The guest of this week's Writing Lab post is not a fanfiction author, but is...Ernest Hemingway.
Yes, that Ernest Hemingway.
On How to Plan, Write and Develop a book I found an inspiring exercise on dialogue. You can do it also when you are not at home -- or in the place where you usually write your fics. You need just a pen and a notebook, or your laptop, and...a lot of curiosity. Here it is:


1. Find a busy place to sit for a while with your writer's notebook and take notes. Cafes are good. Or bus stations or doctor's offices or airports.
2. Eavesdrop. Take notes on how people talk. Write down all the jigs and jags of human speech.
3. Pay attention to the rhythms you're hearing, how many times people interrupt or talk around the topic or use partial sentences.
4. After an hour or so, or however much time you can spend, take what you've written and read it over. Underline the best three lines, the ones that speak about something that not's being said.
5. Using one of these, begin a freewrite for 20 minutes (no editing) for a scene from your book. Write the overheard line of dialogue at the top of your page and start adding responses until you've crafted a conversation.
6. Look it over. Decide what's not being said (the subtext). Is it a strong current under your characters' words?

And now, let's read and discuss this dialogue by Ernest Hemingway. I don't know if your eavesdropping session will be as interesting as this story. Anyway, it is a good reward after your writing exercise.


As usual, your comments and your writing experiences are welcome!  
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  1. I remember exiting a cinema where they were showing a French comedy with Catherine Deneuve, because the dialogues were totally innatural. OMG they are all speaking like printed books - as we say in Italian. So, yes, natural dialogues approriate to the situation are essential. Now, Italian restaurants are quite noisy, one can't hear the people one is with, sometimes, let alone people sitting on other tables. But remembering what I normally hear, on trains and, particularly, buses, I have to say that most of what one listens to is boring like hell.
    ...and then I said ... and then she answered... and so on and on, never getting to the point. If I tried that on one of my stories I would lose immediately my few, valued readers. Plus, I write in English, and I would listen to Italian dialogues, so it would not even be good for slang. If they were speaking in English ... I probably would miss too much (Considering that I understand almost nothing when I hear my beloved Rob speaking in TV interviews - spoken English and written English are vastly different!) So maybe I have to pass on this suggestion, while is true that Ernest H wrote wonderful, clipped dialogues...

  2. thank you on your comment, Camilla!!

    I loved this short story by Hemingway!
    I'd like to try the exercise they suggested above; they suggest to pick just three sentences from the eavesdropped dialogue...I'm curious to see if it works LoL

    -- Raum


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