3/23 – Dialogue and Mentor Texts

Daily Warm Up: Today, add some dialogue to the short story that includes a red object and is about the character who works as a cleaning lady, I want you to include some dialogue with another character.

Daily Focus: Today we’ll look at dialogue, both the minor stuff (how to space and punctuate it, what dialogue tags are, which dialogue tags to use and when) as well as the major stuff (what makes dialogue believable vs. common mistakes that make dialogue unbelievable).

Today’s Experiment: Write a short scene between two characters. It should not be EXCLUSIVELY dialogue, but it should use the dialogue elements we just discussed as effectively as possible.

If you need to, you can listen to a sample scene from a previous student who turned it into a sound cloud here. However, be warned that this particular scene is rated NC-17 or R. Like a Quentin Tarantino level of violence and cussing.

Annotations Homework, due 3/28: You will be working with FICTION samples to prepare for our next unit (next week). This is a little different than poetry. I still want you to find 3-5 examples, only this time you’re looking for short stories (fiction), NOT poems.

You can use novels you love, the journals list or other books in the LMC (yes, you can use books for this), but the work has to be from 1990-Present (nothing BEFORE 1990).

Instead of pasting the WHOLE thing in your journal and annotating the whole thing (which would take FOREVER and be sloppy and unsatisfying), I’d like you to annotate some specific chunks of the stories:

  • Choose 2 of the beginnings
  • Choose 2 of the endings
  • Choose 1 section of  description (character or scene)
  • Choose 1 conversation between characters

Basically, that’s a total of 6 short things that you’ll copy or paste in your writer’s notebook. Then you’ll annotate JUST the stuff you’ve put in your writer’s notebook.

Annotate the stories by…

  • Pointing out cool things you notice the writer doing with their story
  • Identifying any “green lines” (lines so good you wish you had written them)
  • Pointing out literary tools you think work really well (literary tools might be things like metaphors, imagery, sound, etc).
  • Pointing out other things you notice about how the story was built (how the poet handled line length or punctuation or stanzas, grammar, word choice, sentence structure, etc.)
  • Focusing on craft–how is the writer handling the beginning, ending, description, dialogue. How might that inform how YOU handle it in your work?
  • What questions do you have about how the author did that?


You can see what this might look like below (before the annotations are done). You can click to enlarge the particular photo if you want to see the visual more closely.

IMG_2950 IMG_2951 IMG_2949

What I did is also described here– in words instead of pictures:

  • I cut up three different stories–I used the beginning from one, the beginning + dialogue from another one, descriptions from two different ones, endings from two different ones, and dialogue from one.
  • I pasted all the pieces I’d taken from one particular story on the same page/set of pages.
  • *** I wrote down the title of the story, the author, and the name of the journal I took it from at the top.***
  • I identified which part of the story each section was so that I’d remember when I sat down to annotate.

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