All this month here at NitWitty we’re showing you, dear reader, the process of writing short fiction. Here’s the original draft, and this is the final draft. Afterwards are comments talking about what changed and why I made the choices I did.
>hey Alie, are you up?
>Got a minute to talk?
<What do you want Mike?
>i wanna talk
<What makes you think that I want to talk to you right now?
>i miss you
<Don’t call me.
>but you’re answering now
<It’s probably a mistake.
<Why don’t you go call whatever her name is?
>Because I dont want to talk to her.
<Wrong answer Mike.
>i wanna talk to you about what happened.
<We’re talking now.
>no we’re not. Is that what you call this?
<Look, I don’t know what you’re doing now Mike, but it’s late and I don’t really have the time for this.
>i wanna make the time.
>i miss you
<So apologize Mike. Just admit you did something fucked up and I’ll think about working on it.
>im not gonna apologize
<Then we don’t have anything to talk about.
>i’m not going to apologize because i didn’t sleep with her
<Don’t lie to me. Don’t you fucking dare lie.
<I caught you, and that’s the only reason that you didn’t go through with it.
>That’s not all of it.
<It’s not? Then what am I missing?
<Tell me the truth.
>Me and Kim, we hung out a few times
>after a few times hanging out, we got drunk one night and fooled around.
>but that was all we did before you found us
<Fuck you Mike.
>but we didn’t hook up Alie
<You wanted to.
>It was a mistake.
<Stop texting me Mike.
>no Alie, I’m not gonna stop.
>i love you
<If you loved me you wouldn’t have been screwing around on me.
>I do, but you know, you dont make it easy.
>if you loved me you didn’t like to show it
<Oh, so now it’s my fault that you started seeing somebody behind my back Mike? You’re un-fucking believable.
<Please, do tell.
>You’re never there. Like, we hardly even talk sometimes.
>I’m trying to save our marriage through texting.
<I was always there.
>Doing what Alie?
<You can’t blame me for this. Instead of talking to me about, you went behind my back.
<You were the one who went on these dates and probably talked about how your wife is some kind of super bitch.
>No we just talked.
<If you can’t tell me about what you talked about, how can I trust you?
>No. I mean we talked about nothing.
>Just like, our day and shit.
<We do that.
>we come home and sit around watching tv
>or you’re on your phone all the time doing whatever.
>But we don’t talk
<Stop trying to justify yourself Mike. You’re just going to piss me off even more.
>At least that would be something.
>If you want to be pissed, be pissed, but at least care enough to be mad at me.
>This is longest conversation we’ve had in months
>Alie I’m lonely
<If you hadn’t cheated on me, you wouldn’t be.
>i was lonely before
>and i missed you even when you were around Alie
<We spent time together Mike. Trips, nights, weekends, all of it.
<Every night we were together.
<Every night we could talk.
>But we didn’t talk Alie.
>We never did.
>Being there isn’t the same thing as being present.
<Maybe before we could have worked through this.
<But I can’t trust you anymore Mike. Instead of just talking to me about how you were feeling you went and found somebody else.
<For a relationship to work, both people need to want it.
<I’ve invested 5 years into this thing, and when you do something like this, I just can’t.
>its not about putting in time and having a relationship work
>we hardly even talk anymore.
>you wanna know what the secret is?
>you wanna know why I wanted to be with her?
>It’s because Kim just wanted to spend time with me
>She wants to share her thoughts
>She dreams big ideas with me
>You seem to think that being in a relationship is just a check box to your perfect fucking life
>But it’s not Alie. It’s not enough because there are 2 people in it
<That’s bullshit. If this was all so important, then why didn’t you talk to me about it?
>Like, when you’re always on your phone? Talking to people thousands of miles away?
>Or on business trips?
>Or the other million things that are more important?
<Mike, I need you to listen to me.
<I’m sorry if I wasn’t very good at being a wife.
<Maybe if I had known this before, if we had found a way to talk about this before.
<If I had made some time, we could’ve fixed it.
<But instead of giving me a chance, you went to someone else.
<…and then I found you together.
<What you’re asking for is going to be a lot of work.
<I love you
<Some part of me will always love you.
<But I can never trust you again.
<So I can’t trust that all of that work will amount to anything.
<So I’m not going to do it.
>Please Alie I just wanted to talk.
<I don’t want to be with you anymore.
<Don’t text me again.
Overall I didn’t get too many comments about making changes to the structure of the story, so I left that largely intact. A note that I did get was changing the ending to be cleaner, but in this case I rejected that comment. The reason has to do with how I wanted the story to end in a messy way, without a clear resolution. I feel like the characters develop a little bit over the course of this conversation, and we see that their relationship was more or less doomed from the beginning. So I’m content to stick with that since I feel it lends a sense of realism to the piece.
An editorial comment I did take was to cut the prose sections.This had the effect of making me rewrite the dialog in order to create the pacing that I wanted. Having a line of dialog followed by a prose section created a pause in the reading, which a reader takes to mean as a pause in the conversation. Since the prose wasn’t working I cut all of it out and added more to the individual lines to make them longer. What I was left with are text messages that are longer than most people actually send, but they have the dynamic flow that I wanted. Additionally, the spacing/formatting tweaks the flow in a similar way, which I’m happy with.
I asked about whether the formatting was confusing, and while nobody seemed to have an issue, I went ahead and made all of Alie’s lines italicized anyway, and now I feel it’s a clearer read.
In either case, I’m happy with how Don’t Talk turned out. I was curious if it was possible to write an entire story in text messages, and I’m happy with where those restraints led me.