Weekly Writing Challenge: Dialogue
We blog for a million different reasons, but in the end, we’re all storytellers. Creative Writing Challenges are here to help you push your writing boundaries and explore new ideas, subjects, and writing styles.
To participate, tag your post with DPchallenge and include a link to this post, to generate a pingback and help others find the challenges. Please make sure your post has been specifically written in response to this challenge. We’ll highlight some of our favorites on Freshly Pressed on Friday, and in our monthly newsletter.
“What do you mean you’re moving to New York?” my boyfriend said.
“I just need to get out of here. This city isn’t for me,” he said.
I remember that afternoon, still so clearly. We sat on the patio, the sun strong and shining down. He was perspiring. Uncomfortable. He couldn’t look me in the eye. I chose to look away anyway.
Nothing draws me into a post like an opening scene with dialogue. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing fiction, nonfiction, memoir, or even journalism: Drop me in the middle of the action. Make me a fly on the wall. I guarantee I’ll be instantly engaged, wondering who these people are. Or write as if you’re a character in your own story, and you’ve pulled me along for the adventure.
The two opening lines of dialogue above add life and drama, and make this introduction more interesting than if it began with “I remember that afternoon, still so clearly.”
Consider, too, the beginning of MBC Written‘s post “Tenant and Landlord”:
“Who goes there?” my landlord questioned playfully, hiding what was most likely minor annoyance at being interrupted. It was ten o’clock at night on a Tuesday and as he stood in the door I could faintly hear the TV from upstairs.
Right from the start, I’m grounded in a place and reeled in, watching a scene unfold.
When it came to writing a scene with characters and dialogue, a screenwriting professor told me to keep it simple: A single scene has a purpose, and each line of dialogue matters. He asked me: What is the goal of this scene? What will be revealed in this conversation?
He also suggested I enter a scene a bit too late and exit a scene a bit too early — as if your reader walks into a room while two people are in the midst of talking about something important, but is then forced to leave before anything is resolved.
Your challenge this week? Begin a post with a scene that includes dialogue. Think of a hook — a moment that can act as a catalyst and drive your narrative forward. Some points to consider:
Pick a topic or subject you can bring to life.
Maybe you want to focus on a person, like a family member or the kind stranger who once helped you on the street. Perhaps you want to recount a fond moment between you and your child, or the day you said goodbye to a former lover. Or maybe you want to write a political commentary or news opinion piece — you can use a scene to frame this type of post, too, especially if you can connect your ideas to something you’ve personally experienced.
Imagine a physical location from where your post begins. Think cinematically: if a director were to adapt your post into a short film, how would he shoot the first frames? You don’t have to stay in this place for the entire post — it’s simply a setting you conjure at the start, allowing your reader to paint a picture in their mind as they dive into your post.
Once you’ve got your setting, get talkin’.
If you write about someone you know, think of a past conversation in which something about the person was revealed: Banter that shows his or her personality. An exchange between the two of you that illustrates your relationship. Emotional responses and telling facial expressions.
Never written dialogue? This challenge is a chance to practice. Do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable typing your words: Run an imaginary conversation through your head. Read your words out loud and listen to the rhythm. You’ll likely find that simple works best. People tend to speak naturally — umms, yeahs, contractions, and all.
You can participate no matter your style or genre — even a poem! For those of you who get stuck, try a bit of dialogue anywhere in your post. We like how Finding Kelowna‘s post, “The Priest Was Right,” includes dialogue in the middle, which livens up the prose:
As the priest tips water onto my forehead he repeats an incantation that is two thousand years old: “I baptize you,” he intones, “Gianni Eugenio Ma…Max?” He asks, puzzled and somewhat distressed. “Max is not an Italian name…Marco…Marco is better.” And thus he inscribes my baptismal certificate.
We look forward to seeing your submissions!