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 First-Person Writing and Dialogue

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PostSubject: First-Person Writing and Dialogue   Sun Mar 22, 2009 12:00 pm

Caring about one's writing is a critical feature of voice in writing. It is demonstrated by conveying honest emotions, such as outrage, passion, joy, anger, or empathy. Honest and caring are evident through the following features:

  • personal accounts written in first person, using I

  • dialogue that illustrates emotional responses:
    "I don't believe this is happening to us," I whispered to Charley.
    "Be patient," he answered calmly.

The following pair of exemplars can be used as a teaching tool to connect first-person writing and emotional response through dialogue to writing with voice. Ask students to compare Exemplars A and B. How does Exemplar B, the original student piece, convey voice, which is missing in Exemplar A? Students should note the advantages of the first-person account and of the dialogue to convey emotion effectively. Be sure to point out that dialogue is effective when it suits the words and speech patterns of the individual speakers. The exact natural-sounding words, placed within double quotation marks, will include contractions, short sentences, and sentence fragments. Every time the speaker changes, a new paragraph should begin. Students may also find it interesting to realize that the kind of language appropriate in dialogue---for example, stinks---is likely inappropriate for indirect speech.
After they have completed the activity, have students review a composition written in the first person to strengthen honest, emotional responses. Alternatively, they could rewrite a section of a text written in third person (omniscient author) in first person, putting an emphasis on honest, emotional responses.
Teachers who work with reluctant writes have often pointed out that many students are more fluent with first-person narrative than omniscient author narratives. First-person writing reminds these students to dip into the well of their own experiences when they write. It also gives students permission to use familiar language.

As he glanced out of the muddy window of his jeep, he looked at his new residence---the Sunshine State apartment. As he stepped out of the blue vehicle his mother blurted that this will be a wonderful change. Austin sighed in agreement but he knew he would miss his friends. His mother suggested that they go in. He muttered to himself that the place stunk.

Glancing out of the muddy window of the jeep, I looked up into the eyes of my new Sunshine State apartment. As I stepped out of the blue vehicle, my mother blurted,
"Oh, Austin, won't this be a wonderful change?"
"Sure, I guess," I sighed, missing my friends.
"Come on; let's go in!" my mother smiled as she headed for the doors.
"This stinks," I muttered to myself as I followed her.
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