Hi BAIPA members. If you missed our December meeting, and would like to view the text of the slides from Howard Slater’s PowerPoint presentation about good dialogue in films, click here to see it
Presentation by Howard Slater: Using good dialogue
- DIALOGUE The Way People DON’T Talk
- Sins of Writing Dialogue 1. Writing how people really talk. Good dialogue moves the story along and reveals character.
- Revealing Character “Here’s looking at you kid.” “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?” “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
- Revealing Character “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk? “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”
- Sins of Writing Dialogue 2. Failing to give characters individual traits in their speech reflecting their social, economic, gender, or educational status, etc.
- Social – Reveals social status, economic level, regional affiliation, and educational level. Gender – Men and women talk differently in mixed company than when in a group of the same sex. Distinguishing Characters
- Generally: • Men change subject more frequently; • Women tend to take turns speaking; • Men advise but don’t reveal much about themselves; women reveal themselves and attempt to share a problem; • Men tend to be more aggressive in conversation; • Men seek status; women seek connection; • Women talk more in private; men more in public conversations; Distinguishing Characters
- Idiocentric characters have personal patterns of speech. Sometimes smart people say dumb things and vise- versa. Stress levels should match the character. Distinguishing Characters
- Henry attempts to fuel his motorcycle but finds the pump is out of order. JACK Ain’t workin’. Henry looks up to see JACK, dressed in dirty jeans and a black T-shirt, leaning against the yellow chopper and chewing on a candy bar. JACK (CONT’D) Dude inside said the power’s off. HENRY Did he say when it might come back on? JACK Nope. Said it happens sometimes when they’re doin’ a cut-over up at the mine. Out sometimes fer ten minutes, maybe fer ten hours. The lights come on in the station. HENRY Looks like we’re in luck. JACK Can’t tell fer how long though. You go ahead. Better get loaded up while the gettin’s good, I always say.
- JACK It Ain’t workin’. Henry looks up to see JACK, 22, dressed in dirty jeans and a black T-shirt standing beside the yellow Harley chewing on a candy bar. JACK (CONT’D) The Dude inside said the power’s off. Off all over town. HENRY Did he say if he knew when it might come back on? JACK Nope. Said it happens sometimes when they’re doin’ some kind a cut- over up at a the mine. on the mountain. (a beat) Sometimes out fer ten minutes, sometimes maybe fer ten hours. Can’t never tell. The lights come on in the station. HENRY Looks like we’re in luck. The electricity has come back on. JACK Yup. Can’t tell fer how long though. You go ahead and fill ‘er up. Better get loaded up while the gettin’s good, I always say.
- Sins of Writing Dialogue 3. Speechifying. Your characters should not give speeches. Your message should come from your theme across your entire story.
- Sins of Writing Dialogue 4. Using dialect or accent. “…mos’ lik’ly ta’en up makin’ ‘em artikylate the’selves sump’n liken ta this… y’all.” If the character speaks with a dialect or accent, mention it in the description. Don’t attempt to use phonetic spelling for dialect or accent.
- Sins of Writing Dialogue 5. Using bad language. DON’T BUY THIS BOOK! Excessive use of bad language is holding up a sign that reads: If you must use bad language, use it judiciously and only for special emphasis.
- Sins of Writing Dialogue 6. Writing exposition in dialogue. Exposition belongs in the narrative description. Don’t have your characters tell the story.
- Sins of Writing Dialogue 7. Writing dialogue ‘On the Nose.’ Don’t be too direct by putting everything on the surface. Use metaphor, analogy, reference, etc. to provide meaning.
- Sins of Writing Dialogue 8. Failing to listen to people talk. Listen to not just family and friends. Most likely they talk pretty much like you do. Sit in a coffee shop and listen to the different levels of speech, the rhythms, and the phrases used. Visit a courtroom. Listen to the attorneys and the witnesses.
- Sunset Blvd., dir. Billy Wilder, pref. William Holden, Gloria Swanson, 1950. Fiction Writer’s Workshop, Josep Novakovich. Writing for Emotional Impact, Karl Iglesias. Story Sense, Paul Lucy. Write What You Don’t Know, Julian Hoxter. Dead Girl’s Song, Howard Slater, [email protected]