I was shopping one day last week when I heard an elderly woman say to her daughter, “I’d like to find a white sweater.”

Her daughter came back with, “Oh, Mother, you always do this to me. You know we can’t find white after Labor Day.”

I thought, Hmm. That daughter is negative about her mother.

A few minutes later, in the same store, I heard a 30-something granddaughter talking with her elderly grandmother. “Oh, Grandma,” she said,

WRITING PROMPT FOR MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL: Writing dialog can be tricky. Try this method of developing characters and their dialog. It'll add some solid tension to the scene and make it fascinating.

“you would look lovely in this.” The two women talked about the clothing they were hunting for, and the granddaughter chimed in with, “This red blouse would look really good with some of the other clothes you have in your closet.”

I thought, Hmm. That granddaughter has a more positive outlook than the other woman does. She’s helpful and encouraging.

In just a few minutes, I had come across two women with completely different responses to the elderly women in their lives.

And then I thought, Hmm. This would make an interesting writing prompt about dialog and tension.

While I don’t endorse eavesdropping, I do recommend really listening to the people around you: in the grocery story check-out, in the line at the fast-food restaurant, in the bleachers at the game, and so on.

By really paying attention to people and their overheard conversations, you’ll pick up on personalities, word usage, idioms, cadences, dialects, topics, and so forth, which you can convert to dialog.

No, you won’t record their actual conversation or put it in your story. You’ll simply use the conversation as a springboard into your story’s characters or dialog.

Now it’s your turn: Listen to different people talking this week and then pick out two that come at life from different directions. Now put them together in a room as characters. Your two characters are in a locked room and have to escape. They have to escape, but they do not agree on how to do it.

You can use my two women, if you wish.

Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Watson
Image credit: Sharon Watson
Original image: Voyagerix / dollarphotoclub.com

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