George Saunders has said, “Bad dialogue is when A asks a question and B answers it.” Dialogue should be two people “firing missiles past each other.” And well-written dialogue is “like poetry—it’s not functional, but it looks good on the page and has a zinginess." Even our greatest writers have a complicated relationship with dialogue. For years Zadie Smith didn't write dialogue at all, because Nabokov was against it.
In this course, we analyzed the power dynamics, performance, communication, confession, (dis)functionality, and "zinginess" of organic and constructed dialogue from vastly different sources—from Beckett to Gchat to the subway. We'll eavesdrop on ourselves, our friends, and strangers, and read between the lines in our own conversations. We'll comb through the archives at StoryCorps, and take a trip to see some improv comedy. And we'll practice the craft of writing great dialogue, from "said-bookisms" to dialogue tags, direct address, and beyond.