An update from the fourth Writing Workshop with Conner Bassett
A summary of the workshop held on Saturday May 8, plus some of the output published below
This week's workshop on dialogue was led by the inimitable duo of Stone Soup '20-21 Intern Anya Geist, 14, and Stone Soup contributor Madeline Nohrnberg, 14. The workshop began with a warm up activity challenging participants to write a scene of dialogue between two characters who hate each other talking about the weather, without ever explicitly saying they hated each other. For the purpose of their lecture, Anya and Madeline focused on various techniques of dialogue, beginning with an excerpt from Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest in order to show the technique of conveying lies. The next technique discussed was how to make dialogue seem realistic. Anya and Madeline had participants pick out lines from an excerpt of S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders in order to pinpoint instances of realistic dialogue. Following this discussion was an excerpt from The Secret Garden that Madeline used in order to showcase the use of accents in dialogue. The next technique discussed was tone and context. We read an excerpted discussion between Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, in which Dumbledore's playful tone and unwillingness to address McGonagall's more serious topic of discussion conveyed the complexity of subtext within dialogue. Then, in order to convey emphasis, Anya and Madeline utilized an excerpt from Madeleine L'Engle's The Moon by Night that used italics in order emphasize specific words. In conclusion, Anya and Madeline summarized their techniques by grouping them into two categories; one, by using tone as in the case of The Importance of Being Earnest and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and, two, by using informal language to make dialogue sound realistic as in the other three examples. As always, at the end of the lecture we wrote!
To watch a video of the instruction in full, click here.
The Challenge: Either as a stand-alone or as part of a larger work, write a scene where the dialogue and exchanges between the characters are expressive.
The Participants: (Anya and Madeline) Georgia, Jackson, Lucy, Sophia, Svitra, Liam, Aditi, Emma, Zhilin, Simran, Noa, Julia, Sasha, Sinan, Harine, Isolde, Josh, Sena, Alice, Samantha, Emi
Emma Hoff, 9
“I drew a good picture today. You wanna see?” I asked.
“I heard that if you cut off a chicken’s head, it’ll keep running. That true?” asked Uncle Morris, puffing on a cigarette.
“Why are you asking me? And anyways, what does that have to do with art?”
“Know it or not?”
“What’s the point of this?”
“The point of this, Robin, is ‘cause I’m trying to tell you that silly pictures don’t matter. Silly pictures won’t make you a living.”
“Artists make money.”
“Not with silly pictures. Not with silly childish pictures.”
“I’m not a grownup yet! I’ll get better as I grow! Anyways, you haven’t even seen the picture!”
“It of a chicken?”
“It of a cow?”
“Stop playin’ around, Uncle Morris!”
“I ain’t playin’, Robin.”
“Then what are you doing?”
“I’m here to take care of you, you know that, Robin. Your parents said that if something ever happened to them, I gotta take care of you. Something happened. You’ve been on this farm for months, and you still don’t understand that you gotta be a farmer. Everything else, too dangerous. I want to keep an eye on you. I don’t want you to die like your parents did!”
“I’m not going to.”
“How do you know?”
“I just do. Drawing isn’t dangerous. Loving doing what you love to do isn’t dangerous.”
“Robin, let me tell you a story. About your parents.”
“I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT!”
“Have it your way.”
“Uncle Morris, don’t you understand? Being a farmer... it might not be dangerous, but no one likes farmers. No one I know, anyways. The kids at school call me Pork, because of how I hang out with the pigs, and draw them.”
“Don’t listen to them kids. They don’t know anything. You, however, need to know that you are a farmer, through and through!”
“But I’m not! I love animals, but I don’t like butchering them. Heck, I’m a vegetarian! I don’t want to work in fields all day. I want to draw nature, but not harvest it!” “Lazy girl.”
“I’m not lazy! I just like drawing! Don’t you understand?”
“I don’t. Not at all. But I’ll agree with you... for now.”
Somebody Else's Sister
Sena Pollock, 14
“Come on, we’re going to be late.”
“Okay, okay. I'm coming. Just let me finish the chapter.”
“No, you can’t. You have to come right now. Otherwise I'll miss the first part.”
“It’s just your stupid dancing rehearsal. It’s not like a job interview or anything.”
“It is not stupid. And at least I have the courtesy to not make you late to one of your playdates with your weird friends.”
“They aren’t playdates, we just go to the park and hang out. And they aren’t that weird.”
“Sounds like a playdate to me. And what do you mean, they aren’t weird? You spend all your time talking about how weird they are.”
“That’s different. I mean it in a good way.”
“What ever. Hurry up!”
They get in the car.
“Mmm-mmm-m-m-hmm. Hmmm Hmmm HMMMMMM. Huhmmm um-um um.”
“Quit humming. You sound like a—like a—broken car!”
“My sister the comedian.”
Two minutes later:
“Mmm mm-mm mmm mmm mm-mm mmm. Mmm-mmm HMMM—"
“Stop bickering! Stop humming! I don’t want to hear another sound for the rest of the drive!”
Lucy Rados, 1
“Lily, can I have a cookie?” asked Joseph, a kid in her class.
“Oh, well, I don’t know, they might have nuts in them or something...” she replied, shakily.
“That’s fine, I’m not allergic!”
“Oh, I thought you were... weren’t you saying the other day that you were allergic to something?”
“I’m lactose intolerant, if that’s what you’re thinking of?”
“Oh, yeah, maybe, well, I should, you know, probably go to lunch...”
“Um, we’re like 3 feet away from the cafeteria,” Joseph, said confusedly.
Lily forced a laugh, “Oh! Yeah!”
“Weren’t we talking about something else a second ago?”
Lily looked at him strangely. “Were we?”
Joseph nodded. “Yeah, cookies. So can I have one?”
“Well, they might have- and maybe my friends- and what would- well... I guess so...”
Lily sat between Grace and Sheila at lunch, glancing over her shoulder every few seconds.
“So,” Grace said, and one could hear the smile in her words. “I notice that you gave a certain cookie to a certain person.”
“They weren’t certain cookies and he’s not a ‘certain person,’ he just asked for one and I gave him one!” Lily replied heatedly.
“Then what were you talking to Joseph about for way more time than him asking for a cookie!?” Sheila said.
“Uhhhh,” stammered Lily. “The weather.”
“Nothing else?” Grace said, skeptically.
“The weather?” Sheila said, barely smothering her laugh. “Nothing else.”
“Hey, Lily!” a voice called from across the sidewalk.
She looked up and saw none other than- “Joseph! Hi! What are you doing here!”
“Well, I mean I go to school here and need to walk home so...”
“Right! Walking home from school.”
“Anyways, I just wanted to say that those cookies were great and I’ll eat more if you ever bring in more! Oh and Brian and some of the other soccer players want some too.”
Lily nodded. “Oh, yeah, um, I can make more sometime maybe if you like want or something.”
“You’re the best!”
Joseph walked away while Lily just stood there, watching.
Svitra Rajkumar, 13
“Do you ever think about what happens after death?” Auvril’s younger sister wondered aloud. Auvril turned over on her stiff mattress, face to face with a pair of bright blue eyes.
“What are you doing in my room Bianca?” She sighed.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Bianca pouted as she tugged the thin white blanket towards herself, leaving half of Auvril’s pale body exposed to the chilly air around them.
“What do you think happens after we die?” Auvril repeated Bianca’s question in a whisper.
“Well, I don’t believe in heaven or hell because there obviously isn’t another dimension you can transfer to after you die. Reincarnation is out of the question because that would mean our minds and personalities are getting reused through different bodies. So the only option is...” Bianca paused, obviously deep in thought.
Auvril could tell she had spent a long time thinking about this. Bianca was quite mature for her age and often told Auvril about her countless theories and wonders.
Unfortunately, other children who were Bianca’s age didn’t share the same interest in discovering the unknown or the patience to listen to her.
“What if people live through the memories of their loved ones?” Bianca continued, rambling on, not even checking to see if Auvril was paying attention.
“Mhm, that seems possible,” Auvril replied while stifling a yawn. She closed her eyes and drifted off into another world, a utopia of dreams.