Maryland Writers Association--Charles County ChapterRichard J. Siciliano, Professor of EnglishCollege of Southern MarylandJune 19, email@example.com
Dialogue needs to accomplish at least one ofthe following: furthering the plot revealing character creating conflict eliciting emotion deepening a reader’s experience of what isknown of the characters
JERRY (played by Jack Lemmon):―Who are we kidding? Look at that--look how she moves—-itslike Jell-O on springs. They must have some sort of a built-inmotor. I tell you its a whole different sex.‖http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbQqnJw7xL0
―What should we drink?― the girl asked. She had taken offher hat and put it on the table.―It’s pretty hot,‖ the man said.―Let’s drink beer.‖―Dos cervezas,‖ the man said into the curtain.―Big ones?‖ a woman asked from the doorway.―Yes. Two big ones.‖―Hills Like White Elephants.‖ Ernest Hemingway
2. Punctuation goes with the quote and insidethe quote marks (note the question marks inHemingway’s story).3. Avoid using words like exclaimed (anexclamation mark by itself will tell us if thespeaker exclaimed).4. In a two-person dialogue, after identifyingthe speakers, dont repeat "he said" or "shesaid" every time a character speaks. The newparagraphs will serve to identify the speaker.
5. Give each character a distinctive voice (notsimply an accent or dialect, or a voice that’s,squeaky, or raspy). It’s the personality thatcounts – his or her outlook on life, attitude. Thecharacters’ voices should not sound the same;each should be idiosyncratic, identifiable.6. Use speech tags, but not to the extreme, suchas here: ―My goodness,‖ she expostulatedurgently, with excessive trembling of the lowerlip.7. Better yet, link actions with dialogue toeliminate the need for speech tags.8. Limit stage directions. Let the actions speak forthemselves.
9. Let dialogue grow out of conflict andtension.10. Use adverbs sparingly (he advisedadmonishingly).11. Read your story aloud. If the dialogue ringstrue, it will sound true.12. Above all, make dialogue serve the story, notthe other way around.
Look over the seven fiction ―prompts‖ (storystarters) and decide on one to focus on. Break into groups of 2 or 3 by story title. Discuss the story starter and develop thedialogue for at least two characters. (for 10minutes) Note: The concluding paragraphs (the lastpage of each hand-out) are endings written bythe authors. However, you may decide thestory should end differently. Develop yourcharacters and their dialogues accordingly.
Since we ran out of time and couldn’t go overour groups’ dialogues, at the next WritersAssociation meeting on July 17, 2013, it wassuggested that each of us work on writing afew lines of dialogue for all seven storystarters, if possible. Send your dialogues tomy email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, bringin your dialogues to the meeting and we’llread and discuss them at that time.
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