Wednesday, February 24, 2010

34 Talkin' Heads

GENRE: Middle grade action adventure
EMOTION: frustration, despair

In this scene, which takes place in Namibia, Africa, Kondor, a Himba poacher is marching Tyler and Sierra (two American teenagers) and Dakata, a Himba conservationist, up a dry riverbed to shoot them for trying to stop him and his fellow poachers from killing rhino. Because Dakata is afraid his failure to protect the rhinos will disappoint his father, Tyler shares how he disappointed his own father in the past.

“Look, it wasn’t anything specific.” Tyler ground his teeth together. Why was Dakata making it so difficult? “All I know is when my dad left, he told me I was weighing him down. That he was tired of not being able to do what he wanted. That he wasn’t at all happy with the way his life had turned out.”

Dakata shook his head.

“Dude, you’re not getting it.”

Dakata put his hand on Tyler’s shoulder. “No my friend, it is you who lacks the getting. What you say is impossible. I say fathers do not act this way.” Another shot rang out. Kondor had stumbled over a rock so he’d shot it.

Dakata sighed. “You must remember Kondor’s father. Even though Kondor has turned out to be a truly detestable individual, his father never abandoned him. Even at the trial, you saw, he tried to change his son to good. Even now, I say this father would still try to help his son. It is what fathers do. They never give up on their sons.”

Another shot rang out. “Move faster lazy humans, or I shoot.”

“You already did shoot,” Sierra mumbled from behind them.

Tyler glared at Kondor and walked even slower. “I don’t get what you’re telling me.”

Dakata put his hand on Tyler’s shoulder. “Tyler, my friend, have you ever considered that your father left because he was the one deficient in some way, not yourself.”

“No, Dakata, it’s me. It just is.” Tyler jerked his shoulder out of Dakata’s grasp and picked up his pace.


  1. I liked this, and I'm surprised it hasn't had more comments. I think you nailed the frustration. The despair I didn't get so much. To me, they felt more defiant in their actions where the words displayed frustration.

    Dakata's speech is really formal, but I don't know if that's "wrong" for the situation. My experience is that even young people who speak English as a second language tend to do so with a strong degree of formality. So I think it works here.

    The only part that threw me was "lazy humans". My brain immediately thought "supernatural", but based on genre, I'm guessing not.

  2. I definetly see the frustration that Tyler felt trying to talk about his father. However, it seems a bit relaxed for teens who are marching toward their death. Not very realistic emotion given the situation. Good dialogue but not believable considering WHAT the characters are doing.

  3. You do a great job with Dakata's speech patterns. The formality of his speech shows English isn't his first language. So, I liked that. I also like the message Dakata is telling Tyler. Your father is the deficit one, not you. Good stuff.

    That being said the circumstance of the conversation is hard to believe. They are being marched to their deaths and they are discussing displeasing their fathers? Sierra is mumbling about Kondor already shooting? Is this Kondor guy some kind of jester in the story because otherwise I'd think the tension would be too great for this conversation to occur.

    BTW--I did like the description of Kondor shooting the rock he tripped over. Funny!

  4. This is well written and I agree with the comments above. For some reason, I had trouble figuring out who spoke the line, "Dude, you're not getting it." If this is Tyler, you might want to specify. Also, I think the line about Kondor shooting a rock needs to go in a different paragraph since this is a different character acting. You might also want to reword this to past tense so we see it happen, rather than hear about it later (ie, Kondor stumbled over a rock. He pulled out his pistol and shot it)

  5. I didn't have much problem with the flow of the dialogue. I'm just not sure the content of the discussion fits the scene.

  6. I was wondering about the discussion too. It didn't seem to be the sort of conversation you'd have when being marched to your death. Having said that, I loved Sierra's line. It made me laugh.

    I liked the dialogue, and I think it was a very interesting point Dakata was trying to make. I'm just not sure this is the right place for it.

  7. My comments pretty much jive with those above. However -- I think the "inappropriateness" of this conversation in the setting of being marched to death could be fixed with a few judicious additions of angst. You could throw in some things like "Trying to take their minds off what might await them, they began conversing, first about blah, blah, blah, then haltingly about their fathers. It didn't get rid of the cold fear in the pit of their stomachs but it made the walk endurable for a while."

    The dialogue is well-written and flows naturally.