The Retelling: A Dialogue Workshop

In this post I mention my goal to try some writing exercises from one book of the Write Great Fiction series, Dialogue, by Gloria Kempton. This launched an online conversation between Tami (jlly_coppercorn) and myself about the possibility of creating a dialogue workshop for Brigit’s Flame.

Today, we would like to extend an invitation to all community members (and new readers) to join ensuing discussions and writing exercises. First of all, however, let’s discuss this book.

The author does a thorough study on what we already know: The purposes of dialogue.

  • Characterizes/reveals motive
  • Sets the mood of the story
  • Intensifies story conflict
  • Creates tension and suspense
  • Speeds up scenes
  • Adds bits of setting/background
  • Communicates the theme

Writing exercises are then provided for each of these purposes. This is where we will concentrate our focus for the next two weeks by offering up segments of dialogue to each other for constructive criticism in order to explore how successful each segment is in fulfilling its assigned purpose. The author does not offer in depth discussion or instruction on technique—the potential multitudes of ways to approach any particular purpose is up to us to discuss and explore here in the workshop.

The author moves on from the purposes of dialogue to broach the subject of fear. While most writers believe themselves to be good with dialogue, most have a fear of it. The discomfort and reluctance caused by that fear then can be obvious in the finished product, or worse, stunt the writer’s ability to complete their project altogether. Let’s acknowledge that fear right now.

It exists, it has vague origins and has had crippling side effects. For the purpose of this particular community project, we will acknowledge and soldier on. We will not spend our energies on, “what if, when they talk, all my characters sound the same?”. This and other problematic situations can be tackled as we go along. Just write. The fear will come here to die, once and for all.

Further, the author begins a discussion on genre—specifically, fitting the characters’ language and voice to the kind of story you want to write. This will make for some terrific exercise opportunities, as well as community discussion.

The first two exercises will be posted on the morning of January 12. Are you ready to work?




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