This is the thirty-third installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here.
Writing good dialogue entails you first do some good listening. Tune in to the conversations around you. How do people greet each other? What catchphrases do certain people use? Do people finish sentences for one another? Does one person become more talkative in groups? These rhythms in how people communicate with one another create character.
- Go to a public place with crowds- the airport, a bus station, the mall, a restaurant. It’s best if you pick a place where people are naturally tense, like at the airport. Sit near a bunch of people so you can both blend in and listen. Pretend to be preoccupied with your own thoughts so you don’t call attention to yourself and change their natural conversation.
- Jot down several quick exchanges that you overhear. You may only be able to capture a phrase or two, and that’s okay.
- Look over what you have. Are there any interesting seeds of conflict or characters worth exploring? A mysterious plot point worth developing?
- If you have time, choose one and run with it. Write a 10-minute sketch (dialogue) between two people in which you develop character and conflict from the exchange you overheard.
How did you do? Even if you didn’t have time to write a complete scene based on one of the exchanges you overheard, did you at least walk away with a few possible stories? Did you pick up on some interesting ways in which people converse- non sequiturs, interruptions, unfinished sentences, etc.?
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Inspired by: Chiarella, Tom. Writing Dialogue: How to create memorable voices and fictional conversations that crackle with wit, tension and nuance. Cincinatti: Story Press, 1998, p. 9-17.