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27 May 2023

Posted by Robyn O'Mahony

What Do You Really Mean? Writing Dialogue for Scripts

On 27th May our Junior and Young Writers joined us for the final sessions of the month. After two weeks exploring our imaginations to discover what lay beyond doors and in other worlds, we embarked on a new adventure in the form of script writing.

The community were intrigued by the idea of writing dialogue for scripts and jumped into exploring the power of conversation and language. With the Junior Writers, we started off talking about films and who plays the characters we like. We asked the group to think about how a story unfolds, and how dialogue plays a key role.

The week’s facilitators, Alice and Robyn, modelled a conversation for the group with Alice trying to convince Robyn to let her borrow something. The group watched as Alice used her powers of persuasion and Robyn attempted to resist, before giving in and handing the item over. Afterwards, the Junior Writers discussed the tactics Alice used to persuade Robyn to give Alice the item, from flattery and emotion, to compromise and manipulation.

The group then brought the room to life by pairing up and trying this out for themselves. They employed different strategies, seeing for themselves how important word choice, intonation and approach is. We also talked about punctuation and how, in script writing, actions are included in parenthesis to direct an actor. We decided that thoughtful punctuation helps to build tension, suspense, as well as change and add meaning.

We then got to writing! We thought about two characters, where they might be, what they would be doing, and then what object one of them wanted to get from the other. The results were super varied and fun to read. We had phone-stealing on the London tube, pearly-white shells on sunny beaches, talking monkeys, and expensive jewels. It was great to see the different approaches to the exercise with some writers going for realism and others fantasy.

To finish the session, the Junior Writers were encouraged to perform their pieces. We set out the chairs to echo an audience in an auditorium and the group took turns reading their work. ‘I’ll roast you for Sunday dinner’ was an instant classic, and we enjoyed echoes from our home lives alongside siblings with the age-old winner, ‘I’m telling’.

We then welcomed the Young Writers to the space. Carrying on with the theme, we started by talking about our own experiences of conversation and the dynamics we share with family and friends. We asked: how can our experiences inspire our creative work?

Across the session we were introduced to talking mice, disagreeing sisters, and a challenging customer. The writers enjoyed producing short, snappy dialogue with lots of humour, often paired with their peers and exercising their skills as a duo. Together, we explored what people really mean when they say something; the hints and side-stepping of asking for something directly.

As the community now head into half-term, the invite is to continue exploring dialogue for script writing and see what they can come up with in their pieces.

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