Monday, January 28, 2013

Talkin' Heads #37

TITLE: Beyond The River
GENRE: Literary Fiction

Brad and Dean are on a fly-fishing trip in the wilds of Northern California. Dean has just caught up with Brad at the river's edge.

“So, where are all the fish? You have them on a stringer somewhere?” Dean asked.

“Stringers have no place in this sport.” The thought of shoving a metal rod into a trout’s mouth, running it out the gill, and pulling a nylon rope through disgusted him. Slow and terrible death.

“Really? Whenever my old man and his buddies went for perch on Lake Erie, they’d return with stringers full of fish. Mostly they’d pull up with a buzz from whatever they’d been drinking and smoking, but they always brought fish home.”

Brad looked over his shoulder and said, “A stringer with trout in a place like this will get you chewed out. It might even get your ass kicked.”

“I thought this was a genteel sport.”

“Trout fishermen don’t use them.” Brad advanced further out into the river.

“What are you supposed to do? Smash the fish’s head against a rock? Wrap it in a fern, like Hemingway? That seemed to be his preferred method. Is that acceptable?”

“No. You don’t kill the fish. You let it go.”

“And why would anyone do such a thing?”

“It’s called catch and release.”

“What’s the point of standing for hours in nut-numbing water if you aren’t going to keep what you catch?”

“You don’t even eat fish,” Brad said.

“It has nothing to do with eating them. It’s the principle of the thing. When you win, you do what you want. You get to kill it.”


  1. I suspect this passage is metaphorical in some way - perhaps to Dean's past? Anyway, it's a cool way to go about it.

    I'll go ahead and give you my thoughts although some might not apply if I had read more.

    I had trouble believing Brad had no idea about fly fishing culture (if that's the right word) - I would think if he knew enough to come on this trip he wouldn't be so clueless. It's good for him to disagree of course, that adds the tension to the scene. As it is, much of it feels like a convenient way to inform the reader about fishing.

  2. I really liked this. And I have zero interest in fishing! Still I got through the dialogue that Brad is an idiot and Dean is a mysterious man with integrity. I would want to read on and see where this fishing trip takes them.
    One idea: I think it would be stronger if instead of this:
    The thought of shoving a metal rod into a trout’s mouth, running it out the gill, and pulling a nylon rope through disgusted him. Slow and terrible death.
    You took some part of Dean's thinking and made it dialogue. He could easily say something curt to Brad about 'slow and terrible death'.

  3. I actually think "slow and terrible death" works really well as internal monologue, but would sound forced & a little unnatural if it was aloud.

    You've got some really strong characters showing through here--very distinct; the alpha male vs. the more sensitive, contemplative soul. If you are using this as a way to inform the reader, it worked for this reader; I didn't notice it as expositional--I assumed Dean has never been out before, and the fact that he was so obnoxious about the whole thing made it work.

  4. This excerpt really grabbed me. I agree with the previous commenters that you do a great job of revealing your characters through the dialogue.

    I'm curious about Dean - is he younger than Brad? Something about him comes across like a teenager trying to talk tough. Or maybe he's just a loudmouth.

    The line about "shoving a metal rod..." was somewhat off-putting to me. It was a very stark image to get as the second line of a passage. However, if this comes several pages into a book (as I suppose it must), that might not stand out at all.

    Dean's next line ("my old man and his buddies...") felt a little bit like an info dump. I wonder if you really need all the detail in that paragraph. Although, if this is consistent with Dean's character (i.e., he's always running off at the mouth), it's fine.

    Nice work!

  5. This was really good, pulled me right in and caused flashbacks to my childhood. I could picture my grandfather's string of fish. The dialogue did a nice job of establishing personalities. The first time my husband went fishing, he sounded just like Dean. Once he learned about throwing the fish back, he never went again. Therefore, I'll say the dialogue sounded authentic to me.

  6. I really like how the talk about catch and release seems to be a way of developing character in a subtle way. I also like how "stringer" gets explained for a non fisher-person like me-- it didn't feel too info-dumpy to me at all. Good work!