This past week, I’ve posted about my favorite episodes of the long-running series Curb Your Enthusiasm.  What makes the show unique is the use of improvisation instead of a script, which made me think about what it’s like to be an author.

As authors, we outline and prepare to write a novel or short story, but when it comes to actually writing out a scene with dialogue, we are tasked with creating conversations that drive the story and conflict forward and are also engaging to the reader.  

Much like the actor on Curb, we repeatedly test what works and what doesn’t work in a chapter until the pacing, feel, and tone marry together in perfect harmony, tying into the previous and future chapters and events.

We usually do this all in our heads while seated at our laptops or with a pen and paper.

But let’s try something a little different…

The Exercise

The next time you need to work on a scene or chapter, press record on your phone or other device, stand up, and improv the scene out loud.  Play all the characters and test out dialogue, conversations, conflicts, and other interactions that help drive the story forward and keep the chapter moving.

You can have your outline in hand the whole time, and when something new and exciting pops up, make sure to either jot it down or say it into your recording device to remember for later.

If you have a willing partner, ask them to assist you, giving them an outline of the chapter or scene to follow, similar to how Larry David worked with other actors on Curb

Getting up and moving and putting the scene and characters into action will help your dialogue feel more natural and realistic once you sit down to write it out.

Try it with all kinds of scenes and see if this is a tool you can use to create more effective and realistic dialogue in your future writing projects.

Happy Writing and Exploring, and I’ll see you next time!

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