Thursday, December 16, 2010

Writing Exercise: Dialogue

You guys want to do a writing exercise together? I've been wanting to do some dialogue practice. We could each do five pages on a theme, and I could post my five for you to see, then look at some of the better ones on Writing Excuses and talk over strengths/weaknesses.

Write a five- to ten-page two-character dialogue with no tags or blocking. Try to evoke character, conflict, and plot using only dialogue. Include: a problem, two distinct individuals, a fantasy/sf element. Avoid: long monologues, exposition. Use context, not explanations.

Terry Bisson did a great job with this sort of thing in his short story "They're Made Out of Meat." (Read it now, if you haven't before. It's a quick read.) And here's another excellent example, from Josh Vogt. No prose. No "He said." No "He walked to the door." Just dialogue.

Five to ten pages is just a suggestion—about a thousand words or so— but you don't have to make yours any particular length. It can be a short short, standing on its own, or it can be a short story. Or it can be the start of a novel, or just an excerpt of dialogue from an ordinary story. Basically, this doesn't need to be a complete story. The goal is to see how much you can get across without exposition and with a fast-moving dialogue.

I'll post mine Monday, so that's a good deadline. Then later, we'll look at some of them on an episode of Writing Excuses. We won't have time to get to all of them. But, as the Time-Waster's Guide forums are back online, we can post all of them there and give each other feedback. Or you can post on your own blog and post a link on the forum. Or you can just send it to me via email.

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