We had our first workshop this week! Over the next few weeks we'll be workshopping pages from everyone in the class.
We also did this dialogue exercise:
In The Art of Fiction, John Gardner talks about making dialogue "crackle with feelings
not directly expressed." We take a stab at that in this short exercise.
-Think of a scene you need to write, or rewrite, in which two characters have a dialogue.
-Write down the names of the two characters.
-What is the goal of each character in this scene?
Remember dramatic tension increases when characters have different, even conflicting goals. For instance, if they're both sitting at a table having tea, agreeing that the tea is good and the day is pleasant, you don't have much of a scene. If, as in the Atwood story we read last week, one wants sex while the other is plotting murder, then you have drama.
-Take one minute to brainstorm adjectives that describe each of the two characters--both as they are in the scene (scared, joyful, etc.) and as they are in general (taciturn, bubbly, etc.). This is to get you thinking about the distinct sound of their voices.
-Take ten minutes to write an exchange between the two characters. It's great to include gestures, action, etc., but keep the scene focused on the dialogue.
Homework for this week is to read workshop pages for next week.
Optional homework: Read "Hills Like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway, which we'll read and discuss in class next week. Sketch a character arc in just one or two sentences, for each character in your story. Where are they in the beginning of the story and where do they wind up at the end? I urged everyone to remember screenwriter Scott Meyers' formula: Write every day + dare to suck = productive writing. (By the way, Meyers' blog is full of prompts, challenges, and exercises that prose writers can benefit from too.)