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CW 165 — Speakeasy: The Pleasures of Writing Good Dialogue

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Jan 17—Mar 14
Time: 6:30—8:45 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 19
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $520
Instructor(s): Daniel Schifrin
Limit: 25
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
Please Note: No class on March 7
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
6:30—8:45 pm (PT)
Jan 17—Mar 14
8 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 19
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Daniel Schifrin
Please Note: No class on March 7
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.

Writer; Storytelling Consultant

Daniel Schifrin's fiction and essays have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and McSweeney's, and he received the Wilner Award for Short Fiction. He has taught creative writing at UC Berkeley and SF State, and from 2008 to 2014 he was writer-in-residence at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

Textbooks for this course:

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