Exercising the craft—November 4, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: “He Said, She Said”: Write the first draft of a scene using only dialogue: no speaker tags or actions. What can you convey about the characters through their voices or interaction? Avoid the temptation to use dialogue for exposition or back story. Instead, focus on developing character. Let what’s said—or not said—build tension and reveal the workings of a character’s mind. In a subsequent draft, add dialogue tags and actions for clarity.


“Hello, my husband.  Why are you late today?”

“I told you this morning that I would stop by the hospital today.”

“Oh, yes, I’m sorry.  Did something happen to your uncle?”

“No, Mama-ji is fine.  The doctors said they’re doing everything they can.  They might need more money for the treatment, though.”

“Is that why you look so tense?  Did Mummy say we need to pay for these new expenses?”

“No, she and Baba will take care of it.  You don’t always have to assume that my parents will come to us for money.”

“I’m sorry, my husband, I didn’t mean anything by the comment.  You know I love and respect and support them as I would my own parents.”

“Well, I will decide what we do with the expenses in this house.  Finances are not a woman’s responsibility anyway.”

“Please forgive me.  I was only concerned about why you looked so worried.  I meant nothing by it.”

“Yes, well—well, Mama-ji’s room was on the fifth floor of the hospital.  I had to walk down many stairs to get out of the building before I could catch an auto to bring me to our compound.”

“Dinner is all ready, my husband.  Why don’t you wash your face and hands, and I’ll make hot fresh roti for you?”

“I’ll do that in a moment, Meena, but first I need to talk to you about something.”

“As you wish.”

“When I was walking down the stairs, I passed by the maternity ward on the third floor.  Someone there had—someone had just died there.  A woman.  She gave birth to a baby girl this morning, but something went wrong I think.  A nurse said the woman had bleeding inside of her body, and that bleeding caused many complications.  She died because of the bleeding.”

“All right…”

“I heard her husband.  He was shouting and screaming that this wasn’t his child, that surely his wife must have been unfaithful and that the daughter was a product of that unholy situation.”

“With all due respect, my husband, he probably wouldn’t say that if the baby had been a boy.”

“Well, we both know that, Meena, but the baby is a girl.  And she has no mother.  And her father doesn’t want her.  So I thought…”


“What if we brought her home?”

“Brought—her—here?  But I thought you said you didn’t want anymore—”

“I know, Meena, but something about that husband’s attitude upset me very much.  He should not have said those things about his wife.  The woman is dead, after all.”

“I understand that, my husband, but we don’t know them.  What reason could we have to bring the baby home?  Won’t she have other family members—a maasi or cha-chi, some other woman in the family who would raise the baby as her own?”

“From my understanding, the husband didn’t want his wife’s sister or even his own to have anything to do with this child.  I heard him talking on the phone to his sister and telling her not to bother, that as soon as the doctor gave clearance for the baby to leave the hospital he was going to drop her at an orphanage.”

“You heard him talking on the phone?”

“Yes, I told you, I was coming down the stairs after seeing Mama-ji.  Why?”

“Nothing, my husband, it’s just that—well, it’s one thing to hear a man ranting and raving about his wife’s unfaithfulness.  But to hear what he said on the phone…”

“What are you trying to say?  That I had something to do with the situation?  That that’s why I stopped to listen to him?”

“My dear husband, please don’t get upset.  I was simply curious that you had heard so much of the husband’s conversation, that’s all.”

“You don’t need to be so curious!  I’m bringing that baby home next week when the doctor discharges her, and there will be no more discussion about this matter!”

“Yes…yes, my husband.  As you wish.”

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