Speculative Writing

What is it?  Creating a fictional story based on a given situation – speculating (guessing) about what could happen next

How do you do it? 

  • o    Try and use personal experience as a guide to your writing
  • o    Think about audience (teachers)
  • o    Use SENSORY language – use AT LEAST 3 of the five senses to draw the readers in
  • o    Include dialogue – use proper grammar/punctuation
  • o    Dialect/slang are compositional risks – could be great, could blow up
  • o    Make sure your writing is COHERENT - it has to make sense from beginning to end.

Speculative writing asks you to speculate on what might happen based on a specific situation.

The speculative prompt presents a brief scenario.  Students will use that scenario as a springboard for writing a story, drawing on stories they have read as well as their own experiences to develop ideas for their own stories.

If there are multiple parts to the prompt, make sure you answer/include EACH part in your final product!

 

 

Dialogue is a conversation between two or more characters in a narrative.

When writing dialogue, there are several important punctuation and grammar rules to keep in mind.

  1. Always start a new paragraph for a new speaker.

Beginning new paragraphs in a story

 

Whenever a character begins to speak, or when the speaker changes, start a new paragraph.

 

   A bright light flashed across the sky, then disappeared.  Mark and Billy looked up from their game of tag.

        “What was that?” Mark asked.

        “I’m not sure, but I’m scared,” Billy replied. 

 

    • This allows you to add a descriptor or identifier before or after the quotation to clarify to the reader who is speaking and/or how words are being spoken. 

Identifiers and Descriptors

  • Use identifiers to show who is speaking.
  • “What was that?” Mark asked
  • Use descriptors to explain how the character spoke the words.
  • “What was that?” Mark asked.
  • Descriptors can reveal how a character feels about the words he or she is saying in addition to how the words are delivered.
  • “What was that?” Mark asked fearfully.Avoid using "said" as a descriptor - there are plenty of more-precise options.

 

 

 

 

 

    • It also allows you to leave off the descriptor if you only have two characters in the scene, as long as you identify the first speaker.  The reader will then know it is either the first speaker, or the other speaker.

Leaving off the identifier or descriptor

 

If you only have a single speaker, or two speakers participating in dialogue, you can leave off the identifier, and even the descriptor (if your dialogue clearly shows how your characters feel about the topic being discussed).  The reader will know who is speaking because every time the speaker changes, a new paragraph begins.

 

        “I’m not sure, but I’m scared,” Billy replied. 

        “It looked like they landed behind that hill.  We should go check it out.”        

        “I don’t know, Mark; that seems like a bad idea.”       

        “Don’t be a chicken!”

 

Short paragraphs

 

In a story, dialogue can be its own paragraph, which means you may end up with very short sentences, and very short paragraphs. 

    Gino saw Frankie coming down the hall.  They hadn't spoken in a few weeks, since their fight. Gino decided to see if Frankie was still mad.

    “What’s up?”

    “Not much.”

    “We good?”

    “Yeah.”

 

Don't skip lines between paragraphs.

Skipping line between paragraphs 

The only time a writer should skip lines when writing is when creating a business letter.  Otherwise, a writer should NEVER leave blank lines in a piece of writing.

 

           A bright light flashed across the sky, then disappeared.  Mark and Billy looked up from their game of tag.

        “What was that?” Mark asked.

        “I’m not sure, but I’m scared,” Billy replied. 

        “It looked like they landed behind that hill.  We should go check it out.”

 

  1. Always start and end the words being spoken with a pair of quotation marks.

Using quotation marks correctly

 

Any time you are writing down dialogue, which represents the exact words being spoken by a character, start those words with a pair of quotation marks (the "opening quotation marks"); when you reach the end of what the character is saying, end their dialogue with another pair of quotation marks (the "closing quotation marks").

 

        “I’m not sure, but I’m scared,” Billy replied. 

        “It looked like they landed behind that hill.  We should go check it out.”

If the speaking character quotes someone else, enclose your speaker's words with matched pairs of quotation marks, and enclose their quoted words with a matched pair of SINGLE quotation marks.

   "I believe it was John Paul Henry who once said, 'I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.'  Long before him, Shakespeare wrote about the 'undiscovered country from whose born no traveler returns,' referring to death," the professor told the class during his lecture on famous quotations.

 

  1. Always end a quotation of dialogue with some sort of punctuation.
Punctuating Dialogue: Commas
 
The end of every dialogue quotation must have punctuation.  If, as a writer, you wish to continue the sentence you are writing beyond the end of the character's piece of dialogue, you can do so by ending the quotation with a comma followed by the closing quotation marks.  This is very useful when you want to add an identifier and/or descriptor.
 
        “I’m not sure, but I’m scared,” Billy replied

You can also interrupt a quotation with a comma to insert an identifier and/or descriptor, or to add information about ongoing events in the story that are taking place while the character speaks.  If you do this, the interruption must fall at a point where a pause or piece of end punctuation would normally go.

    “Besides,” Billy continued, “my mom is expecting me home in a few minutes.  We don’t have time to go all the way over the hill and get back here again," he pointed out as he picked up the hat Mark had knocked off his head, "which means I'll get in trouble."

 

Punctuating Dialogue: End Punctuation

It is possible for a piece of dialogue to express a complete thought but to not be the end of a sentence.  However, when a quotation finishes a complete thought, it requires some sort of punctuation to indicate the thought is over. 

If, as an author, the sentence you are writing ends at the same place the quotation does, simply include the appropriate end punctuation inside the quotation marks.

        “I don’t know, Mark; that seems like a bad idea.”
        “Don’t be a chicken!”
        "But what if something bad happens to us?"

If you are going to continue the sentence beyond the quotation, and the idea in the quotation is a simple statement, use a comma. 

If you are going to continue the sentence beyond the quotation, and the dialogue expresses a question, end the dialogue with a question mark inside the closing quotation marks; you can then continue the sentence.  BE SURE you include end punctuation at the end of the sentence you are writing!

     “What was that?” Mark asked.

If the sentence will continue after the dialogue expresses a serious command or strong emotion, end the dialogue with an exclamation point inside the closing quotation marks; you can then continue the sentence.  Again, BE SURE you include end punctuation at the end of the sentence you are writing!

        “Don’t be a chicken!” Mark chided. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

  1. You can interrupt dialogue by inserting a descriptor or identifier, as long as the interruption occurs where a natural pause or ending would go - don't interrupt dialogue in the middle of an idea.

Interrupting to include an identifier:

Only interrupt a quotation at a point where a pause would sound normal or where a piece of end punctuation would normally go.

Good:

      “Besides,” Billy continued, “my mom is expecting me home in a few minutes.  We don’t have time to go all the way over the hill and get back here again. 

 

Bad:

      “Besides,  my," Billy continued,  "mom is expecting me home in a few minutes.  We don’t have time to go all the way over the hill and get back here again. 

 

  1. If the same speaker is going on for a long time, you may need to start a new paragraph.  If you do, DO NOT close the quotation marks at the end of the first paragraph; instead, leave them open and start the new paragraph with a new set of quotation marks.
Long pieces of dialogue
 
If the same speaker continues to talk but changes topic, start a new paragraph, but DO NOT close the first set of quotation marks. 
 
        “I’m not being a chicken!  Don’t you remember when Tommy Martin went to check out the old haunted house?  Tommy said he was just going to stop inside for a few minutes to see what it was like in there.  That was the last time anyone saw him!    
        “Besides, my mom is expecting me home in a few minutes.  We don’t have time to go all the way over the hill and get back here again."

Not closing the quotation marks indicates to the reader that the same speaker is continuing to talk.

 

  1. Always make sure you close the quotation marks when the speaker is finished.
Quotation Marks: Matched Pairs
 
Quotation marks are like pants - if you only have half of them, they can't do their job correctly. 
 
Make sure that when you open a set of quotation marks, you also close them (with one exception).
 
        “Besides,” Billy continued, “my mom is expecting me home in a few minutes.  We don’t have time to go all the way over the hill and get back here again."

 

  1. If a speaker is interrupted, use a dash to indicate interruption.

If the dialogue of one character is interrupted by another, use a dash to indicate the interruption.  (When typing, a dash is indicated by using two hyphens.)

“Well, you see--"

“Don’t tell her!” another voice called out from the forest, interrupting the doe.

 

  1. If a speaker trails off while speaking, use ellipses to indicate a "soft" ending to the sentence.

In dialogue, an ellipses is used to indicate that a piece of dialogue is trailing off without firmly resolving.  This sort of "soft ending" can indicate to the reader that the speaker is distracted by his or her own thoughts, or that the speaker is unsure. 

    Looking around at the many changes to the school, Scott muttered with amazement, "I can't believe it's been ten years..."

 

    “Did you hear something…?” Shannon asked, trailing off uncertainly.