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Writing 101, Day Seven: Give and Take

Focus today’s post on the contrast between two things. The twist? Write the post in the form of a dialogue.

Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.

Remember those “compare and contrast” essays in composition class, in which you’re forced to create a clunky juxtaposition of two arguments? Just because that particular form was a bore doesn’t mean that opposition has no place in your writing.

Bringing together two different things — from the abstract and the inanimate to the living and breathing — creates a natural source of tension, and conflict drives writing forward. It makes your reader want to continue to the next sentence, to the next page. So, focus on your two starkly different siblings, or your competing love for tacos and macarons, or whether thoughts are more powerful than words, or…you get the idea.

Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue. You can create a strong opposition between the two speakers — a lovers’ quarrel or a fierce political debate, for example. Or you could aim to highlight the difference in tone and style between the two different speakers — your call!

If you’d like more guidance, check out these ten tips on writing solid dialogue. In case you’re intimidated by dialogue tags — all those “he said,” “she whispered,” etc., here’s a useful overview.

Emulating people’s speech in written form takes practice, and creating two distinct voices could help you see (and hear) the different factors that play into the way we speak, from our diction and accent to our vocabulary and (creative?) use of grammar. (We’ll discuss the topic of voice more formally later in the course; for now, take a stab at writing dialogue on your own.)

Need a helping hand? Head to The Commons.

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  1. Well defined contrast sharpens both images/meanings.
    (Trouble getting started? Try sitting in one place at table or desk and free write thoughts of one character/position. Then physically get up and move to the other side of the table and (on a different page/ space down to clear space – no writing seen), free write taking the opposite viewpoint/position. Then (get up and move to the center as a moderator and sort through the ideas and create the post by merging and blending into essay, story or dialogue.
    Actually moving from place to place sometimes helps the brain switch gears.)
    Relax and enjoy musical chairs by brain or body.
    Contrast and comparisons are always rowdy fun.

  2. Having a little think about this while in the office. I might write the dialogue in script format to further experiment with the writing style once I get home to write.

    1. I didn’t even get to the title of your post; I was halted by the appearance of zucchini noodles! No one should want Zpaghetti this badly at 5:30 in the morning.

  3. A mother and adult daughter have been separated for years. A death in the family caused them to communicate through emails. The mother emailed ” your grandmother is dying, wanted to let you know, so that you are prepared.” The daughter’s reply was ” Thanks for letting me know, but I already knew through my brother.” Mom’s heart leapt with hope. Her daughter replied to her! Perhaps this sad time would provide an opening for communication and healing to begin. Carefully the mother proceeded to message her estranged child back. She wrote,” Thankyou for responding. I am sending a gift certificate to you for your birthday. Hope you have a lovely day!” The mother waited for reply, none came. When time neared for the funeral, she heard that perhaps her daughter would not attend. Thinking that her daughter needed encouragement and sensing her need to be welcomed, the mother attempted another message. This time she indicated that the presence of the whole family would be honoring a wonderful woman’s life. Knowing that this may not make a difference to her daughters decision, the mother added consolation in stating, ” Your grandmother knows you love her, as she also loves you”. Mom then waited for an answer. Within 5 minutes a reply was sent. It read, ” I will not be attending the funeral. I will honor the life of grandma in my own way. I know she knows I loved her!”. The mother’s heart sank. Her eyes filled with tears and her she ached with a familiar grief. One that she had carried for many years now. Her Daughter made it clear that she needed no reassurance from the person who had given birth to her, had comforted her, had cared for and nursed her. The funeral came and went. A few days later the mother made another attempt at connecting with the daughter. “Dear daughter”, she wrote, ” Your grandma has some jewelry and paintings you may want in memory of her.” An answer arrived a few days later, it read, ” yes please send the them by registered mail. Thankyou for the gift, It was not necessary but it was thoughtful of you. The mother’s heart fluttered in hope. Although her daughter never ended the emails with any endearing words, nor had she even included the term “mom”, the woman envisioned a truce had evolved. Perhaps they would exchange recipes or simple pleasantries more often in the future. The mother bravely made another attempt, took it one step further. She wrote,” Daughter, perhaps we could meet quietly and you could choose which of grandma’s items you would like to keep.” Days passed, finally the daughter wrote back. She said, ” Registered mail will do. Do not abuse the fact that I am responding to you this way. Do not imagine that there is open communication between us.Goodnite.” The mother wept yet again at the loss of her only daughter. She mused over the contrast between death and estrangement. And wondered at the unintended cruelty of hope.

    1. Hi Toby — I’m really glad today’s prompt inspired you to write, but in the future could you please publish it on your own blog, and share a link to it here or in the Commons? Thanks!

    1. Even a post about why this assignment stumped you while a previous one didn’t would count as one about a contrast! :)
      Another thing that always helps me: reading others’ takes on the same topic. You never know which blogger’s post might inspire you to write something yourself.