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InfoGuides | Pepperdine Libraries

The Drescher Library Presents: "Into the LibraryVerse" Writing Workshop

    As with all other aspects of fiction, the key to writing good dialogue is honesty - Stephen King


In this session, you will learn about how to use dialogue to develop your story and characters, expanding your abilities to create original voices within your writing. Viewers will also have an opportunity to apply what you have learned through fun, interactive exercises. 

In the section below, you will find two short videos covering the following.

  • Video 1 -  Dialogue: Creating your characters' original voices (8:57)



This session has six exercises to help you create the setting where your story takes place. Click through using the left or right-hand arrow on the screen to access all of the exercises.

Exercise 1: What did (blank) say to the (blank)?

Write a dialogue-only scene between two inanimate objects that are normally used or found together.

  • Examples: pen and paper; laptop and desktop; TV show and Reality TV show; bacteria and antibiotic.

Exercise 2: Use a Prompt to Practice Writing

Pick a prompt and start writing. Dialogue is a good way to start developing characters if you’re having trouble doing so. Use the link below for some helpful suggestions:

Exercise 3: Drafting a Script From Familiar Characters

Pick two characters from a show, movie, and/or play, that you are fond of and think how they speak, who they are, and how they behave. Use what you know about these two characters and create a script of a scene of your own idea. Remember, you are trying to focus on how the characters speak and practice replicating it to understand character differences.

  • An example of this exercise is on the next slide.

Example of a Script using the 1978 Superman film

This example is of Lex Luthor and Superman (From the Superman (1978)) going to mediation to talk through their issues. If you haven’t seen the film you should see it as Gene Hackman plays Luthor as a comical egomaniac, the late Christopher Reeves plays Superman as a Classical stoic hero:

Mediator: Thank you both for coming here today to talk about your issues. Mr. Luthor?

Lex: Yes, I am Lex Luthor, the greatest mastermind on Earth. I, who possess a mind worthy of being part of the Pantheon of Earth’s most grandest minds, am here.

Mediator: Okay… A simple “yes” is fine. I see by the court notes you have tried to destroy Metropolis a total of… Well, let’s just say a lot. Would you agree with this assessment?

Lex: You think that I, Lex Luthor, would ever agree with anything your feeble mind would say about me? 

Mediator: Mr. Luthor, mediation can only work if both parties agree to work at it.

Superman: I appreciate all your hard work, Ms. Mediator, but you cannot reason with him.

Mediator: Superman, part of any successful mediation is respecting each party’s turn.

Superman: You’re right Ms. Mediator. We all have a part to play to make this world great. [Directing to Lex] You can reclaim your time, Luthor.

Lex: [laughs sardonically] Oh, how simple and predictable you are. Neither of you can see the brilliance of my work. There is not enough time in the world for you to see conceive the genius of my existence and brilliance.

Mediator: I think we can all agree you’re intelligent. Is that fair?

Lex and Superman [overlap]

Lex: Absolutely, yes.

Superman: Not really.

Superman: You can believe yourself to be a genius, Luthor. I for one refuse to believe anything that you do is either intelligent or meaningful. 

Mediator: This is going to be a long day.

Exercise 4: Transcribe by Neil Gaiman

Ask a friend if you can record them speaking for 20 minutes. Transcribe their speech and practice crafting their sentences into fictional dialogue, using tools of compression. 

Exercise 5: Character Conversation by Neil Gaiman

Pick one of the topics below or create your own and write a brief dialogue between your character and someone else. Make them disagree. Add description sentences throughout until you feel that it’s balanced.   

  • Suggested Topics 

    • The contents of a magician’s car 

    • Whether jinnis are real 

    • Ancient Aliens 

    • Magical power in everyday life 

Exercise 6: Eavesdropping by Margaret Atwood

Spend 10 minutes eavesdropping on a conversation. Record everything they say and how they say it as specifically as you can. Later, transcribe this conversation as faithfully as you can. 

  • What conclusions can you draw from what you heard? 

  • Who has more power? 

  • Who wants what?

  • Who was listening more closely?

  • Did someone interrupt the other or ignore them?

In a new document, select the part of the conversation that most interests you whether it was a few lines, or a particularly charged interruption and use it as the seed of a fiction scene. Here, you are free to cut filler; condense meaning and change the words; and add gesture, silence, and subtext to reveal these characters and what they want to the reader. 

After answering these questions, did a story about these strangers begin to form in your imagination? If so, write it!