Monday, September 10, 2007

This Week in Writing-Talking it Up

This week's exercise is from the Gotham Writer's Workshop Fiction Writing Guide. In "Diaglogue: Talking it Up," Allison Amend discusses the way dialogue can reveal relationships between characters, and offers this exercise:
Jessica, a somewhat stuffy university professor, stops at a gas station in some backwater place. As she fills her tank, Alvin, the attendant, approaches her. He is an undeducated sort (though not dim) and being both bored and friendly, wants to chat. Jessica would rather not chat, but she also doesn't want to alienate Alvin, because she would like directions to a nearby restaurant that won't be too greasy or too ghastly. Write a scene between Jessica and Alvin, using dialogue, tags, and stage directions. The main goal is to capture the flavor of these two people through how they speak.

"You're wastin' money puttin' that high test gasoline in yer car."

"Excuse me?" Jessica turned her head slightly to see where the rude remark had come from.

"That engine will run just fine on reg'lar," Alvin answered, removing his stained baseball cap with its faded Mobil One insignia, and returning it to his head in one swift, well-rehearsed gesture.

"Thank you very much, sir," Jessica said, "but I'm just following the directons in the owners manual."

"Suit yourself then. I was just tryin' to save you some dough."

Jessica peered at Alvin over the tops of her Ray Ban's, taking in the baggy jeans settled low around his waist and slopping into pools of denim over the top of each tennis shoe.

"Do I look like I need to 'save dough?'" she asked.

Alvin grinned a little sheepishly. "I reckon not," he agreed, his eyes appraising her black leather jacket, high heeled pumps, and lingering most appreciatively on the sleek BMW convertible.

"I jes' thought a little friendly advice might be appreciated."

"I'm quite well acquainted with the needs of my car," Jessica answered, replacing the nozzle into the pump with a resounding thunk. "However," she went on, removing her sunglasses and giving Alvin the full benefit of her deep-set black eyes, "I could use directions to the nearest decent restaurant."
Alvin paused a moment before he replied. "That would be Kate's Kitchen, straight on down this road about four miles. Best homemade beef stew and cherry pie outside of your mama's dining room."

Not exactly Andiamo's on Fifth, Jessica thought, but apparently it would have to do.

"Thanks," she said, replacing her sunglasses and pulling open the driver's door. "I'll give it a try."

"You won't be sorry," Alvin assured her. "Drive safe, now, y'hear?"

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