Knitted words: dialogue

Last year I attended a creative writing course with the University of Auckland's Continuing Education programme.

I managed half of the six classes. The format for each class was to start with a chat about a particular topic - sentences in Week One, and dialogue in Week Two - and then do an exercise to support the learning.

During the Week Two: Dialogue class we did a particularly fun exercise to practice that might lend itself to a fun activity if your family is so inclined. 

As a group, we first wrote characters, locations, and topics on slips of paper:

  • a character slip might be "one-eyed pirate with a pet cat" or "old man in a wheelchair" or "angry substitute teacher"
  • a location slip might be "in the kitchen" or "on the roof of a barn" or "in a dark forest on a stormy night"
  • a topic might be "the price of bread" or "the shortest route to town" or "in the garden shed"

We each chose two character slips, a location slip, and a topic slip from each of the three piles. Our job was to spend 10 minutes and write a conversation between the two characters we'd drawn. We were not to mention where the location of this conversation took place in an obvious way. For instance, if the location for the conversation was a cafe, we couldn't say "I was waiting for the cup of coffee I ordered at the counter." 

We had two draws both of which resulted in furious writing then hilarious readings. I could easily see this as something a game-loving family'd have fun doing.



Here're my efforts from the class:

First Draw

  • character 1 - the man's daughter
  • character 2 - the girl's grandmother
  • location - the edge of a cliff
  • topic - fudge making

"You have to promise me," she gasped "to never let it get hotter than 120°C."

The man's daughter tightened her grip, "Now is not the time, or" watching the clumps of dirt and rock fall into the ocean below, "the place!"

"It's a family recipe." the girl's grandmother sobbed "Handed down.."

"God you talk too much!" the man's daughter strained.

"You don't want sugar crystals to ruin the texture, it's important," the girl's grandmother cried "it's an award-winning recipe!"

"You'll be an award-winning splat on those rocks below if you don't start helping me pull you up." The man's daughter was losing both her strength and her patience. "Use your bloody legs, woman!"

The girl's grandmother's feet scrambled against the loose dirt working one shoe off and into the water crashing against the rocks below. "Climb! Damn you!" with a mighty heave, the man"s daughter hauled the girl's grandmother over the lip of the cliff and onto firmer ground.

Almost out of breath from the effort, the girl's grandmother wheezed "Thank goodness for that. You'dve never made that fudge recipe right."

Second Draw

  • character 1 - an irate postal delivery man with a flat tyre
  • character 2 - a lion tamer
  • location - an old folks home
  • topic - the value of overseas travel

"You're going to have to pay for that!" 

The Postal Delivery Man was irate as he watched the last of his shredded bicycle tire disappear into the lion's mouth.

"I'm not paying for naught!" countered the Lion Tamer as he cracked his whip at the snarling beast. "Why you thought you could ride your bike up here is beyond me. Didn't you read the sign?"

"Sign, schmime. I goes where I needs to goes to deliver Her Majesty's Royal Mail!" The Postal Delivery Man pounded the royal seal on his jacket.

"Watch out he's on the move again!" the Lion Tamer pointing the legs of his lion taming stool at the big cat as she dragged another limp, bloody body onto the pile. 

"Gawd bless them. They lived good lives but they didn't deserve to go like this." The Postal Delivery Man's tears streaked his blood splattered cheeks.

"This wouldn't have happened if you'd paid attention to the sign. They have these things all over the world." He cracked his whip at the lion again "You'd know that if you'd ever travelled!"

"I don'ts needs to travel! My whole world is here, in the village. It's all I needs to know."

"You're such a closed-minded fool." The Lion Tamer turned his chair and whip onto the Postal Delivery Man "You need training in the ways of the world, mate!"

The lion leapt over the pile of dead old people and eyed up the rest of the irate Postal Delivery Man's bright yellow bicycle.