Creative Exercise #8


Dialogue reveals character and the relationship between characters. No two people speak alike and you should try to give your characters a verbal as well as a physical distinctiveness. Do they use a certain turn of phrase? A slang word? A swear word? Do they stutter or um and ah? Are they pompous or verbose?

Dialogue is also a means of exposition (communicating essential information to the reader about the background of the story) and is one of the basic ways of activating your text by  showing not telling. That may sound strange but allowing a character to tell the reader something rather than just narrating it in the text, is a legitimate means of ‘showing’.

One of the most difficult aspects, for me, in writing realistic dialog has been making the non-POV character's speak realistically.   The problem rises from all the little nuances in socializing.   It is difficult to portray the thoughts of a character who is not your POV, so during a general draft, I find I often end up with rather stale characters.   I have discovered a way to ease this process.

  1. Write the scene in its entirety from the point of view which you intend to use in the final draft (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc).
  2. For each character, rewrite the scene completely, using them as a replacement point of view.
  3. Now that you have an accurate picture of how every character is involved in the scene, rewrite the scene once more from the main POV character (this is what you'll post below).   Do not just copy from Step 1.   That was just warm up.   Writing the scene without referring back to the previous drafts will help produce a dialog that incorporates everything you've learned in this process.

Be sure to make a comment on a classmates post for full credit.

23 thoughts on “Creative Exercise #8

  1. Kelsey

    She walked through the halls and knew what people thought of her as they stared, or pretended not to stare. She knew what those kids parents told their kids about her around the table at dinner. She wondered if any of them believed her. She wondered if anyone was going to be on her side when it came time. She had been warned of everyone’s opinions of her when she decided to come forward though.
    “You know what people will say about you, don’t you?” Her mom quipped at her as she stirred her bloody Mary. “This isn’t just any other bit of a rumor that will be gone next week, Ellis. You will be talked about, your name will be smeared all over this town.” Her eyes turned cold and she stared out the window as she couldn’t help but mention, “Let’s not forget this family’s name, Ellis. This is not just about you.”

    1. Tometria Jackson

      I am instantly curious about what Ellis has come forward about. Was she an eyewitness to murder? Was she a participant in some type of criminal activity? In the few lines the mother speaks, I already know that she is very concerned about her own reputation in the community. She is a selfish individual who interprets every event by how it will affect her, and her daughter is a secondary concern. Your character Ellis doesn’t say a word, but through her introspection, I know that she is courageous, and will stand strong regardless of the cost. This is pretty good, and I wish there was more!

    2. Jess Young

      Great scene! I think the second sentence’s interrupts the flow, though. I had to go back and re-read it to understand what was being said.
      “She knew what those kids parents told their kids about her around the table at dinner.”
      “She knew what those kids’ parents were telling them about her around the dinner table”
      “She knew what those kids were hearing about her from their parents as they sat around the dinner table”

      I’m excited to read more from you! Good work!

  2. Benjamin Hayward

    Son looks up to Father from where he is sitting, imploring, “When do I get to use the Occular Orb?” Father looks down to his son, smiling gently as if he is revealing a big secret. “Today, actually. But you just can’t flip a switch and go. The Occular Orb is more than just a viewing tool. It is a way for you to gain understanding and experience from lesser beings by studying what has come before.”

    “Why?” Son asks while leaning his head to the left.

    Father responds, “You must learn from the past to understand my mistakes, so to not repeat them.” Father walks over to Son, sitting down beside him. “You see, I have been playing the Great Game for a long time. Every time I lose. You win, great! You lose, and you have to start over.” Father hangs his head in shame, lowering his voice. “You see, Son. I have tried so many ways to win against the other Ascendants. I’ve tried different faster than light technologies to span the gulf of space. It has gone by many names over time. Hyperdrive, Skip Drive, Warpdrive, all kinds of drives as named by the society. When that didn’t work I tried using the warp and AEther itself. I’ve tried Star Gates and portals. In the end they all failed. Other Ascendants used their beings, which go by many names. I refer to them as Far Outsiders, Agents of Chaos, even sometimes by a simple letter.” Father stands up and paces around.

    “We have rules for the Great Game. The first is no direct interference with the lesser beings in our galaxy. We provide indirect guidance to the lesser beings, point them in the direction we want them to go. The same process is used for fighting the others in the Great Game. The lesser beings fight others for dominance. You lose, your galaxy resets with the dominate life, and you try again.”

    Father walks back to Son. “Son, the Occular Orb can take you any were into the past of our galaxy, allowing you to review and experience the Great Game.” You can see the whole battlefield, or experience from an individual level by riding along as a spectator. You will feel all the joys and sufferings of this individual you are riding.”

    “How do I escape?”, Son asks of Father.

    “Simple. Your conscious is automatically rejected back to here when the person you are riding loses conscious.”, Father answers factually. “I recommend you focus on my latest failure of the Great Game, see what you can learn, improve what I have started.” Father quickly crosses to his Son, giving him a hug. “I’m so tired of failing.”, Father whispers in Son’s ear. “Do what I cannot. Win the Great Game, earn a seat on the ruling council.”

    1. Lilia Lundquist

      This was an interesting story, I felt like it had some sort of life lesson in it. I didn’t like how neither character had a name, I felt like I was reading instructions for a second, or a script to a play.

      1. Benjamin Hayward

        That is the character names. In later chapters, Son will take on many identities as he learns the lessons. Ever wonder why your arm or leg suddenly moves, like when you are dozing? Ever wonder why people playing poker or dominoes knows what the other person is playing? This is a knowledge leak from someone riding you, like in the story. It is my medium for jumping from third to first point of view, so the reader can get all 4 sides of the conflict. It explains the meta bleed over into reality, and allows for me to use a “hammerbox” when ever I need it so I can unpaint the corner I put myself in.

  3. Lilia Lundquist

    He can’t help but stare at her on the other side of the room. After three years of time and emotional investment and she is able to just completely forget about him. He can’t make out what she’s saying but her hands move rapidly as if describing something important. A bright white grin is plastered across her face, she looks so happy. He feels his stomach turn, the girl he’s been seeing as her replacement chimes in, “I think everyone’s going downtown tonight, we should go.” He doesn’t really listen to her, “uh, sure.” He can sense her annoyance, “Are you good? It seems like you’re somewhere else right now.” She asks. He pretends like he didn’t hear her and thinks about what he was doing before all this, when he was content. He wonders if Gwen is going to be downtown tonight. She never was a big drinker, but then again he doesn’t remember her talking with her hands so much either. His mood perks up, if he could see her and give her the impression that he’s better off, maybe she might want him again. “yeah, actually we should definitely go out, when should I pick you up?” He watches her expression brighten, she flashes him a smile, “I can be ready whenever, we could grab dinner before.” The thought of having to endure an hour of small talk irritates him. “um I’m having dinner with the boys, maybe we could just meet downtown.” She tries to not sound disappointed, “alright, yeah ill just let you know.” It takes a minute for him to realize that she has left, he sits alone, hypnotized by Gwen.

    1. Kelsey

      Your piece of dialogue pulled me in! You can tell from the beginning of how you described the male character thinking about Gwen that he is already in another place before we read his dialogue that seems to be blowing off the new girl. Him using the new girl to make Gwen jealous even though he doesn’t see any potential in her, makes him seem kind of villainous but also makes me want to see what happens when he tries to make her jealous.

      1. nmfleming

        From the very beginning of your piece, you can see that your main character is kind of shady. You have just the right amount of conversation to get across to the audience that this man is trying to make Gnew jealous, I think too much might have ruined the scene. I would love to know if his plan works or not.

    2. Shana Waring

      You allow for the characters to move around the scene as if it was being filmed. The focus remains around the male in the story, but the visual annoyance of the “stand in girl” doesn’t fail the reader. The dialogue presented is not easy to complete the story with, so it does a nice job of pulling the reader and keeping the attention with the mystery of what might be happening next.

  4. Tometria Jackson

    Will gathered up his courage and approached Meg in the crowded dining room. “Uh, ma’am?” Meg Rollins was a pillar in the Eagle Community, and as the owner of the local roadhouse, she knew everyone in town, and all the gossip passed through her doors before being disseminated into the community. She turned around to see who was addressing her, and was surprised to see the normally shy boy standing before her nervously holding his cap in his hands.
    “Oh, hello you.” She smiled, and her eyes disappeared behind her cheeks. Will felt a little at ease seeing her smile, and that gave him the courage to continue.
    “You knew my ma and pa?” He blurted without preamble.
    Her expression changed, like the clouds covering the sun. “That I did, son.” She slowly shook her head. “It was a sad thing happened to your folks. I never thought…” She looked around furtively and pulled him by the arm, leading him to a secluded corner of the dining hall. “I knew your pa long before he met your ma, and he was a good man. Everyone thought highly of him, and no one could understand why he took up with Donovan.” She frowned, “That man has darkness in his soul!”
    Will was stunned. He had never considered that anyone other than himself had seen Donovan’s dark side. “D-do you think…?” Will didn’t want to put sound to his suspicions, but he had to know.
    “Your pa and Donovan seemed to get along well enough at first. They even had a few good strikes on their claim. I think it was…the winter of ’85 when your pa spent some time Outside and come back that spring with your ma. That’s when the real trouble between Donovan and your pa started.” Meg pressed her lips together and thought for a moment. “There’s a lot to tell, and most of it not fit for your ears.” She shook her head, “I ain’t one to gossip, but your pa knew these mountains and trails as well as anybody, and for him to just up and disappear without a word to anybody, and leave his son and half of his claim to Donovan–it just don’t sound right.”
    Will swallowed hard. “D’ya think Donovan knows more than he says?” He asked in a low voice. The crowded room suddenly seemed colder, and Will shivered. He glanced over his shoulder, out of the window and saw the door to the trading post open. A group of men stepped out into the afternoon sunshine. “I-I have to go…” Pulling his cap over his ears, Will turned to leave.
    Meg reached out and caught Will by the sleeve. “Don’t mention that you asked about your parents. Donovan’s touchy about that subject.”
    “Of course not, ma’am.” Will said as he fastened up his parka.
    “You watch yourself around that man…” Will nodded, and hurried out into the cold afternoon. Meg watched from the window for a few moments longer, a wave of sadness washing over her.

  5. nmfleming

    It was late Tuesday night when I was walking home, I had spent the night at my friend Vanessa’s the night before. While I was walking down the gravel road to my house big, fluffy snowflakes start falling from the dark sky above.
    “I hate the snow.”
    “I how you feel,” said a deep voice.
    “Who’s there?!” I was turning in every direction to make sure there was no one standing by me. Out the corner of my eye, I watch the bushes start to shake.
    “Who’s there?! I have pepper spray.”
    Out of the bushes immerges a tall, dark figure. I quickly begin digging into my purse to find my one use of defense against this mysterious figure.
    “Wow! Wow, Emma, it’s just me calm down.”
    It was my step-brother, Jeremy. Jeremy’s dad married my mom when I was two, so I grew up only knowing Jeremy. Jeremy is more like a brother to me than a step one, but when you put us side-by-side you can clearly tell that we are not related. Jeremy is 6’3” almost a whole foot taller than me, strawberry blonde hair, brown eyes. While I, on the other hand, have fire-red hair, freckles that go across the bridge of my nose, and gray-blue eyes.
    “Jeremy! I almost pepper sprayed you.” I said as I playfully punched him in the arm.
    “You might’ve if your purse wasn’t Narnia.”
    “Ha, ha very funny.”
    We continued making our way down the gravel road. The snow had stopped, the ground was now covered with the snow that had been falling from the sky moments ago. The leaves crunched underneath the weight of our feet. In the distance, I could see the outline of our two-story house. There is only four of us that live in this gigantic house, but with the type of work, mom and dad did we needed the extra room. They were painters, they weren’t worldwide famous, but they were Poncha Springs famous. It was like my mother had a sixth sense about us kids because as we were walking up the driveway, the door was wide open and there she was standing in it.
    “Welcome back Emma how was your sleepover?” before I could reply my face was being smashed into her shoulder.
    “And you Jeremy!” she exclaimed while I was still being squeezed to death “We need to talk.” At this moment my mother had released her grip.
    “Emma why don’t go to your room and get some rest, your probably tired from that sleepover.”
    I didn’t question what she had said, I just went right to my room, but I didn’t go to bed instead I stood with my ear to the door to try and hear what she and Jeremy were talking about. At first, it was quite like they knew that I might be listening, after what felt like hours had passed I could hear whispers from down the hall.
    “…. Dead” That was the first and last word I heard my mother say.
    After that single word, I could only make out what sounded like sobs from both mom and Jeremy. I suck to the floor with my ear still pressed against the door.

    1. Brenden Couch

      I enjoy your use of the dialogue, may I suggest adding a feeling descriptor of the snowflakes as an example, They were cold on my skin, or some such like that. I really enjoyed your story.

  6. Brenden Couch

    Where am I? This must, am I, is this heaven? After walking through that smoky haze I was not sure where I was, but I think I am sure now. A moment ago I was saying goodbye to my family. This still feels like a dream, like memories half remembered mostly forgotten, so much so that your not even sure if it was real or just your imagination.

    Hmmm, I wonder what that is, its really bright… Woe! That is very colorful, what are those colors?
    (This is an in the head snapshot)

    There isn’t really dialog so I will include the 3rd person omniscent viewpoint.

    He walked slowly, cautiously observing his surroundings. The shear alien surroundings were ever shifting, ever advancing and receding, everything seemed excited, it was a truly transcendent place. After advancing a few paces, a new light shone, brighter and more invasive than the rest. Suddenly the light was upon him and it felt like cool water trickling over his head and down to his ankles, then his vision shifted. Then he noticed that the light had began to withdraw but just before it faded into a spectre and into only memory, the feeling of a thin film being removed from inside his head overwhelmed him. Immediatley following the cessation of the light, he saw and beheld what had to be an entire other world, like nothing he had ever seen. It would be impossible to describe but to say it was both packed with life but also empty would be the closest descriptor available.

    1. Angela Rodriguez

      I really love the sensory you included in this, I was able to picture how the light was invasive! I also really like that you went out of your way to write in both 1st person and 3rd person to really show us the dialog for your character

  7. Jess Young

    Danny looked down at the steering wheel and said with a crack in his voice, “I love you.”
    She turned on him like a snake, striking out without thinking.
    “That’s impossible,” she slammed matter-of-factly, “We’ve been dating for a week. You know nothing about me. You don’t love me!”
    He stammered, unable to find his voice. After what felt like an eternity, he managed a halted apology.
    “Sorry, I just thought…”
    “You didn’t think,” she interrupted, as was her style, “I don’t want to lie to you and tell you I love you. I’ll tell you when it’s true.”
    Danny smiled, “When?”
    “If,” She corrected, trying too late to cover her mistake.
    She sat quietly in the front seat staring straight out the windshield, deliberately not making eye contact. She didn’t know what love felt like, she was sixteen years old. And she certainly wasn’t feeling it towards him. She didn’t even know why she had agreed to go out with Danny, he was so… odd. He wasn’t good looking or charismatic. But he was fascinating. He was mysterious. There was something in his eyes that magnetically drew her towards him.

  8. Draven

    Long days.
    Five very long days.
    I had been walking for five long days, never stopping for more than five minutes for minor necessities. My water had been running low for the last day or so, and the scorching heat was not helping. I was nearly dying of dehydration, when out of nowhere…
    “Hey there pal.”
    I jumped, startled at the sound of another person’s voice. The voice belonged to a short, stumpy fellow, wearing only suspenders and a straw hat. Me, wearing my standard jeans and t-shirt, looked slightly out of place, I guess we don’t have the same sense of fashion.
    “You look thirsty pal, hear have a drink.” He said, in his gruff, yet friendly tone.
    “Is it clean?” I asked. Cleanliness was a big thing about water these days, especially from strangers.
    “Of course; how else would we drink it, pal.”
    Still skeptical, I accept the drink he held out in his hands. He was right though, this water really is clean, it’s cool too.
    “Thank you,” I say, with complete sincerity,” I really needed that.”
    “So where are you headed pal?” he asked.
    “East, as far east as possible.”
    “And why is that pal?”
    I flinched at his question, knowing full well why I was running, and what I was running from.
    “Umm.” I mutter.
    “It’s okay if you can’t tell me. I have my own reasons for what I do also pal.”
    At that I started feeling drowsy. What was this?
    “What did you put in the water?” I demanded of him, barely keeping on my feet.
    “A simple sleeping powder, that’s all, pal” he replied.
    I tried to swing a punch, but I collapsed before I could do anything.

    1. Courtney Kisner

      This was a really interesting dialogue! I loved how the short stumpy fellow had a unique set of characteristics and an interesting way of speaking. In my head he came off as trustworthy, for some reason. So when the narrator begins to drift off, I was pulled in, wondering why this man would want to drug him. I wish I could read more!

  9. Courtney Kisner

    Every time I had to wait in the cold, white room, exchanged between the nurse and the shrink, I had too much time to think. Past memories flooded and filled the room up. I was bursting at the seams.

    “Hello, Ms. Rainer, I’m Dr. Thomson. You can call me Mark though. How are you feeling today? Still in a fog?” He reaches out his ice cold hand and I grab it lightly. His handshake mirrors mine and is limp as well. His square brown glasses gripped his nose as if they were hanging on for dear life.

    “I’m ok,” I say shooting my gaze at the tiled floor.

    “Well, my reports say that you have been incompliant.”

    “I don’t want to be here. I shouldn’t be here.”

    “You need to help us help you. Currently you are on a dose of Seroquel in the morning, afternoon, and at night. You shouldn’t feel the need to fight every person that comes your way..I will be increasing your AM dose,” Mark says without a bit of emotion on his wrinkle-less face. I wonder if he has ever smiled in his life. Has he ever experienced happiness…like I used to?

    “Just give me a tranquilizer, that’ll shut me up,” I say in a sarcastic voice. He doesn’t seem to catch the humor.

    “I can’t do that. Have you been having any suicidal thoughts lately?”

    “No, I just want to go home, to my mother.”

    “Your mother has been deceased for thirty years now,” he retorts in his robotic tone.

    “I just saw her yesterday.”

    “Are you having hallucinations? Have you been seeing anything else?” Mark begins interrogating.

    “I’m done here,” I say and cross my arms.

    He looks down at me as he stands up. “If you keep fighting your fellow residents, you are going to have to be put in a solitary room for awhile,” and he shuts the door.

  10. Angela Rodriguez

    He sat in his home day and night. He was intrigued by the house that was across the street from his. He would stare at this home hoping to find his neighbor, the man that he had never even seen. The house he glared at was a beautiful rural home with a white picket fence, green grass, and a bloomed garden. Yet, this man saw nothing but the old broken-down shack that he himself lived in. After several sleepless nights in the shack, he finally decided to cross the street and enter the house. He swore that he saw his neighbor but was in disbelief of his existence. He paced in front of the door. He wasn’t sure if it was more appropriate to walk in or knock. After a few seconds of contemplating, he softly knocked on the door. He turned back for a second and whispered to himself, “What am I doing?” He then proceeded to knock again. After his second failed knock, he let himself into the home. He seemed startled when he walked into the beautiful home, shutting the door behind him. He decided to explore the house and search for anyone who may live there. He began to shout, “Hello,” throughout the home, but he didn’t hear a sound. After a few moments, he walked into an office in the back. His spine filled with chills as he entered the room. He assumed it was something ghostly surrounding him and froze in fear. He muttered in under his breath, “Who the hell would ever live here?” He believed this ghostly presence was starting to engulf him, so he ran out of the room, slamming the door behind him. His neighbor stood at the top of the staircase staring at this deranged man. Both men screamed, yet he ran to the door and never looked back.

  11. Delaney E Reece

    “I have heard of your father my dear. I am quite sorry,” he started in English
    “That is why I am here sir, I require your help if you will give it.” She continued seeming oblivious to the attempt at language change and continuing in Chinese.
    “Perhaps in English today Ella” but she stopped him her tone hard which was uncharacteristic for her.
    “No, today more than ever Chinese will do best”. Mr. Patena looked over her face but there was nothing projected there, he motioned for her to continue.
    “You have obviously heard of my father’s death so I will not explain more, the papers tell what the police believe quite plainly. I am here to ask you about your work sir. I have never pried into your profession or how a New York police officer learned Chinese and I don’t ask now. Instead, I assume based on my time learning from you that there is no smarter man on this side the globe and that based on all I know, there is no better man to ask for help.” Ella was a bright girl and Mr. Patena knew this better than most. She finished her speech which she had undoubtedly practiced. Patena had begun to guess where it would end.
    “Sir, my father did not kill himself and yet no matter how I say this or, how I protest I am unheard. My mother sits sobbing to Anastasia for hours on end, she will not stop to sleep let alone hear reason and Anastasia is much the same.” Ella’s tone had become hostile in the mention of her mother’s behavior and of that of her tutor Anastasia.

  12. Shana Waring

    She stood peering out into the crowd. She thought to herself, “Am I crazy? I don’t have the courage to do this. There are so many people, I’ll be luck to grab anyone’s attention.” Yet she found the drive to change, to explore a side of herself she had hidden away from so long. She needed to leave the turtle shell behind and not give herself anymore chances to hide. She closed her eyes, inhaled deeply, and felt her foot leave the sidewalk. She approached a lovely looking woman with a small girl wearing a bow to the side of her face almost the size of her head. She reached out her hand and with a hint of weariness received a hand shake in return. “Hello, I’m Felicia and I’m starting a new program and I’d like to ask for a moment of your time to share it with you.” The lady gave her attention, but responded with a half smirk attempt at a smile. “I really should be finding my husband.” Inside she was thinking “why must people always try to sell you something?” Felicia registered the look of annoyance scrolling across the woman’s face like an electronic billboard in Time Square. Her carefully thought out script immediately started to crumble like a toddler who’d recently found a 1000-piece puzzle. “I…I…I” was all Felicia could mutter to stammer out.

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