Playwriting Exercise: Argue Over an Onion


It Does Get Easier

Do dialogue-let’s say-between a hobo and a high-class hooker, then between an ambulance chaser and a guy who sells scorecards at the ballpark-let’s say-about the meaning of money. Between pints, get the arch of the dart down pat. Shoot foul shots day in and rim out. Pick a sentence at random from a randomly selected book, and another from another volume also chosen by chance; then write a paragraph which will be a reasonable bridge between them. And it does get easier to do what you have done, sing what you’ve so often sung; it gets so easy, sometimes, that what was once a challenge passes over into thoughtless routine. So the bar must be raised a few notches, one’s handicap increased, the stakes trebled, tie both hands behind your back. Refuse the blindfold, refuse the final cigarette, refuse the proffered pizza. Do dialogue in dialect: a Welshman and a Scot arguing about an onion. Hardest of all: start over. WILLIAM H. GASS

The above quote comes from the site Advice To Writers and I think it is choc full of playwriting prompts. If you’ve been taking it easy so far this summer, now would be a great time to flex those fingers! Write out the following scenes:

  • A conversation between a hobo and a high-class hooker.
  • An ambulance chaser and a gambler about the meaning of money.
  • Take two random lines of dialogue from two completely different plays and write the scene that connects the two.
  • Write a scene in dialect between A Welshman and a Scot (or pick two other distinct dialects) arguing over an onion.

There’s also some lovely advice – start over, give yourself handicaps and see where your writing goes, refuse that pizza offer and get writing. And heed the advice in the pic as well – but instead of food, make all your words go all the way…

About the author

Lindsay Price