Friday Writing Exercise 0 Comments

Friday Writing Exercise

Johnny: [walks into flower shop] Hi.
Flower Shop Clerk: Can I help you?
Johnny: Yeah, can I have a dozen red roses, please?
Flower Shop Clerk: Oh, hi, Johnny. I didn’t know it was you.
[grabs bouquet of roses]
Flower Shop Clerk: Here you go.
Johnny: That’s me. How much is it?
Flower Shop Clerk: It’ll be eighteen dollars.
Johnny: [hands over cash] Here you go. Keep the change.
[grabs flowers and pats dog on the counter]
Johnny: Hi, doggy.
Flower Shop Clerk: You’re my favorite customer.
Johnny: Thanks a lot. Bye!
Flower Shop Clerk: Buh-bye!
– Excerpt from ‘The Room’ (2003)

Writing natural dialogue can be incredibly difficult to master. Often, the way we speak is incredibly different from how we communicate in writing – they could even be considered separate languages sometimes. One of the best ways to create natural dialogue is to learn through observation. You’d be surprised how many unnecessary words find their way into speech that we would automatically cut out when writing on paper. Another thing to look out for are the idiosyncrasies of speech that subtly mark where are person is from or the subtext of what they’re saying.

For today’s writing exercise, sit in a public place (such as a cafe or park) and observe people. Don’t be too obvious about it though – you are eavesdropping, after all! Public transport is also an excellent place for this. What better way to entertain yourself on the boring train ride home? Listen to what the people next to you or walking past are saying and take as many notes as possible – ideally, try to transcribe exactly what they are saying, or as close as possible.

Take your notes home and have a look through them. What stands out? Would anyone else have said this in quite the same way? What do you think you can tell about these people by what and how they said what they did?

Sometimes real life has some excellent gems in it – every now and then someone will spit out the perfect line for one of your characters, so keep your ears open.

By Izzy Roberts-Orr
Izzy Roberts-Orr is a Voiceworks EdCommer. She writes poetry, plays and reviews. She tweets via @izasmiz.
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