Memoir and Writing: A New Look at Dialogue and a Writing Prompt

by Matilda Butler on July 23, 2012

catnav-alchemy-activePost #56 – Memoir and Fiction, Writing Alchemy – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

Understanding Dialogue for Memoir Writing

Recently, we went to lunch with a friend. He related the following story:

“My wife set up a doctor’s appointment for me. She said I had a hearing problem. After conducting a series of tests, the audiologist gave me the report. He said, ‘You don’t have a hearing problem. You have a listening problem.’”

memoir, memoir writing, dialogue in memoirA funny story.

Then I got to thinking about the message behind the story. In our new book Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep, Kendra and I go into considerable depth about dialogue. We include exercises so that you’ll better know how to effectively use that element of writing. One exercise has you go out to a public place and pay attention to the conversations you hear.

After hearing my friend’s comment, I realized that while it is valuable for memoir writers to hear conversations in order to better understand how dialogue functions, it is also valuable for writers to become active, engaged listeners.

So here are today’s memoir writing prompts:

1. Go to a public place and listen to two people talking. This can just be a brief conversation — up to five minutes. Then make notes. What did each one say? Try to recreate the conversation to the best of your ability.

2. Now that you have a conversation in front of you, think about what they were saying — not the words — the meaning. Turn the conversation into one that you listened to rather than just heard. Write a commentary about the conversation. In other words, become involved in it.

When using dialogue in your memoir, this listening skill will make your exchanges more meaningful and you’ll find you can use dialogue better to move your story forward.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Helene Moore August 1, 2012 at

I began reading your new book, and now I can’t wait to start using this technique, or system. I hate outlining, but I love this. I’m only on page 68, and can’t wait to finish the book. Then I will go back and start writing, starting with me as the character in my Memoir.
Thanks for all the information and support.

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