I’m filling in for one of my professors today, which means teaching “how to write good dialogue” to a roomful of undergrads. We’ll talk about technique …. sure …. but we’ll also look at some real world examples of how to start off a short story with dialogue from the first sentence. Like this opening-line gem from “The Downside of Redemption” by Amy Willoughby-Burle:
“I’ve reached the point in my life where it’s become absolutely necessary to become a hooker.”
“Excuse me,” Paul, my husband who hates the restaurant we’re in, asks from behind the Daily Times.
The waitress clears her throat.
“They have such perfect timing, don’t they,” Paul says, more to her than to me.
In a 4-line exchange we feel the tension in the marriage, the wife’s sarcasm and desperation, the husband’s indifference, the waitress’s discomfort. Wow. Excellent.