Writing Workshop – Week 8

Exercise – Richard Bausch – Aren’t You Happy for Me?

Daniel Teo

Write a scene of a telephone call between two people who are each going through their own drama. The narrator is slightly closer to the character with the ‘real’ drama. The other person also has something dramatic, but it is told in a funnier, more exaggerated way. The narrator is keeping things moving, keeping things light-hearted.

Click here to read the story

This exercise focuses on an area which we haven’t touched upon a lot yet: dialogue! In a way, dialogue is both easier and harder to write than for example description or action. It’s easier it keeps the scene moving along at a brisker pace without ‘telling’ too much. But I’ve noticed that it’s very easy sometimes to get caught up in the dialogue, precisely because it moves at such a brisk pace, while losing focus on the main story. This exercise is particularly useful, because the narrator has to step out of the dialogue to reflect and show a little bit of what is going on, which adds to the story.

Now on to the critique of the story. The dialogue seems to work quite well, and the personalities of the characters comes out quite nicely, while keeping things funny and light-hearted, if I say so myself. However, we would perhaps like to know a little bit more about the mother’s background, although that is something which could also be reserved for the next scene. Another point is to perhaps place the dramatic situation a little bit earlier, to keep the tension going. And also, the story tends to bog down a little at certain points, for example at the second time when the narrator steps out of the dialogue [Her salsa teacher…], the paragraph might be too long and contains too much info. The trick is to compress certain parts of the story so it moves along more smoothly.

So this was already the last exercise of the writing workshop. Where does the time go? There are two more sessions to go, but those sessions are reserved for revisions or for expanding a previous piece. It’s going to be hard to decide which stories to revise or to expand, although last week’s story about Sam the squire seems to be the early favorite, as I want Sam to feel more morally ambiguous about his situation. Oh well, we’ll see, as there’s still some time left to go.


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