I noticed, when editing my novel, that I had a tendency to describe conversations, rather than writing them. So I set myself this assignment: a flash story written entirely in dialogue. The result was this ... unsellable mass. It's still coherent, and it was easier to write than I expected, which probably means I got better at dialogue since the beginning of my first novel, but it was still tricky to pull together.
"What do you see?"
"Over the hill?"
"A camp. Battle camp."
"How many soldiers?"
"Hard to say. I keep losing count at a few hundred tents. Keep your head down, will you?"
"I'm just trying to see!"
"You'll get your chance in a minute."
"Didn't they tell you that when you enlisted?"
"I thought it was just to discourage the weak ones."
"They don't do that. They tell you whatever they need to if it will get you to enlist. That includes telling you things that make you think you're tougher than everyone else."
"Hey, don't worry about it. They told me I'd be a captain in three years, with my own squad."
"But you are a captain."
"It's been eleven years."
"Oh. So they just sort of lied?"
"Keep quiet. Someone's coming."
"It was over here?"
"Yes, just here on the hill, I swear I saw something."
"There's nothing here."
"I saw something!"
"What did you see? Something shiny?"
"Yes, like a scope or binocs."
"Well I don't see anything."
"I'm telling you there was something here!"
"Look, it was the end of your night shift. You were bound to lose focus and start imagining-"
"I didn't imagine it!"
"Fine. You keep looking here. I'm going back to camp. It's freezing out here."
"I thought he'd never leave."
"How come they couldn't see us?"
"The camoflage is pretty good."
"That was more than camoflage. I saw you when I came up just before, and you were camoflaged."
"It's above your pay grade, kid. Let's leave it at that."
"Leave it. It's not your concern."
"What are we going to do about the camp?"
"We wait. If Central want us to take it out, we have to know where to hit first."
"So we just keep watching?"
"And waiting for the word. Where did those two goons go back to?"
"I couldn't see. You have the only binocs."
"Wouldn't they just be going back to the guard tent anyway?"
"That's a good one to know, though. Can help you plan raids."
"So what do we do if Central wants the camp gone? We're just two people."
"We find their command tent, kill their senior officers, grenade a few others, then reinforcements capture the rest."
"They're all potential recruits, too."
"How many do we get from them?"
"Only about 10% enlist."
"And the rest?"
"Some others can be brainwashed. Most go to Grundig for his experiments."
"I don't like Grundig."
"Most people don't. He's a butcher and a monster. But he figured out the brainwashing."
"But you said only a few can be brainwashed."
"They're getting better at it. Plus the more soldiers they get to test on, the more they learn."
"Still seems wrong."
"It's not wrong on a long time scale. And if we win the war, we write the history."
"That doesn't make it right, though. Just means we get to spin it our way."
"Hey, why did you enlist?"
"Are you sure you want to know?"
"What does that mean?"
"I never said I did enlist, Captain."
"What? What do you mean?"
"I saw you up here, and we hatched a plan to find out directly from you what happens to our men."
"We knew you were expecting reinforcements. We got the kid just before he arrived. These are his clothes I'm wearing."
"But the ... All part of the act, then?"
"All part of the act, Captain."
"Well ... this has been a massive balls-up."
"And you'll be coming with us now."
Mokalus of Borg
PS - I hope you ... tolerate it.
PPS - I also started writing a new Sister Margaret story this week.