“Anatomy of a Scene: A Deep Dive into Dialogue” ONLINE with Stacey Swann

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Register before Wednesday, September 30 for the chance to submit your scene for workshopping. http://www.writersleague.org/calendar/DeepDiveintoDialogueSwann2020

This class is a part of the Anatomy of a Scene Class Package.

Talent for dialogue is not an inborn skill. Anyone can learn to write razor-sharp dialogue!

As readers, there are probably a lot of craft issues we can look past. We can forgive less than inspired descriptions if the characters win our hearts. Or we can handle slightly flat characters if the plot sizzles with tension. However, if the book or story we’re reading has cliched, dull, or simply lackluster dialogue, it will be hard to keep turning the pages. Every stilted line will remind us we’re reading words on a page and keep us from immersing in the world. But there’s good news, too! More than any other aspect of writing, there are clear and useful rules for creating effective dialogue.

In the morning session of this class, we will explore all the major aspects of dialogue writing: how to avoid the most common mechanical errors, how to let your characters’ voices emerge through dialogue, how to handle interior monologue, and how to craft the best physical beats and descriptions to surround your dialogue. We’ll pull back to investigate the best ways to craft entire scenes that are dialogue-based. In the afternoon, we’ll dig deep into the 10 selected scenes to hone these skills and practice implementing them. By the end of the day, students will have the toolset to create conversations that crackle and pop!

The Workshop

Every registrant will have the chance to submit a scene for the workshop in the afternoon portion of the class. The instructor will choose 10 submissions to workshop in the afternoon. The class will receive the chosen scenes ahead of time so that everyone is on the same page. Everyone who registers will be allowed to ‘view’ and participate in the workshop, although they might not have their own work critiqued (again, only 10 will be chosen).

Submission Guidelines:
All submissions should be double-spaced, in 12 pt font, Times New Roman, and 3 pages max. Please follow standard margin guidelines and submit as a Word document.


  • You’re writing a novel, short stories, a memoir, or personal essays.
  • You’ve ever thought “Dialogue is not my forte.”
  • You’re ever confused by dialogue punctuation and mechanics.
  • Your dialogue sometimes sounds unnatural or awkward.
  • You’d like to add more dialogue to your existing scenes.


Stacey Swann holds an MFA from Texas State University and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her fiction has appeared in Epoch, Memorious, Versal, and other journals, and she is a Contributing Editor of American Short Fiction. Her debut novel, OLYMPUS, TX, is forthcoming from Doubleday in May 2021.

Submitted by Lindsey Ferris. Email: wlt@writersleague.org Website: http://www.writersleague.org/calendar/DeepDiveintoDialogueSwann2020