Last Saturday, Aravind MJ, one of our oldest members at Write Club, hosted a session on spoken words in writing. I wasn’t there to experience it first-hand, but if the following notes he sent me are any indication, it must have been a smashing session.
More than anything else, fiction writers have to master the art of making characters talk – whether to themselves or to others. This is much more important than description, point of view, narrative pace, and all other such technical elements. If you’re able to write convincing ‘spoken words’, you will be able to write good, readable fiction most of the time.
Click here to read 4 mistakes to avoid when writing dialogue.
Exercise 1: Dialogue
You’re at a coffee shop. Two people are talking or shouting at a table near to you. You hear a line suddenly that piques your interest.
‘Are you taking his side against me?’
You are recording the conversation. Eavesdropping. Write a scene that describes the conversation, purely by writing down the words that are said.
- No, “He said”, “She said”. Details should emerge from the dialogue
- Less marks for plot, emphasis on character
Exercise 2: Audition Monologue
Ever heard of audition monologue?
Theatre actors may be called upon to use monologues for audition purposes. Audition monologues demonstrate an actor’s ability to prepare a piece and deliver a performance. These pieces are usually relegated to two minutes (sometimes less) and are often paired with a contrasting monologue. This can be a comic monologue paired with a dramatic monologue or it can mean classical paired with contemporary. The choice of monologues for an audition can often depend on the play in question or the role the actor wants to land. The audition monologue is a rite of passage with theatre actors and a tradition that continues today.
You walk into a bar, alone. Late afternoon. Soft music, low murmurs. The bar is not crowded. Sit at a bar stool, order a drink, look around.
There is a person sitting two stools away, nobody in between. Raises a glass to you, you raise yours too. He/she moves nearer, you introduce yourselves.
After some time, they starts telling you a story about malaysian airline mh370. Speaks for over 20 minutes.
Recount the monologue.
Marks for plot, but more marks for the character of the raconteur emerging out of his tale.
Exercise 3: Snippets of Conversations
You are at a party.
- Office party
- New job. You don’t know too many people, but they all know each other.
- Walking around, drink in hand, you move from group to group. Make no effort to engage, just listen.
Write 6 snippets you heard. One person or two, doesn’t matter – meaning one or two lines for each snippet.
At the end of it, a picture emerges of this company’s culture. What is it?
Image Courtesy: Science Wise