearing the spot where Professor Tate's boat was last seen.  Okay, he's splashing around -- he dove under!  Yeah, forgot he was on the friggin' swim team."

"Don't forget he's a surfer dude as well…"

"You sound jealous, Perkins…"

"…what's Blockhead doing now?  Did he come up for air yet?"

"He's only been under for 15 seconds."

"I can't stand all this waiting.  I think I was holding my breath!  How long has it been now Kirsten?"

"Almost two minutes."
"Have you seen Jeff come back up?"


"How long can he hold his breath?"

"Dunno.  But David Blaine held his for over 17 minutes in 2008..."

"That's not real helpful information right now, Perkins.  The average person can do about 2 minutes before coming up for air.  But Jeff?  Maybe he can do longer."

"Okay, Kirsten.  Let's hope so.  You're the leader now so what do we do?"

"Well, we can track Professor Tate through the USBL Scout system and the GPS I suggested he equip it with.  We'll have to contact the local authorities and let them know about this."

"Are you crying, Kirsten?"

"Let's pack it in and get help for them both NOW."

"How many minutes have they been under?"

"Tate's been missing for about six minutes and four for Jeff"

"I'm heading to the hotel.  Meet you guy's there."

"Should we turn off the radios now?"

"No, leave them on.  I don't want to take any chances and please -- no more heroes tonight, okay?  There's only three of us left."

"Should we change?"

"No time; got to get to the authorities.  It's been 16 minutes now for the Professor.  Let's get going.  It's 17 miles to the Northern Constabulary.  You're driving, Perkins."

"Why me?

"'Cause you're left-handed.  With me being nervous, I don't want my instincts steering me towards the wrong side of the road."

"Good point.  But, my being left-handed doesn't matter.  I drive on the right side just like you do."

"You're driving."

"I'll drive!"


"Geez, both of you didn't have to yell.  And why can't you forgive a little fender-bender?"

"Because it was with a Mercedes-Benz, that's why."

"It's just a car.  Hey, my legs are shorter than both of yours.  Wait up!"

"So, let us get this straight.  You three are from Columbia University and you had two others with you, your Professor and this feller named numb nuts?"

"No, his name's Jeff Dawkins."

"I prefer numb nut.."
"Shut it, Iain.  Sorry there lassie.  Jeff.  And then while your were looking for, hehe, Nessie, the good ole Professor disappeared after you heard a loud noise.  And two minutes later, Jeff jumps in to save the drowning Professor.  Is that about right?"

"Yes, Constable it is."

"Ach awa' an' bile yer hied!"

"Iain!  None of that.  Come back here!"

"Er.  A roundabout translation would be, 'go away and boil your head' but he really didn't mean it.  We get so many crazy stories from tourist that after a while…let's just say, Iain's a beat cop.  He's heard and seen it all."

"So what do can you do to help us find our friends?"

"File a missing person's report and in the morning, we'll send out rescue boats."

"That's hours away!"

"Maria, is your name?  Well, we're a 24-hour operation, but the rescue boats can't see out there in the dark and it would make no sense to send more people out into risk, now would it?  Go back to your hotel and we'll meet you at Castle Urquhart at 9:30.  The fog will have burned off…mostly and we should be able to see clearly.  Get some rest."

"Can't sleep, Kirsten."

"Neither can I."

"That makes the three of us."

"So, what're we gonna do?"

"Go down and have one more look around."

"I'm with you!"

"Me, too."
"Take all of your equipment.  Never know what we might need."

"Okay, over here is where Jeff jumped in and out about 80 yards is where the Professor was last seen.   
Right, Kirsten?"

"Yeah.  Okay, I've set up the GPS tracker and its calibrating.  Do you have the GPS tracker code of the RovNav6 unit?"

"Got it.  I'm entering it in.  There, done."

"Good.  It's tracking it.  Damn!  It's 685 feet down!  If it's there, that's not good for the Professor…"


"He could have swum downstream and is exhausted and looking for us.  Look at this, it moved!  How is it moving??"


"How the hell should I know?  Let's recalibrate and see if it's maybe an anomaly --"

"GUYS!!!  Look and don’t you hear the sound starting up?"

"The RovNav6 is almost to the surface!  What does that mean?"


"Stop dragging me, Perkins -- Aww you made me drop the --"


"Keep running, Kirsten.  Don't look back.  Mare's gone."

"But --"

"Let's go faster.  I'll explain later."

"Okay, you've had 4 cups of tea and about a million crumpets.  What the hell did you see, Perkins?"

"I saw something long and smooth come out of the water and faster than I thought possible it snaked up close and grabbed, Maria.  That damn noise was so piercing I had shut my eyes and was already running inland and grabbing you so I didn't get a good look."

"Was it Nessie?"

"Who knows?  All I know is all three of them are gone.  The RovNav6 is inside of whatever that thing is.  They're all gone Kirsten.  It's just the two of us left and I, for one, am not going anywhere near the Loch again.  I like being a landlubber."

"How can you say that?  What's wrong with you?  I'm going back out there!"

"I suggest you wait for the rescue crew to come in the morning, Kirsten."

"Why??  So I can be sure my friends are dead?"

"You're already sure they are right now."

"Let go of me!"

"I'm not going to let you kill yourself.  I know you were in love with Tate and having an affair with him but…he's gone."

"Oh God…no!!"

"It's okay. Let it all out…it's all over now…"

The End. 

To read more of my short stories, pick up a copy of Leaping Out on Faith today!

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