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Closed for Renovations: Editing and Dialogue

March 24, 2015

This exercise is adapted from one in Louise Doughty’s terrific book A Novel In a Year.

Write a scene containing six lines of dialogue, giving each character three lines each. The two characters, who hate each other, are discussing the refurbishment of the local library.

Now take out everything except the dialogue. Do you still have a sense of who these people are, and their relationship to each other? Is the piece strengthened or weakened by taking out all description, gesture, attribution etc?

Library-closing-for-renovations

The library was locked, with a sign on the door that read, “Closed for Renovations”.

“Well,” said Karen, “I hope they start by doing something about those awful old toilets.”

Johanna rolled her eyes. “It’s a library, Mum.”

“Yes, I know.” Karen adjusted her grip on her shopping bags, grimacing as the handles cut into her fingers. “What’s your point?”

“Well, obviously they’re going to start by making more space for the books. Or more computers. You know, library stuff.”

“Not necessarily. Honestly, Jo, you’re such a Little Miss Know-It-All these days.” They turned and started back to the car, passing the old men who spent their days chatting and smoking on the benches outside the library. “Think how many old people must use the facilities in there. Good, clean toilets are very important when you’re getting on a bit.”

Johanna cringed. “Keep your voice down. God!”

* * * * *

“Well, I hope they start by doing something about those awful old toilets.”

“It’s a library, Mum.”

“Yes, I know. What’s your point?”

“Well, obviously they’re going to start by making more space for the books. Or more computers. You know, library stuff.”

“Not necessarily. Honestly, Jo, you’re such a Little Miss Know-It-All these days. Think how many old people must use the facilities in there. Good, clean toilets are very important when you’re getting on a bit.”

“Keep your voice down. God!”

What do you think – which version works better? 

Did you find this exercise useful? If so, perhaps you’d benefit from my short course, ‘Unlocking the Book in You’ at SPAN Community House, Thornbury. Call (03) 9480 1364 for more information. 

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