I love writing exercises. They're short and there's no commitment involved (kind of like a first date!). If you like writing exercises as well, show up each Monday and I'll have one for you. Let's devote the rest of July to dialogue, okay? I'll have an example of a middle grade novel to demonstrate technique along with the challenge. Sound good? Get your fingers warmed up because here we go:
Dialogue can sometimes define a character better than straight narrative, and it can be especially revealing when conflict directly engages that character. Take, for example, the scene in Ingrid Law’s wonderful novel Savvy, when Mibs Beaumont’s teacher announces to the class that from that day forward, Mibs will be homeschooled. Mean girl Ashley Bing and her counterpart Emma Flint comment on Mibs’s predicament from the back of the classroom:
“Missy-pissy’s going to stay home with her mommy,” Ashley said, as though she were talking to a baby – just quiet enough that the teacher couldn’t hear.
“With her mommy,” Emma repeated.
“She’s going to stay home so that no one can see what a friendless freak she is,” Ashley sneered.
“What a freak she is,” mimicked Emma like a spiteful parrot.
In that exchange, two short sentences for each character, we can immediately see who’s the leader in Ashley and Emma’s relationship, and who is the follower.
So here’s a Monday Mini Challenge for you:
Write a conversation in which two young characters disagree about how they should tell a mutual friend some bad news. Are you ready?...Go!