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Dialogue Writing

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Dialogue Writing


Dialogues are a mode of writing infrequently taught in school, yet students of all ages and abilities enjoy writing them. There are several different kinds of dialogues that students can write, ranging from inner conversations to dialogues in which characters debate an issue. Dialogue writing is a dramatic way to engage students in applying concepts and facts they are studying.

How to Teach Dialogue Writing:

  1. Try not to pre-teach dialogues. Once students understand the format, they can write dialogues with little instruction. Afterwards, focus class discussion on the problems encountered and the ways writers in the class have found to solve them. Discussions should also focus on the information, opinions and values dialogue reveals.

  1. Provide opportunities for students to hear/read/act out each other’s dialogues.

  1. Encourage students to read examples of the kinds of dialogues they are writing. Transcripts of trials, hearings and debates can be useful.

  1. Improvisations are a good way to motivate dialogue writing. Students can transcribe the words of an improvisation done by two class members. After a few minutes, interrupt the improvisation and instruct students to continue it individually on paper.

Related Activities:

  1. Interior Dialogues

After reading a newspaper article about solar energy, write a dialogue in which you debate with yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of it.

After studying about the dangers of cigarette smoking, write a dialogue in which you discuss with yourself reasons for starting or quitting.

After reading about the Boston Tea Party, write a dialogue in which you debate with yourself the reasons you are studying about it, what happened and why.

  1. Dialogues Between You and Another Person

You meet the author of a book you are reading or a character in the book. You have many questions to ask him/her. Perhaps you want to offer some advice. Write the conversation you might have.

You ordered a strawberry sundae in a restaurant, but the waitress brings you a strawberry shake. The waitress doesn’t want to return the shake. Write the conversation you might have with the waitress.

You are trying to get a part-time job at a restaurant. Because of your age, Mr. Morrison, the manager, is doubtful about hiring you. He wants to make sure you’ll be dependable and responsible. You want the job badly and want to convince Mr. Morrison you are the right person for the job. Write the conversation you and Mr. Morrison might have.

Your coach has kept you on the bench for the last few games. You feel frustrated and angry about not playing. You decide to confront your coach. Write the conversation between you and the coach.

Your friend doesn’t understand one of the math homework problems. Since you are good at math, your friend asks you how to do it. Write a conversation in which you explain to your friend how to solve the problem.

  1. Dialogues Between Two Characters

A mammal (choose one you’ve studied) and a reptile (choose one you’ve studied) are arguing about who is superior. Write their conversation.

It is the morning after the players performed the Murder of Gonzago for King Claudius and the court. Two characters are discussing the performance and its effect on the audience. Write their conversation.

Two students have gone to a museum because they are assigned to write a paper about a famous painting (choose a painting by an artist you have studied). They stand in front of the painting and discuss their reactions to it. Write their conversation.

A married couple is deciding whether to buy a house or continue to rent an apartment. The wife is trying to persuade her husband that they should buy a house, but he is against the idea because he doesn’t think they can afford it. Write their conversation.

4.Socratic Dialogues (Dialogues of Ideas)

There is a controversy at your school about whether females should be allowed to play on the all male sports teams. Your friend disagrees with you on the issue. Write the conversation you and your friend have in which you try to explain your opinions to each other.

Two French sisters are living in German-occupied Paris. Denise has decided to join the Resistance but Francoise thinks they should cooperate with the Germans. Write the conversation in which the two sisters discuss their positions.

It is the early 1960’s. Two leaders of the Civil Rights movement are debating the efficacy of civil disobedience and passive resistance as tools for desegregating the public facilities in a southern city. One favors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings and practices. The other believes that armed, violent protest is necessary. Write the conversation they might have.

A nuclear power plant has been proposed in your community. At a public meeting, Mr. Rogers, a representative of the power company, gets into an argument with one of your neighbors, Mrs. Rivera, who is opposed to the construction of the plant. Write their conversation about this issue.

Alice Cronin, age 55, has terminal cancer. She wants to refuse further treatment because she sees no point in remaining alive. Her son, George, feels that his mother’s wishes should be honored. Sally, his sister, disagrees. Write the conversation between Sally and George about this issue.

Follow-Up Activities:

  1. Dialogue writing can lead to play and script writing. Students can write stage directions, descriptions of scenery, camera shots and sound effects for stage, TV and radio plays.

  1. A dialogue can be surrounded by narrative and converted to quotation mark form for use in short stories and personal essays.

  1. Dialogue writing can lead to the writing of monologues and interior monologues.

  1. Socratic dialogues can be converted to formal essays by merging both voices, eliminating weak ideas and adding new ones.


Cooper, Charles. Material prepared for a graduate course at SUNY, Buffalo.

Moffett, James. Active Voice –A Writing Program Across the Curriculum. New Jersey: Boynton/Cook Publishers, Inc., 1981.

Moffett, James and Wagner, Betty Jane. Student-Centered Language Arts and Reading, K-13. New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 1976.

Prepared by:

Carla Asher

Ed Osterman

Michael Simon

© 1981 New York City Writing Project

DMU Timestamp: April 30, 2019 18:47

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