Home > Prompts > The Tuesday Prompt: We Need to Talk, by Clara Kumagai

This week’s Tuesday Prompt is a throwback to one by former Executive Editor, Promotions Clara Kumagai. Since you’re working hard on sending in your entries to our 2016 Short Fiction Contest before the January 15th deadline, I thought this writing prompt about dialogue might bring your story all together or get you writing one fresh. Click here to read more about our contest deadlines and happy writing!


I began writing as a playwright, so I enjoy writing dialogue. I’m always interested in how people speak, especially the words or phrases they fall back on a lot. I recently had a conversation with a man who said “y’know” four times in one sentence.

Sometimes, especially with prose, writing can become narration heavy. This is when it’s good to try bringing in more dialogue, even as an exercise. So today’s prompt is all about that.

Pick a scene that you are working on (or an idea for a scene, or an old one), preferably one with two or more characters. Now translate all of it into dialogue, writing it out like a play or screenplay. Even if there is little or no dialogue to begin with, this can be a way of expanding on what characters would or wouldn’t say; dialogue is a great opportunity for subtext.

Once you have dialogue, think about action. This is something else that you need to do with stage and screen: think visually. Of course, we do that all the time with poetry and prose, but this way is different in that you can’t describe physicality as much–you need to let them speak for themselves. Always think about dramatic action! So write out the movement like stage directions; this can help you think about how characters inhabit a space.

This is a fun place to start, or a good way of looking at a scene or character in a fresh way. It might even turn into a play! (You know, PRISM accepts drama submissions…)

Break a leg!