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Calvin and Hobbes: Writing Dialogue March 6, 2007

Posted by Myke Bartlett in CSC Year 08 English 2007.

1. Write down what happens in these comic strips as a simple conversation. Remember what we’ve learned about using apostrophes for speech.
eg. ‘Psst Calvin, pass this secret note,’ Susie said.
‘That dirty Susie Derkins!’ Calvin said.

2. Now you’ve written down all of the conversation, we need to go back and add a few more details. Good writing needs to convey a lot of information that pictures can do quite easily. For example, HOW do the characters say what they say? What kind of mood are they in? Are they speaking quietly, happily, angrily? This is where we start to use descriptive language (adjectives) to give the reader an idea of not only what is happening but what it looks like/sounds like/feels like. Where is the conversation taking place? What do the characters look like?

Rewrite the conversation above but with these extra details. It should be quite a lot longer.

eg. It was hot in the classroom. The warm afternoon sun was burning through the windows and steaming up the air inside. It didn’t help that the airconditioner was broken. Because of this, Calvin was already in a bad mood. His red and black striped shirt was damp with sweat and the jagged points of his blond hair were starting to wilt.

(These opening lines have been added to give us a sense of SETTING. Words can sometimes do this better than pictures. The cartoon doesn’t let us know what the temperature is like in the room, so I’ve made this up. A reader wants to know, so they can imagine themselves in the setting.)

The teacher, Mrs Wormwood, was busy at the blackboard. She was a large woman with a crumpled face, as if she had too much skin, like one of those bulldogs Calvin’s neighbours had.

(This character description of the teacher not only tells us what she looks like, but the way it describes her gives the reader an idea of what her personality is like. If she was described as looking like a mouse, we might imagine she was timid and quiet.)

Susie, the girl who sat in front of him, turned in her seat, holding a folded piece of paper in her hand. Susie was weird. Her mum always cut her hair in a sharp fringe that sometimes made her face look all sharp and pointy. At times she seemed to like Calvin but then would other times become irritated when he tried to get his toy tiger to eat her toy rabbit. Maybe all girls were weird like that. Now it seemed that she wanted to talk to him.
‘Calvin,’ she whispered, holding out the paper. ‘Pass this note to Jessica. It’s a secret note, so don’t read it.’
Calvin took the note. For a moment he was glad that Susie was trusting him with a secret, but then an evil thought occurred to him. Evil thoughts often occurred to him and he wasn’t very good at resisting them. A wicked smile broke out across his face. While Susie’s back was to him, he quietly unfolded the note, careful not to make any noise that would let her know what he was doing. Ha! He would learn Susie’s secret and then he could use it against her when she next told him off for feeding her rabbit to his tiger.
Slowly, slowly, his fingers opened the note and, chuckling to himself, he read its contents.
‘Calvin,’ the note said, ‘You stinkhead! I told you not to read this!’

(Again, I’ve added a lot of detail that isn’t in the comic strip. Writing a story instead of drawing it allows us to give the reader a lot more information about what the characters are thinking and feeling. We can tell the reader WHY the characters do the things they do.)

Okay, away you go! Post the results on your blog, putting the comic strips at the top of your work.



1. NidHi Tanwar - June 17, 2011

nice strech to gv a clear understanding and feel of the character

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