In a nutshell, two students talk to each other so that each speaks twice. One of them records what they said. That produces four lines of raw dialogue like this:
“Are you practicing with the band tonight?”
“Yeah, we qualified for state, so we’re doing extra time.”
“Congrats! Where’s state this year?”
“Colorado Springs. The same place we did it last year.”
The exercise is, without changing any of the dialogue, to insert thoughts, actions and descriptions so that the reader is in a scene instead of just seeing a record of speech.
Some students attacked this prompt fairly unimaginatively, only inserting speech adverbs, like this:
“Are you practicing with the band tonight?” she asked hastily.
Loudly, he said, “Yeah, we qualified for state, so we’re doing extra time.”
“Congrats! Where’s state this year?” she said quietly.
Quickly, he replied, “Colorado Springs. The same place we did it last year.
Some of the students used all the possibilities, turning this into a much fleshier dialogue like the one that started this way:
Peering through his binoculars while scanning for the inevitable blue-shirt patrol, Alex said, "Yeah, we qualified for state, so we're doing extra time." He flicked the infrared filter into place to check for heat signatures.
"Congrats! Where's state this year?" She wondered if there would be State this year. If the blue-shirt tanks rolled across the demilitarized zone, they'd all be on the front lines, even the trombone players like Alex.
Alex put his binoculars down to look at her for the first time since they'd started setting the ambush. He sounded exhausted. "Colorado Springs, the same place we did it last year."
When this group read their dialogue and explained their theory that the dialogue was more fun if what was happening around it was unexpected, the other groups started laughing and coming up with their own wild versions, like this:
And then the bell rang.