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IWW Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: Overheard (Version 3)

These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writers Workshop (http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/).

Prepared by: Ruth Douillette
Posted May 28, 2006
Revised, reposted on August 12, 2007
Revised, reposted on March 7, 2010
Reposted on September 8, 2013
Reposted on December 4, 2016
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In 400 words or less, write a scene around one of the lines of dialogue quoted below so that we have some insight into the characters, can see where they are and know why the conversation is taking place. You have overheard one of the following lines:

"I can't believe you just said that."

"Why? What's wrong with that?"

"You're kidding me, right?"

"Hey, it's the truth. I call it like I see it."

"But, under the circumstances..."
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As you can see, this exercise focuses on dialogue enhancement. We are always on the lookout for good story ideas, and an overheard conversation often produces a spark upon which a character or even a plot can be built. Perhaps an overheard cell phone conversation in the grocery store provides fodder for a mystery plot. Maybe the conversation of the couple at the next table at the diner tells you a lot about their relationship or an international scandal.

But what do you do with this 'spark?'

Take one of the snippets of dialogue provided and give your reader a setting in which this conversation takes place and help us to see the characters who might speak these lines. The conversation might be humorous, angry, heartbreaking, or just chat overheard on the bus. Add dialogue tags and narrative to give your reader a clear picture of the two characters and their setting.
_____________________

In 400 words or less, write a scene around one of the lines of dialogue quoted below so that we have some insight into the characters, can see where they are and know why the conversation is taking place. You have overheard one of the following lines:

"I can't believe you just said that."

"Why? What's wrong with that?"

"You're kidding me, right?"

"Hey, it's the truth. I call it like I see it."

"But, under the circumstances..."
_____________________

When critiquing, let the writer know if and how the dialogue defines the characters having the conversation. Does the dialogue reflect the scene and situation, e.g., does it let us 'see' the people and the place. Are personalities revealed? Are the dialogue tags helpful in enhancing the story or are they intrusive? How could the writer have made scene better? Would you want to know more about these characters and what happens to them?


Web site created by Rhéal Nadeau and the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.