An update from the twenty-ninth Writing Workshop with Conner Bassett
A summary of the workshop held on Saturday February 26, plus some of the output published below
To begin today's workshop, Conner showed us the opening sequence from the 2001 film adaptation of Waiting for Godot, asking that we notice what made the dialogue good—specifically to notice how the dialogue works, how the two characters respond to each other, how the dialogue is simultaneously funny and mysterious, notice its indirectness and opacity, and how it opens itself up to various kinds of communication. One of the most important observations from this scene was that the characters didn't spend time explaining the situation to each other. After we discussed each other's desires for writing dialogue like Emma's tendency to omit implied filler words such as "hello, or goodbye," and Amelia's desire to portray the character's as human and non-robotic through realistic conversation, we moved on to Conner's "seven tools for writing dialogue," not rules, starting with the suggestion that dialogue should be realistic, but not too realistic. The rest of the tools were as follows: 2) use dialogue to differentiate characters; 3) avoid small talk; 4) avoid the "information dump"; 5) gestures are more communicative than words; 6) have your characters talk to each other while simultaneously doing something else (as in the 2013 Pulitzer Price winning play Disgraced); 7) use indirect dialogue.
The Participants: Emma, Sophia, Nova, Amelia, Ananya, Alice, Josh, Zar, Samantha, Ellie, Chelsea, Quinn, Penelope
The Challenge: Write about 2-4 characters who are having a conversation while struggling to build a bird house. The instructions for building the bird house are provided below:
- Rinse out the milk carton with dish soap and warm water.
- Cut out a 1/2 to 3 in (3.8 to 7.6 cm) hole on 1 side of the carton.
- Poke small drainage holes into the bottom of the carton.
- Punch a hole at the top so you can hang the birdhouse.
- Glue 3 in (7.6 cm) sticks to the top of the carton to make a roof.
- Paint the carton's exterior with water-based paint.
- Tie string or yarn through the hole at the top of the carton.
- Place small rocks or sand at the bottom of the carton to anchor it against the wind.
- Hang the birdhouse at least 5 ft (1.5m) off of the ground.