Writing Exercise: Dialogue and Scene

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Dialogue and Scene

A strange phenomenon I have discovered while editing is writers usually have scene and dialogue well integrated for the first few chapters of a manuscript, but after a while the integration fails, switching to scene description and talking heads like they were writing a screenplay. When writing the first pass, such weaknesses are acceptable, but only if the author goes back and corrects them. Many self-published book glaringly suffer from this problem. The first step is recognizing it is an issue, unless you are writing a screenplay, and the second step is fixing the situation.

Below is a generic example of the phenomenon.

WRITING EXERCISE: Try to blend the two, or go through your present WIP (work-in-progress) and see if you have a scene or two suffering from this failing and adjust. If you fix the below, please post your version to the comment section.

Don’t read other people’s versions until you do your own.


Clifford & Rozetta 1

The Student Union’s vaulted ceiling crisscrossed with ancient beams, smoke-darkened from hundreds of fires before central heat was installed. The marble floor was newer, replaced in the Roaring Twenties when the college was flush with donations, but was showing wear tracks along the paths most often used by students treading the maze of comfortable, but disintegrating furniture, begged, borrowed, stolen, and abandoned by their predecessors.

Rozetta’s and Clifford’s favorite sofa was a food-stained, soda-stained, sweat-stained, and don’t-ask-stained lump from the seventies that started life most likely a bright mint green. At least, when the guaranteed to clean anything fabric cleanser had been applied to one arm as a test, that was the intense color returned.

A lead-glass project from a forgotten art student filled the center window, breaking rainbows across the room. Every year Alpha Sigma Sigma would sacrifice their pledge class to climb a 30-foot ladder to clean the fifty some prisms and glass animals. Roz moved her hand back and forth through one of the rainbows residing mid-air over her accounting book.

“You still don’t get quantity variance.” Cifford admonished. “Finals are tomorrow.”

“If I haven’t got it by now, I am not going to.” Roz replied.

“You could at least try.”

Roz shrugged. “I tried and tried and tried. At least with the homeworks, projects, pop quizzes and mid-terms, the worst grade I can get is a C+ according to the rubric the teacher handed out … and that is if I get a zero on the final. And I am not going to get a zero.”

“So did you calculate my grade yet, my lady luck?”

She said, “18% of the grade. Best case, with a 100, is a B+, worse with a zero is a C-. Zero means losing your scholarship and having to drop out.”

“It was that damned paper. Who puts a paper in an accounting course?”

“Told you just follow the rubric, but no, you missed half the required points.”

“Thought the teacher would let me slide,” he said. “She likes me.”

Roz laughed. “Ms. Catcher, letting someone slide?”

“Hey, I get lucky sometimes.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “Like tonight, after you understand quantity variance.”

“How about before I understand quantity variance, but after pizza. I’m buying.”


The two packed up their books and left the Union and rainbows behind.

(words 389 – first publication 2/12/2015; republished in new blog format 7/26/2016)