Writing Prompt Part 3: Dialogue


Does the idea of using a writing prompt fill you with horror? 'As if I don’t have enough to do,' we hear you say. The intention of this series of writing prompts by Caroline Deacon is to help you with your existing writing projects. Please feel free to cherry pick, use what is helpful and discard the rest. 


There are several ways you could use these prompts. Some people might find them useful as warm ups; others might use them as tools to unstick themselves. I’m not going to be prescriptive - use them how you will, and if you post your writing on the SCWBI Facebook page and tag me, I’ll try to comment. 


Dialogue - three exercises for different aspects

Dialogue is not about telling us what your characters say. It should also reveal character and move plot forward. It shouldn’t be too accurate either; real life dialogue is boring, repetitive, and with lots of ums, ahs, etc. You need to create dialogue that is readable, rather than real. 


Dialogue to reveal character  

A good exercise is to use all of your characters at once. Write the same conversational event from the point of view of each of your characters. When you’ve finished, see if all your characters sound the same. They should all experience the conversation differently and therefore they should use their own unique voice.


Dialogue to help with pacing  

Good dialogue will speed your story along. Have a look at your work in progress and find a section which moves a bit too slowly for your liking. Change it all into dialogue and see if that helps. 



Avoiding talking heads  

In order for the reader to get inside the story, they have to be able to picture where the action is taking place. Too often novice writers launch into dialogue which isn’t ‘placed.’ So for your final exercise, take one of your longer pieces of dialogue and remove all the dialogue tags (he said, she said) and replace them all with action. For example, change:  


“How have you been?” Claire asked.  

“Not bad,” said Jane 




Claire stuck the kettle under the tap. “How have you been?”  

Jane nodded at the tin of green tea. “Not bad.” 



Header photo Claire Watts. All other photos Caroline Deacon


Caroline Deacon worked for many years as a creative writing tutor. She is agented by Lindsay Fraser of Fraser Ross Associates, Edinburgh. Find her on Twitter @writingdilemmas and at www.carolinedeacon.com Her monthly newsletter offers free writing prompts and feedback to subscribers.

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