Wednesday Writing Workout: Dialogue

Welcome to your Mid-Week Workout. If you missed last week’s workout on Found Poetry, fret not, you can catch up here.

This week we will be looking at dialogue. Dialogue in your writing, be it plays, fiction or even poetry can liven up the pieces. Dry dialogue, or unbelievable dialogue can break the magic of the world you’re creating.

Your task this week is to listen. Listen to conversations, note down dialogue tags and how often people are interrupted when speaking. Very few people talk in full sentences. People don’t take turns when speaking. They just speak.

Often writers make the mistake of writing in too much information through the dialogue. No-one answers with the full question ahead of their response.

e.g. instead of:

a – how are you doing today?
b – I’m doing alright today

do this:

a – how are you?
b – alright

Choppier dialogue, with the boring bits taken out make it a lot easier to read.

Find a comfortable spot. Coffee shops, park benches, trains and buses all work well. You don’t need to see the people having conversations, but here are some things to listen out for:
– accents
– type of language used, i.e. academic or colloquial
– are they a native speaker, do they get words or phrases wrong
– mispronunciations
– use of profanities
– shorthand in speech i.e. people that are familiar with each other may not complete full sentences, they may have inside jokes

When you get back home, or to your writing spot, try and see if you can imitate a person’s speech. Write it down, give it someone else. If they read it out in the same way at the person you’ve tried to imitate, then you’ve done an amazing job. Well done.

Happy eavesdropping 

Afshan D'souza-Lodhi
Afshan D'souza-Lodhi is a poet and playwright based in Manchester. As well as her own writing Afshan is keen to develop other younger and emerging artists. You can find her fighting against police brutality and injustice alongside the Northern Police Monitoring Project.

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