Activity 1 — Writing Dialogue

Teacher's Notes

My favorite thing about writing fiction is that you can start anywhere with anything. You can start with that tired old phrase "Once upon a time," or you can start with an incredible experience you had, or with the memory of a perfect red tomato on a cracked saucer, or with the blister your new (and very expensive) shoes gave you.

Since there are so many ways to begin, I thought we would try beginning a short story with something from real life — nonfiction, and turning fiction.

The activity has two parts:

First, think of a piece of real-life conversation. You may have been in it yourself, or not. It can be recent or from the past. It may be as ordinary as a conversation about food in the lunchroom, or it can be as serious as a conflict between a parent and child or between two students. We experience conversation all the time, every day. We talk to our friends we overhear other people talking on the bus or in a pizza shop. It's all around us, full of energy, sometimes silly, sometimes boring.

Write it down just as it was said.

A couple of rules:

(1) Start with something real — not from a movie or television
(2) Be willing to change it, because that's where the fiction comes in.
(3) Write it in only ten minutes.

Second, go back to your conversation and change something so that it becomes fiction. You can change the ending or change the beginning. You can make a big change or a small one. You may want to add a conflict if there wasn't one.

Remember, this first exercise should be done quickly, and it isn't supposed to be a finished product. We're going to add more, and probably take away, too.

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