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Weekly Flash Contest #1: Write a story told completely through dialogue.

How do you communicate the differences between characters? How can you make sure that the reader knows what is going on? Can you make action part of natural-sounding speech?

Every week during the COVID-19-related school closures and shelter-in-place arrangements we are running a Flash Contest, based on the first Daily Creativity prompt of the week. The prompt is posted on Monday, and entries are due by Friday. The week commencing March 30th was our first week, and we were delighted by how many of you sent us your work–congratulations to every single one of you for responding so creatively, and for sending us your dialogues. We enjoyed reading each and every one of the entries, and it wasn't easy to pick a selection of 5 as this week's winners. But we did it! And they are (in alphabetical order):

Eliana Aschheim, 13, Santa Clara, CA
Liam Hancock, 12, Danville, CA
Gabe Horowitz, 10, Bethesda, MD
Matthew-Seungho Jeong, 13, Houston, TX
Kat Werth, 10, Bethesda, MD

Congratulations to all of them! Visit this page to refer back to the contest prompt, and read on to see what our winners wrote.

"Barsem’s Pigeons" by Eliana Aschheim, 13, Santa Clara, CA

“Ooh, that looks cool. Natalie, can we go over to that cute temple over there?”
“Sure, Eleanor, but no one’s inside. I don’t think it’s open.”
“We can check.”
“I don’t think it’s closed. I mean, the lights are on and the door is propped open.”
“Why are there pigeons in neat rows on the floor?”
“Beats me. They’re alive, just really calm. The only pigeons I’ve seen are jittery and stupid and always fluttering around. Really annoying.”
“I see a man in the back. We can ask him!”

“Welcome. I am Barsem, Master Meditator.”
“Hello, Barsem. I’m Eleanor and this is my friend Natalie. We just wanted to ask you about those pigeons.”
“Ah! You have found the crux of the problem, the bane of my existence!”
“What is it, Barsem?”
“Ah, Eleanor, the pigeons. These street birds invaded my humble temple one week ago. They refused to leave, no matter how much I pleaded. All of my regular visitors left for the Hip and Cool Enlightenment Temple. One woman even had the nerve to say, ‘At least they don’t have pigeons.’”
“Barsem, I’m so sorry. Can we help you?”
“Yes! Fabulous! My pigeon problems are over!”
“What can we do to help you?”
“Thank you, Eleanor, for asking. It is simple. You must make them leave.”
“You mean by scaring them away?”
“You are correct.”
“Couldn’t you have done that yourself? It’s literally super easy. Why do you need us?”
“Natalie, I am Barsem, Master Meditator. I do not intentionally instill fear in small animals.”
“You do you. I’m ready to kick some pigeon butt!”
“Natalie! Be kind. We can be nice to the pigeons.”
“And politely ask them to leave? No way. Pigeons are dumb and rude.”
“Okay, Barsem, we’ll do it.”
“Thank you girls! I will be able to keep my karma clean. I am just going to go outside, where I can’t watch.”
“All right.”
“Selfish dude. Out of his mind. He’s basically saying his karma is better than ours.”
“Natalie, I feel bad for him. Losing all his visitors because of some headstrong birds.”
“Sure. To not ruin his karma.”
“Pigeons! Um, excuse me. Could you please go now?”
“None left. That’s how it’s done. “
“That certainly worked. “
“Told you. Gotta have that element of fear.”
“Um. Thanks, Natalie.”
“All cool, Eleanor.”
“I’m going to tell Barsem he can come back inside.”
“I already heard. Thank you girls, for saving my temple and afterlife.”
“No problem, Barsem.”
“I would like to offer you gifts of gratitude. In true simplistic fashion, I offer you negative possessions.”
“Negative possessions? Uh, I don’t think that’s a thing.”
“No, Natalie, it is. Instead of giving you objects to clutter up your house, I offer you empty space. So it is a negative possession, because you could have gained something.”
“So you’re saying you have nothing? We don’t have a present?”
“It is fine, Eleanor. And not quite, Natalie. Your present is nothing.”
“So we get nothing as a gift?”
“Thank you, Barsem, for your thoughtful kind present.”
“You’re welcome. Thank you for your noble deeds.”
“Yeah, um. We have to go.”
“Goodbye, Barsem!”
“Farewell, Eleanor and Natalie!”
“Bye, dude.”

"One Boy for Another: A Story Through Dialogue" by Liam Hancock, 12, Danville, CA

“I don’t need to listen to a word you say.”
“You dug a hole for yourself. Why don’t you go lay in it?”
“Okay, okay. I deserved that. And I’m sorry. Please… just give me a minute.”
“Thirty seconds.”
“The time’s ticking. Spit it out.”
“Okay… by the way you’re talking, I’ll bet you know that… that I used to bully him.”
“My brother? Yes, yes I knew.”
“And I know it was wrong. And I never got to apologize, you know. For everything I did. He… it happened so fast.”
“I know.”
“So now that he’s gone, I just have to get things off of my shoulders, you know?”
“You think saying you’re sorry to me is going to fix anything?”
“No. I think saying sorry will help me sleep at night.”
“Well… I just… to be honest, I don’t know what to think. I don’t.”
“Then here’s what we’ll do. I say what I need to say, and you can hate me for it, but at least you’ll never have to see me again.”
“Sounds like a win-win to me.”
“Your brother was a good kid, Elizabeth.”
“Don’t call me by my name.”
“Fine, fine. Your brother was good was all I needed to say.”
“Is that why you bullied him?”
“No. I was the bully because I was the bullied before he came around.”
“Why? Why were you bullied?”
“I was an idiot back then. Couldn’t spell my own name, that much of an idiot.”
“You still are.”
“I was so dumb that I couldn’t read till I was 8. You have to understand, I just wanted it to end.”
“So you targeted the new kid instead.”
“I’m sorry. I know it was wrong.”
“Then you should’ve known it was wrong back then.”
“I… I was just so desperate. So desperate. You can’t expect a kid to go that long with everybody throwing glares at him and spitting in his face.”
“I suppose.”
“And, well, now that he’s gone, people hate me even more for bullying him.”
“You’ve got to understand, Elizabeth. I hated myself then for being bullied and I hate myself now for being the bully. All I need is for you to forgive me and I’ll be on my merry way. I won’t have to bother you again.”
“Well, maybe I want to be bothered.”
“The funeral is at 8:00, tomorrow. Come in some nicer clothes, please. And stay on my good side or we’ll be hosting another funeral in a couple days’ time. He’d want to you be there.”
“You really think?”
“I really think.”
“I… I guess I’ll see you there.”
“I guess so.”

“Thank you, Jacob. Thank you for the second chance. I hope you’re living the life up there.”

"Judge Singer" by Gabe Horowitz, 10, Bethesda, MD

“They announced the verdict at noon today.”
“What is it?”
“Apparently he’s innocent.”
“Innocent? That’s absolutely ridiculous! If that thieving scoundrel is innocent, then the butcher’s shop is full of live chickens and not dead ones!”
“Calm down. Judge Singer is the fairest, most intelligent judge is the country. You don’t think he’d rule that a bank robber was innocent, do you? Surely someone else was the robber.”
“But that’s exactly what bothers me! Judge Singer is so clever, and yet he lets a bank robber walk free! Perhaps he’s not as sharp as he used to be.”
“Don’t say such things. Judge Singer is sharper than ever, and it’s very disrespectful of you to suggest otherwise.”
“You’re only saying that because you work for him! Has it ever occurred to you that maybe your perfect little boss isn’t as perfect as he always acts? That he isn’t as smart as everyone always says he is?’’
“I can’t believe you’re saying such hateful things. Judge Singer is the smartest person in town, certainly smarter than some people I know.”
“I may not have a law degree from Harvard, but I’m not so dim that I would let criminals walk freely!”
“Neither is Judge Singer! I know for a fact that the man was innocent.”
“And just how do you know that?”
“Because I’m the one that robbed the bank, of course!”

"Dreaming" by Matthew-Seungho Jeong, 13, Houston, TX

“Hey, Frank… Close the door behind you, I don't want the heat getting out.”
“How are you doin’? My condolences about your wife. Here- I brought some flowers-”
“You can leave them on the table over there, thanks.”
“I-I wasn’t sure… but I remembered she loved daisies.”
“Yes, our garden would be filled with them in spring.”
“So, you’ve been sleeping well recently?”
“Yeah, not bad.”
“Really? No nightmares? I remember when my brother passed away, I had nightmares for months.”
“No, I've actually never had any dreams my whole life.”
“Oh, so, you don’t remember a single one?”
“Nah, I can’t, not when I haven’t had one.”
“What do you mean, Steve? Everyone’s got ‘em. It’s proven by science. There was this article on it recently, they even published a study on how everyone dreams.”
“I’ve never dreamt before, even when I was little. That’s what the docs told my ma.”
“Wait, so does it change how your head-?”
“No, it doesn’t affect my thinking.”
“Wow. So... what’s it like to never dream, huh?”
“It’s fine, I guess. Not much. I guess it can be boring sometimes. Well, I guess it’s all sort of… blank. You ever get dreams, Frank?”
“Yeah, I did, all the time. I could control them, too- what-cha-ma-call-it?”
“You mean, lucid dreams?”
“Yeah, that. I was aware of everything and I could control everything when I dreamt. I even had this journal where I’d write about my dreams.”
“What’d you write in it?”
“Records of my dreams. I experimented with them, testing out what I could do, y’know? I could do almost anything; fly, breathe underwater, all that wack. Funny thing is, I’d never die.”
“Yeah? What do you mean by that?”
“I mean, I could die, but I never stayed dead. Once, just for curiosity, I jumped off a tower, but as soon as I went splat , I was looking at my dead body through another person’s eyes.”
“So you could do everything but stay dead.”
“It’s more complicated, how do I say- uh, like I didn’t have full control, as if I was in a car and fighting with someone for control of the wheel. Sometimes I have control, sometimes the other takes over. It just all depends on the dream.”
“Mm. So who’s the other guy?”
“I don’t know. My subconscious, maybe.”
“Seems like a good deal. Like being the god of your own world.”
“I guess. But it changes all the time, like a maze. Plus, nightmares are a different story.”
“But can’t you just change nightmares into a good dream?”
“No, it doesn’t work like that. The bad things happen, and you keep trying to change it, but it can’t be fixed. It’s endless, always out of reach. It’s impossible, and that’s when you realize that it’s not real. And that’s the scary part.”
“... And then what happens?”
“Nothing. You just wake up.”
“But, it’s not real.”
“It’s real when you dream of it.”
“But when you wake up, it’s all gone, right?”
“Not exactly. It sort of stays with you, like a bitter aftertaste.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Yeah, me neither. Old age must be cooking my head, eh?”
“I’d like to dream one day. Maybe meet other people. You can do that, right?”
“Yeah, I do that all the time.”
“Are the people… real? Authentic?”
“Well, you can’t really tell when dreaming. It’s all sort of... in the moment.”
“Can you meet people that aren’t here anymore?”
“Yes, but... I don’t think that’s a good idea, Steve. I really don’t-”
“Wait, Frank. Is it possible to dream about the same thing over and again?”
“C’mon, Frank. Tell me.”
“Yes, but I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Is this about her? It’s not a good idea to cling on to the-”
“But I have to, Frank. I have to.”

“Kathleen, what are you saying IDK lel?” by Kat Werth, 10, Bethesda, MD

“Kathleen, what are you saying IDK lel?
“Mommy are you crazy? It means: I don’t know/ laughing even louder!
“Gosh you kids!”
“Imma going to go chat with my friends...”

Watcha doin rn
O yea look at dis pic
Wut it’s so weird
Why did u take dis
Look at mine
Sry can’t rn
Me mom be annoying
Wut why
Just cuz
Idk sometimes mine 2
Kk cool
I’m boooooored
Wanna play Roblox
Ye peas
Wait hold on brb
Uuuugh kk bai

“What?! You guys are so strange!”
“The way you guys talk.”
“Yeah, so?”
“Well, anyway, what would it sound like if you took out all of the weirdness?”
“Like this:”

What’s up?
Not much.
What are you doing right now?
Oh yeah look at this picture.
What it’s so weird.
Why did you take this?
I don’t know!
Look at mine.
Can you call?
Sorry, I can’t right now.
Thank you.
My mom is annoying!
What why?
Just, well she is.
I don’t know sometimes mine is too!
OK cool.
I’m bored.
Wanna play Roblox?
Yes, please.
Wait. Hold on. Be right back.
I have to go.
Ugh. OK, bye.

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