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Weekend Assignment: Two Characters Walked into a Room

One thing I’ve noticed about owning a teenager is that they wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. Especially in the summer. The last teenager in my house, a.k.a. The Boy, spent a recent evening at the drive-in watching a triple feature of all the Twilight movies. This made for a long night for me, and I decided to while away the hours watching the bonus features disc for The Incredibles.

One of the great things about bonus features DVDs is that oftentimes the writers of the movie share insights about the writing process.  About a minute into the section titled “Story” writer/director Brad Bird appeared onscreen with this great quote:

“You have this white wasteland of the blank page… and you have to kind of just drag something into being. But once you get one thing into being, it kind of suggests another thing, and if you got two characters in a room and they start talking to each other, things start coming out.

This is one of the fundamental truisms of writing. The page will stay blank until you drag something onto it. Once you get something on it, the whole process gets easier.

If you’re having trouble with a scene, or you can’t seem to get started, this weekend’s assignment is a great way to break through. Even if you aren’t having trouble, you should try it as a creative exercise. You might be surprised with the results.

Start with two characters. Drag them onto the page together and make them talk to each other.

“Hi.”

“Howdy!”

“I didn’t think I’d see you here.”

Keep writing dialogue back and forth as quickly as you can, without giving any of it too much thought. It doesn’t matter if the conversation makes no sense or seems silly. The goal is to keep dragging things onto the page until, as Brad Bird says, “things start coming out.”

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