Angled Dialogue

Angled Dialogue:

Crafting Authentic-Sounding Dialogue to Convey Information,
Escalate Conflict, and Advance Character-Driven Stories

January 5 – February 2, 2023

Deadline: November 21, 2022


Gregory Ashe


Beginner to Intermediate

Live Class:

7 pm-8:30 pm EST
Thurs., Jan. 5
Thurs., Jan. 19
Thurs, Feb. 2



Course Description

Have you ever read (or written) a line of dialogue so artificial sounding that it made you cringe? Or found yourself bogged down in exposition masked as dialogue? Do you struggle to make your dialogue crisp, clear, and relevant? Would you like dialogue to be one of the key motors driving your story?

Angled dialogue can help with all these issues.

This course covers the mechanics of dialogue for storytellers. Students will learn the basics of dialogue for prose fiction, as well as how angled dialogue generates action and propels narrative. The course will introduce students to practical strategies for assessing and revising dialogue to make it as effective as possible. At the heart of this is the concept of angled dialogue, which refers both to Douglas Unger’s idea of dialogue angled toward something (action, conflict, meaning) as well as to the idea of dialogue that is angled at the level of communication.

In considering dialogue as action, students will learn how strategies for writing conflict and suspense can be implemented line by line in dialogue. Students will then learn how advanced techniques for dialogue can help reveal (and transform) characters while furthering a story’s narrative arc(s). Students will also consider the role of genre and audience expectations in crafting dialogue.

This course will help students hone their ability to dissect other authors’ work, particularly when it comes to dialogue. This practice will help students to continue mastering these techniques independently after the conclusion of the course.

The course is intended for writers of fantastic fiction, an umbrella term encompassing fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism, and anything in between. Yet strong dialogue is important in all fiction writing, so fiction writers who focus on other genres could profit from this class and would be welcome. The course will cover issues relevant in middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction.

It will be most valuable for beginner to intermediate writers.

Students must be ready to hear about the weaknesses in their writing and to work to strengthen them. Students must also be ready to give feedback to their classmates that is both truthful and helpful.

Our goal as a class is to provide a supportive yet challenging environment that will help students improve their writing.

Each student will have a private meeting with Greg.


Students will have some homework assigned before the first meeting, and will also be assigned homework during the course.

The first assignment will have a due date of January 4, the day before our initial meeting.

Homework will be assigned on January 5 and 19, with due dates, respectively, of January 11 and 25. You will also be required to provide critiques of some of your classmates’ work, which will be due on January 18 and February 1. Any student who misses a deadline may be expelled from the class and will receive no refund.

All assignments should be properly formatted and should be submitted as MS Word files or rich text files.

You should reserve a minimum of 5 hours each week to complete homework.

Assignments will include reading and analyzing assigned texts, critiquing, completing exercises to practice techniques, writing new material, analyzing your previously written material, and revising previously written material. Students will also be required to reply to online discussion questions during the course.

Greg will return students’ homework with his feedback by the day before the next class session.

Students are expected to follow guidelines about assignments and class materials established in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook.


Since we will have only 3 class meetings, attendance at every class is necessary for students to get the most out of this course.

You are expected to attend all classes, except in cases of emergency. In such cases, you should notify the instructor.

Classes will be recorded and made available to students for a limited time.

Any student who misses more than one class may be expelled from the course and will receive no refund.

It is your responsibility to find out what happened in any classes you missed and to complete homework by the deadlines.

Students are expected to follow the policies about attendance and behavior set out in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook.


Students will be required to complete several readings before the course begins. Additional readings may be required after the course begins.

Technical Requirements:

Technical requirements for all Odyssey Online Classes are covered on the Online Classes page.

Tentative Schedule:

January 5: First class meeting. Introduction and orientation. The mechanics of dialogue: tags, beats, THAD, exposition vs maid-and-butler, vocal cues, cue words, dialect, genre expectations. Assignment of homework.

January 11: Homework is due.

January 18: Critiques are due. Homework is returned with Greg’s feedback.

January 19: Second class meeting. Discussion of previous homework assignment.
Dialogue as action. Dialogue as conflict. Goals. Hiding. Dialogue-level use of yes/but, no/and. Dialogue angled toward action. Subtext. Pretext. Assignment of new homework. Some students will have private meetings with Greg after class.

January 25: Homework is due.

January 26: Some students will have private meetings with Greg between 7-8:30

February 1: Critiques are due. Homework is returned with Greg’s feedback.

February 2: Third class meeting. Discussion of previous homework assignment.
Levels of dialogue. B speaks for A. Types of communicators. Dialogue angled by obsession. Obliquy (or, if you prefer, obliquity). Association. Surprise. Revelation. Interiority and dialogue. Character-driven stories and dialogue. Some students will have private meetings with Greg after class.

Gregory Ashe

Instructor: Gregory Ashe

Gregory Ashe is a bestselling author and longtime Midwesterner. He has lived in Chicago, Bloomington (IN), and Saint Louis, his current home. He primarily writes contemporary mysteries, with forays into romance, fantasy, and horror. Predominantly, his stories feature LGBTQ protagonists. When not reading and writing, he is an educator. He is a graduate of the Odyssey workshop and taught at Odyssey 2021 and taught the Odyssey Online Class Scene & Sequel: How to Generate Character-Driven Momentum, Control Pacing, and Write a Page-Turning Story in 2022. For more information, visit his website:

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