Thursday, July 9, 2015

Dialogue. Sweet Niblets of Mercy. DIALOGUE.

Dear Beloved Hopeful Screenwriters,

Please. In the name of all things good and holy, learn to write good dialogue. Because what I've been seeing is horrible. Terrible. Soul crushingly terrible.

But let me tell you how I really feel.

A well meaning soul sent me a script to peruse. I'm harder to pin down these days, but as a favor for a friend (and you know who you are, and when your poodle goes missing just mail me the ransom for his safe return) I read it.

The dialogue was well, sorely lacking.

First of all, your hero isn't going to KNOW everything, or we CAN'T go on a journey with him/her. And he can't just BLAB out pertinent information because we, as the audience, have to FEEL like we figured it out.  And your VILLIAN? He HAS to believe he's the star of his own plot, his own movie. If he's not equal to your hero, or even better, more powerful than your hero, is this really a good match up? We ROOT for the underdog. ALL THE TIME!  We rooted for Forrest Gump and LIFE was against that guy!

But I digress.


Writers. PLEASE. Get it through your head that you don't write the same way you talk. Writing is more formal. In writing, you won't have as many contractions ('She did not say that to you, Cynthia!')
among other wonderful grammatical bombs I could drop.  So there's that.

PLEASE. Do a back story on all of your characters. You'll thank me. You'll be surprised what you learn. "Amy" your main character has a hometown. Where? Okay, Brooklyn. Guess what? Amy now has an accent, an accent that comes with a pentameter all it's own. And how do we know how thick that accent is? By her dialogue. While you are learning such things about Amy, guess what else you learn? Her family life. What makes her tick. And suddenly, you realize Amy WOULD NEVER put up with a guy grabbing her, and instead of tolerating it, she delivers a SLAP that knocks a guy over. Which creates conflict for a scene, which is perfect because ALL of your scenes need conflict. ON EVERY PAGE, or STOP WRITING NOW.

Which brings me to this: PLEASE. Keep a dialogue journal. You overhear things all the time. If you don't, you need to set your phone down more often. The things people say are real, and your script needs real. Utilize these overheard conversations and incorporate them.

Do Not Use cliches in your writing:

Steve: Look at that. It's a bomb.
Joy: Oh no, what do we do?    <==cliche woman in distress. No one buys this anymore.
Steve: We have to disarm it.  <==seriously? HELLO! Who DOESN'T KNOW THIS? Your audience are NOT idiots, at least they don't like people pointing that out if they are!
Joy: Do you know how to do that?
Steve: Why yes, Joy. I went to a bomb disarming school last year and I have the knowledge to do this task.  Please step aside.
Joy: EEEEEEk! I'm scared. You're so strong and smart, Steve. I'm so glad I was partnered with you for this patrol.

Laugh. Go ahead. But I read this dribble sometimes. This is not the script I referred to earlier, but it's actually been handed to me. With a hopeful screenwriter smiling proudly with his finished second draft script in his hand.  (insert rolled eyes here).

First of all, that scene is horribly sexist. (If you have an issue with that statement, stop following my blog).  Secondly, the dialogue was droll and vapid.  And no contractions made him sound like a freaking robot. Who says, "Why yes, so and so?" The only time I use that is when I'm about to get into a verbal argument with someone, not croon about how they are strong and smart.

Also, there's no conflict. The writer thought there was.  "There's a ticking bomb right there!" he exclaimed.  That's not conflict.

Let's try this:

Steve: Oh (insert expletive)! A (insert expletive) bomb!
Joy: Oh my God! We need to call the bomb squad!
Steve: There's no time! We have to disarm it ourselves!
Joy: One week at Bomb Disposal and you're an expert? I'm calling the squad!
Steve: No, Joy! I can do it! I recognize the trigger.
Joy:  There's a school on this street, Steve! We need to evacuate the area!
Steve: I can DO this, Joy!
Joy: You do what you need to do. And I'll do the same.
Joy pulls out cell, makes the call to the precinct while Steve examines the bomb.

Do the characters look a little more human now? You have Steve who's all about the job. And Joy, who is not helpless, but wants to save lives. Maternal instinct, or just plain ethical, you decide.  But the conflict comes from their butting heads over how to deal with an issue.  THAT'S the conflict. Even when Steve proceeds to figure out how to disarm the bomb, Joy goes ahead and begins evacuation procedures.  Both are strong characters now. Both have different ways of dealing with situations, and that shows. Also, you know somewhere, there's a very bad villain lurking... a villain that cares nary a bit about little children. This bomb wasn't planted in an empty warehouse. No. The stakes have been upped.

There's a bunch more I can share with you, but I think I've ranted long enough. To cheer you up, here's a photo of a very close member of my family. ~SC

Photography: David E. Mitchell
Make up: Caley Caldwell
Wardrobe: TK Kelly
Model: Keagan Haney

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. Above all editing is also an essential part of making movies. You can use the after effects templates in your project to make it look more exciting and eye-catching. You can take the help from all these things available online to make your movie more appealing to the audience.