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Dialogue is an extremely important aspect of storytelling and creative writing. Playwrites use almost exclusively dialogue to tell their tales. In Creative Writing and English classes it is good to "raise the stakes" when teaching students how to write dialogue by having them practice writing a short play (or just part of a short play). The experience of trying to tell a story with only dialogue makes embellishing a story with dialogue much easier.
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Hear the Voice
The first step is to choose each character's voice. It is most helpful to choose a voice you have heard and give the character that same style and pattern of speech.
Tell students to think about the various people in their lives. They can think about their closest family and friends, but remind them to think about, for example, the old man who chatted with them on the bus one day, or the loud neighbor gossiping in her yard. People whose speech patterns have a personal, unique flair are very useful to think about in this context.
Tell students to remember what people sounded like when speaking. Remember their speech patterns, their quirks, the types of phrases they would repeat. Did they speak slowly or quickly? Were they especially verbose or concise? Writers must listen to those individual voices in their memories.
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Monologues & Dialogues
To get warmed up, students should write a short monologue or speech of each character talking. Focusing on the individual character and his or her speech patterns prepares the writer to maintain a consistent and unique voice when they are ready to use this character in a conversation.
As I stated above, before going back to the story writers can benefit greatly by engaging two or more characters in dialogue or conversation. The exercise is to tell the story with the dialogue only. This causes the writer to stretch and infuse more information and emotion into the characters' speech.
When going back to creative writing, the dialogue in the essay will be more colorful, unique and personal to each character and even convey information in a captivating, not dry, way.
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A Little Fun
Group your student writers in pairs. Each pair must share a pad of paper and pen or pencil. You read that correctly: each pair gets only one paper and one pen or pencil.
All writing will be in the form of speech. One students starts to write, the other may not respond unless and until s/he has hold of the pen and paper. It can get interesting, for example, if one student wants to interrupt the other, s/he must physically grab the paper and pen out of the hands of the other student.
Try this fun activity and see what your creative writing students think of it.