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Inquisition Exposition (Creative Writing Exercise)

There used to be a funny show called Whose Line is it Anyway? It was originally a British performance comedy, and then they brought it to the U. S. in a gameshow format with Drew Carey as the host. The whole show was improv, with a random mix of games to challenge the performers.

This week’s article was on Reader Response Questions, but we’ve already done a weekly writing exercise on those, so I thought we should take a page out of Drew Carey’s book and try to make something entertaining. We’re going to do our best to participate in a game they played called “Questions.”

For your exercise, I want you to write a scene that’s all dialogue. The gameshow featured two characters, but you can put as many as you want in the scene. They’re only allowed to ask questions, though. That’s the gimmick. You’ve got to convey information (and do your best to make it feel natural) with nothing but questions.

We’re not professional improvists (unless Cindy drops by, anyway), so I’ll cut you a break. You’re allowed one sentence of attribution per question. So you could say something like this:

“What is that? A gun?” Paul asked, edging toward the door.

“Are you surprised?” Dino said, with an angry chuckle. “Where do you think you’re going, anyway?” He waved the gun as he said it, and Paul froze in place.

That last sentence is bordering on too much, but I’m being generous. Still, take it as a challenge, and see just how much you can say, without saying anything directly. It’s excellent practice on several facets of your storytelling, and it should be a fun game at the same time.

2 Responses to “Inquisition Exposition (Creative Writing Exercise)”

  1. Cindy says:

    Open scene. AL and JAMES are working on a construction project. JAMES starts heading for the parking lot.

    AL: Where are you going, man?

    James turns back.

    JAMES: Aren’t we finished?

    AL: Does this look finished to you?

    AL points to an unfinished wall.

    JAMES: What’s your definition of finished?

    AL: Are we really going to split hairs over this? Can’t you just stay and help me finish up this side? What’s so important, anyway?

    James picks up some 2 x 4s and lines them against the wall, glances at the clock. AL continues screwing boards together.

    JAMES: Isn’t it after 5?

    AL looks at JAMES.

    AL: Man, what’s the hurry?

    JAMES: Do you really need me to stay and help?

    AL: Do you really need this job tomorrow?


    JAMES: Are you saying what I think you’re saying?


    AL: Could you spare me a hand here?

    JAMES walks back to the wall.

    JAMES: What do you need?

    AL: Where’s the cordless drill?

    JAMES: Do we have a cordless drill?

    AL removes safety goggles, wipes brow.

    AL: Are you out of your mind today? What has gotten into you? Why can’t you focus?

    JAMES: Would you let me go if I told you why I needed to leave?

    AL: Are you asking me to make some sort of promise to you? Don’t you think that sounds kind of…

    JAMES interrupts.

    JAMES: Do you think, if I worked here long and hard enough, that I could ever move up and make some more money?


    AL: Are you in some sort of trouble, James?

    JAMES: What if I stayed late, worked weekends, skipped lunch? Could I get a raise?

    AL puts back on the safety goggles. Returns to work on the wall.

    AL: Where is that hammer so I can knock you on your head with it?

    Long pause.

    JAMES: What if I told you that Molly’s pregnant?

    AL screws in a few more boards. Waits. Then:

    AL: How long have you known about this?

    JAMES (to himself): When did she tell me…?

    AL: Look, why are you so worried? Don’t you have a job? Don’t you have an operating vehicle? Don’t you have some savings?

    AL gets up and starts looking for the cordless drill. JAMES follows.

    JAMES: How do you know how much to plan for a baby? How am I supposed to support us both?

    AL: Is that why you need to leave right at 5? Because Molly is pregnant? Tell me this: how long are women pregnant?

    (No response from JAMES)

    How long?

    JAMES: Isn’t it…40 weeks? 9 months?

    AL: Have you prayed to the Lord that your baby gets Molly’s brains?

    JAMES: Why are you asking me if you already know how long they are pregnant?

    AL finds the cordless drill.

    AL: Do you plan on checking out of here at 5 o’clock every day that Molly is pregnant? How do you expect me to give you a promotion if you’re watching the clock like a hawk?

    JAMES: Are you offering me a promotion?

    AL returns to work on the wall.

    AL: Will you just tell me what you want? Do you want to leave right at 5, or do you want to stay and earn the right to move up in this company?

    James’ cellphone rings.

    JAMES: Hello?

    AL: Who is that?

    JAMES: Is it okay if I’m a little late tonight, baby?

    AL: Who are you talking to? Is that Molly?

    JAMES: Are you sure?

    AL (to the heavens): Is this some sort of test? Have I done something wrong here?

    JAMES: Hello? Baby? Can you hear me?

    AL: Was that Molly?

    JAMES: Can I go now?

    AL: Will you come in early tomorrow?

    JAMES: If I say yes, can I go?

    Al nods. James nods. James exits.

    AL: Why am I cursed to be around such idiots?

    Wall falls.


  2. Aaron Pogue says:

    Wow, thanks, Cindy! That’s an awesome scene. I’m glad you took the time to come by and share with us.