Thursday, 9 July 2015

Playing with dialogue

It's been a bit busy off-Scribbles recently - hence the lack of posts in the last week!

I've been in the school library, doing a stocktake of all the books every morning this week; been trying to make sure everything's washed and ironed (though I don't know why I bother with the ironing bit) ready for the kids to go to camp on Saturday; and I've been writing.

'The King Stone' (working title) is just one chapter away from being finished. It doesn't look like a proper novel yet - 'macrame' is more how I'd describe it at present, there are so many holes to be filled! But the story is there, my characters have their motivations, I have a killer twist...and it'll be complete as a first draft by the time I'm editing StarMark ready for publication.

But that's not what this blog post's about today; I want to tell you about a writing exercise based on dialogue. At our NIBS meeting last night, the lovely Kate (creative writing student at Winchester Uni) suggested the following for us to try...

Take several lines of dialogue - pure, undiluted dialogue. Nothing else at all. Then your job as the creative writer is to fill in the details; who is talking? Where are they? What situation are they in to result in the dialogue? (The trickiest part of the exercise is actually writing the lines of dialogue in the first place, because you have to keep it open enough to allow interpretation of a wide range of possibilities.)

Here's what I ended up with; the dialogue is exactly what was given to us, with one slight exception...

"Did you find it?" Hamish blew into his cupped hands in a vain attempt to unfreeze his fingers.


Proctor was well wrapped, Hamish noted. Nice scarf. And he'd had the sense to wear a hat. It even had ear-flaps. "Where was it?" The words hung between the two men as a cloud in the frosty air.

The boss shrugged. "It doesn't matter. Let's go." He turned away.

Hamish caught Proctor's arm. "Where was it?"

Proctor shook him off. "I said it doesn't matter. Come on, or we'll be late."

Limping along behind, Hamish cursed his numb toes. Been waiting an hour, he had, in freeze-your-balls-off temperatures, and now Proctor wouldn't tell him. That's gratitude for you. "Still," he panted as he tried to keep up, "we searched the whole house! Where was it?"

"A chest of drawers," Proctor threw over his shoulder.

Hamish stopped dead. "Chest of drawers? A chest of drawers? I looked in all of them twice!"

Proctor halted and slowly turned back round. "Well, clearly you didn't look hard enough."

"I took all of the clothes out and everything." Hamish shuddered, remembering. "Trust me, there were some things I didn't want to see." The furry handcuffs...the neon pink gimp mask...

"You were clearly distracted then," Proctor sneered.

"I was not!" This wasn't getting him anywhere, so Hamish changed his tune, tried coaxing. "Come on, where was it?"

Proctor looked him straight in the eye. "In a tampon box."

"What?" Hamish snorted. "D'you really expect me to believe that?"

"It's true." Proctor didn't even blink.

"Who puts stuff in a tampon box?" Hamish's brow wrinkled as he tried to figure it out.

Proctor shrugged. "It's a safe place. No-one really wants to look there."

"You seriously found it in a tampon box?"


Hamish shook his head in disbelief...

Our homework was to have a go at writing at least ten lines of dialogue to take to our next meeting. I'm quite looking forward to it; I'll let you know how I get on.

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