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EGL 165 — Speakeasy: The Pleasures of Writing Good Dialogue

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Apr 13—Jun 1
Time: 6:30—8:45 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Apr 15
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $490
Instructor(s): Daniel Schifrin
Limit: 30
Status: Closed
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
6:30—8:45 pm (PT)
Apr 13—Jun 1
8 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 15
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Daniel Schifrin
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Dialogue is among the most difficult elements to get right in creative writing. In this deep dive into the potential of written speech, we will explore how masters of multiple genres have deployed dialogue to convey—with remarkable concision and texture—a combination of information, character, and drama. How, for instance, does Grace Paley manage to write dinner table chatter in which we appear to hear every voice simultaneously? How do playwrights like David Mamet and Sarah Ruhl create unique styles of spoken English that still sound like people we know? What can we learn from the uses (or misuses) of dialect, from Mark Twain to August Wilson? Key to our investigation is something we were told since childhood not to do—eavesdrop. By listening to actual speech, and analyzing it side-by-side with published work, we will uncover the magic in both hearing and producing good dialogue. Finally, we will write our own dialogues, either as part of our own works in progress, or as stepping-stones to future projects. Students will have multiple opportunities to receive feedback on their work, both through class discussion and in writing from the instructor. Students will come away with an appreciation of their own ability to create dialogue that sounds authentic, distinctive, and lively.

Daniel Schifrin, Journalist; Playwright; Fiction Writer

Daniel Schifrin has taught creative writing at UC Berkeley and SF State, and served as writer-in-residence at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. His fiction and essays have appeared in McSweeney's, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and he is the author of the plays Sweet and Sour, String Theory, and At Rise. He received the 2016 Wilner Award in Short Fiction.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.