Writing Exercise: Dialogue—How to Talk to a Stranger

Dialogue Image.jpg

I'll be posting weekly(ish) writing exercises here—either invented by me or curated (with attributions and links to more info where applicable)! Feel free to use and share these with credit and a link back to the site. 

The exercise for this week will focus on dialogue. It's best with a partner (sorry) but for those intrepid writers flying solo, you can always make up the two "voices" in your head—or aloud. (Wait, you have full blown conversations with yourself too, right? Oh good.) Enjoy! 

How to Talk to a StrangerAn Exercise in Stylizing Dialogue

1.     Find a partner.

2.     One person begins by telling a story of something interesting or strange they’ve seen recently. Ask occasional questions of the listener, like, have you ever seen something like…? do you have a childhood memory like…?

3.     The listener can and should interrupt, interject with their own thoughts, opinions, memories, stories.

4.     Talk for five minutes.

5.     Then, recreate the conversation on paper afterward. Don’t consult each other or read each other’s work. Try to catch some of the language and phrases accurately, but also feel free to depart and fictionalize.

6.     We’re trying to capture the natural rhythms of speech, while also practicing the way dialogue is manufactured and stylized. Do both.

7.     Read your versions to each other.