Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Back again and I still haven't caught up with all my LSWF emails, so if I spoke to you at the festival and you haven't heard from me yet, I will be in touch soon...I promise.

And straight to the second session from Pilar Alessandra - Dynamic Dialogue.

Here's what the lady had to say on the subject.

  • There should be no idle chit-chat in a screenplay, no greetings or anything like that, as all dialogue must have a goal, either to show character or move the screenplay along.
  • Think of the many ways for a character to communicate and express themselves through dialogue. Below are some examples.
    • Lying.
    • Euphemisms.
    • Interrogation.
    • Flattery.
    • Sarcasm.
    • Joking.
    • Anecdotes.
    • Truth.
    • Silence.
  • Think about who has the power in the conversation. The one who has the silence 'ALWAYS' has the power.
  • Think about what your characters want in the scene and how are they going to get it using a verbal strategy. This will drive their dialogue.
  • Subtext: This gives cues to the audience about the real subject or truth of the conversation. Visual cues such as physical action can help, like a 'tell' that shows what the character is really thinking.
  • To understand how subtext works in dialogue choose a couple of your characters at random and place them at a funeral. Then write three pages of dialogue without mentioning the name of the person who has died and the words FUNERAL, DEATH, DYING, COFFIN, VICAR and MOURNING. This is good practise and will help you improve.
  • As above keep away from key words in your dialogue, this will help avoid exposition. Talk around a subject not directly of it.
  • Think about how people talk. Here are a few ideas to help stop your characters sounding the same.
    • Where are they from?
    • What is their background?
    • What is their job? They will likely drop words into conversation associated with their profession. The language of profession. Do they speak lawyer, doctor, or road-sweeper?
    • What are their likes?
    • What are their goals?
  • Avoid trying to write accents, use phrases instead, then your dialogue will be truer to character.
  • Think about a characters' verbal rules. Do they...
    • Swear lots?
    • Apologise all the time?
    • Use sarcasm a lot?
    • Talk slowly?
    • Talk loudly?
    • With pauses?
    • Use the wrong words?
    • Rant?
  • What is your characters' rhythm of speech?
  • Casting your characters mentally also helps to find their voice. Clint Eastwood would say the same line differently to Jim Carey. This will also change how the scene plays out.
  • It's sometimes helpful to think which instrument your character might be. Piccolo = fast and high pitched. Double bass = booming and slow.
  • To avoid long speeches in a screenplay, or monologues, write it down in full, then pick the one line from it that sums it all up. It saves on over using dialogue. For example in Rambo our overly muscled hero is listening to an aid worker give her reasons for why she wants to go into a war zone to help people. In the original screenplay Rambo gave a long speech detailing the many reasons the aid worker should not cross the border, including rape, torture and death. In the end the speech was cut with only the last line remaining, "Go home!" Those two words have much more impact than a whole speech effectively saying the same thing.
  • Think about what genre you are writing in. This will also affect your dialogue. Comedy = funny one liners. Thrillers = over talking loses tension.
  • Your characters will play games with their dialogue, games they don't realise they are playing. Take the line, "Tell me you love me." Now without using it write three pages of dialogue where one character is trying to get the other to do exactly that. How do you play it? Who wins and how?
  • There are other ways of getting around exposition. In The King's Speech the voice coach gets the King to talk about a traumatic childhood event by singing it. In another film, I can't remember the name, to get away with a large chunk of exposition the scene was written with the Pope swimming laps in the Vatican pool, while a Cardinal walked up and down talking and keeping pace. Think how wonderfully visual that was.
  • Remember with genres there must be what Pilar called a 'button' at the end of dialogue in a scene. With drama there should be a cliffhanger and with a thriller you must, '"seal the deal."
As ever Pilar's advice is brilliant and spot on. I love this lady! I might even buy her book. There is a lot in this post for even an experienced writer to think on. After all it never hurts to brush up on your skills.

One more small report to come which I will probably upload Friday. Laters!

No comments: