A dear friend, A, recently sent me a copy of the People’s Friend. She has written a short story for it. The People’s Friend is “a fictional magazine for women of all ages” and it accepts “serials (60,000-70,000 words) and complete stories (1500-3000 words) of strong romantic and emotional appeal.” College Dog or Dining Room Nutjob would be perfect for them, once written.
I say that my dear friend A (who refuses to tell me her full name*) has written for them, but that’s only partly true. She had sent off a short story, and they liked it, but the editor said that “a bit more dialogue” was needed to really make it sing. I say that the editor “said” that, but she probably didn’t. She probably “demanded” it, or “tersely stated it” or “sighed” it. You see, in the short stories (and serials) that they publish, no-one just says things: they whisper or shriek or muse them. I don’t know if I can bring myself to write like that. Along with “knitting and cookery”, they love an adverb over at the PF. Also, I’m not sure I can write convincing dialogue.
“Yes you can,” murmured my brother, when I mentioned this the other day.
“Really? Because I’m really not sure I can.” I replied, convincingly.
“I’ve seen some of it – some of the stuff you’ve done. It’s good.” He thundered, heroically.
“Have you?” I cried, massively.
“Yeah, all the time.” He contested, wonderfully, whilst putting on his coat.
“When? What on earth are you talking about?” I countered, brilliantly.
“Well, this, for example.” He parped.
“This?” I parped back harder.
“Isn’t this dialogue?” He parped and honked back.
“No, this is just me messing around.” I half-parped/half-honked back seamlessly.
Of course none of this happened. Not like that, anyway. But it seems that I can indeed write suitable dialogue for the People’s Friend. And although it may seem that I’m gently mocking – actually, I’m in the mood. This reminds me of a conversation I was having with my best friend Gary Sams the other day. The other blustery day.
“Are you gently mocking the People’s Friend?” Asked Gary, menacingly, whilst flicking the hair out of and then back into his eyes.
“Yeah. No. I don’t know. I’d like to write for them. It’s nice and gentle – I could do with more nice and gentle in my life right now. And if I did write for them my Nan would be happy. And if my Nan is happy, then I’m happy. Plus I’d get paid for it. Ooh, let’s get one of those. Have you got a light too? Ta. I’d get paid for it, plus it would be one more off the list.” I hollered, enigmatically.
“The list?” Gary ventured, looking like a forlorn dog that has just gone back to college.
“Pitching the World. My blog. I’ve been doing it twenty months. I go on about it all the time. It’s won awards, you know.” I threatened, scarily.
“Oh, actually, yeah. Yeah!”
“You don’t know what it is, do you?”
“Is it the thing you do where you write to newspapers or something?”
“Fuck this, I’m off.” I said, and then fucked off.
Of course none of this happened either. Not like that, anyway. But there are lessons. Regular readers will know that there are always lessons. I’m stumped if I know what they are though. Perhaps you can hunt for them and tell me. I think one lesson might be: If you’re going to write a short story about a dog going to college, be prepared to get a little heady.
* Joke courtesy of Woody Allen.