Try your hand at snappy dialogue

This is an exercise I use when I’m teaching creative writing. I always get a kick out of it, and the students do, too. I’m thinking it might engage the interest of some of the people who stop by here — and who need another opportunity to comment and thus get entered into the giveaway.

To start, I provide a question. For example: Do you live around here?

Goal: Write a one sentence reply that gets the whole story going at a gallop.  

Example answers:

What kind of question is that? I look like a bum to you?

Sure do. That little yellow job over there is mine, all nine hundred fifty square feet. Shingled the roof myself, which is how I come to do such mischief to my back.

Detective, not to embarrass you or nothing, but you got mustard on your tie, did you know that?


For each of these replies you should have a some impressions about the character. The third person is a smart ass who likes tweaking authority figures. The second one is  talkative old man who lives by himself, and is lonely, and tries to engage anybody who asks him a question. And the first … there’s room for some interpretation there. A female, a male, young, old, all you have for sure is an attitude. But it could take you places, that attitude.

So here’s another question to open a scene. See if you can come up with a one sentence (or so) reply that gets the story going, and gives us something solid about the primary character.

How did you get that black eye?

No restrictions on who is asking this question. Could be a spouse, a stranger on a bus, a barista, an ER nurse, anybody. See if you can come up with a response.