I am curious as to whether different writers use different methods for creating their dynamic dialogue... What method do you use to set your characters apart and stop them sounding too generic?
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well Gavin, the characters themselves should speak for the story and for themselves. my honest opinion.
I agree with Sammer. The characters will talk to you, they decide the story. I know in a few that I've written I would get to a certain part and would think to myself, "I didn't see that coming."
Thanks for the reply, Sammer. I mean to make sure they each sound unique to each other. You're opinion is that this happens naturally through the storytelling?
Thanks for the reply, Izzibella :)
I agree with above answers.@Izzibella @Sammer. The characters develop their own voice , and talk to you, create strong characters and they will lead the conversation. It's a revelation when they begin to form the story, and take us on their ride, and a real buzz if their story has a special "sting". Like Izzibella described, "Didn't see that coming."
Thank you, Debbie.
The best way I found is to listen to people talk. Sit at a bar, restaurant or even a party with friends. Rather than participate, become an active listener. Note the nuances of people speaking. The things they say, the things they don't. For example, you may never hear two people who know each other say either name, their own or the other persons. People who recognized each other after a very long time may speak about an incident where someone called them by name or they told someone their name, to avoid the awkwardness of having to tell the person their name. Accents, dialects and slang can also put a whole new spin on speech that may be hard to decipher for an outsider.
I will typically envision a particular actor as I write. Not that I expect Morgan Freeman or Mellissa McCarthy to play the part I am writing, but as actors they have their own voice. If I can tap into that with each of my characters , they naturally develop their own voice apart from the other characters in the script.
Your character's background, experience, education, view on the world, mood, everything influences how they speak and what they say. If you create a through biography of your main character(s) one exercise to help bring out their voice is to literally interview them. Okay, I don't mean set up two chairs and jump between them :) Rather, write a series of questions that will give you insight into their "world". Then, keeping what you know about them already in mind, how do they answer? Not just the words and tone but their attitude - cordial, dismissive, harsh, opinionated, etc. The questions can be anything that lends itself to an insightful reply. Trump or Clinton? Why? Most memorable date? Favorite vacation story? By they time you're done you may actually feel your character come alive - specifically their voice. Capture it, or at least the essence of it, and not only can your actual story dialogue come out it but you'll likely discover how this character would realistically respond to the events that unfold in your story.
Thank you for the replies, everyone. Great to learn how different people use different methods and have different opinions. .
Have a coffee, sit down in a coffee shop for an hour or so, observe different people and just listen. After doing that for a while, you´ll find your dialogue in your written work improving drastically. Great dialogue in screenplays is real dialogue. Well constructed and relatable and real characters speaking simply but progressing the plot through the dialogue itself. Ultimately, it all comes down to understanding people, use of language and understanding your own characters, fleshing them out enough so that you know what they are about so that they may have a voice of their own and still be in line with the plot and theme of your script.
Thanks for your input, Zlatan.
Anytime, Gavin! :)
Yes Gavin. You're characters tell the story. And remember, dialog is not conversation. That's a key element to proper dialog. Read the script to your favorite movie. It'll show.
@Ziatans tip is very useful for new screenwriters, not so much for what people are saying but HOW they say it. No matter what walk of life characters are from, their dialogue needs to sound natural. People very rarely speak in a perfect flowing paragraph tense (unless reading in church, poetry etc). Sentences have natural gaps, words are enthused in different ways depending on the frame of mind of the character, pauses for thought occur before continuing what they say, also some characters have bodily ticks or twitches that impede or slow down their dialogue. A characters dialogue should be unique to them, as far as is possible without becoming overplayed.
Thank you, all. The reason I asked this question, is because I recently received some feedback on my screenplay. Mostly positive I must add, which I didn't expect on this early draft (third draft). Anyway, one of the elements I was told needs a little work was the dialogue. They said some of it needed to be a little more dynamic. I was always going to go back to each character and work on their dialogue anyway. I think this is something we must all do when finalising a screenplay. I just wanted to hear the different methods that writers use, if any... Another thing that they mentioned, was a few typos... Now, I think there may be a barrier here. I am from the UK, and we spell certain words slightly differently to you guys across the big pond. Like s instead of z in some words. My coverage came from Los Angeles, so do you think the way I spell some words different will affect further coverage going forward?
Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
Great dialogue is the hardest part of writing a story for me. I have to re-write dialogue over and over (and over and over) to really please a producer. I watch all types of movies...I know how some low-budget movies have terrible, wooden dialogues, and how some have brilliant dialogues. Some low-budget producers expect great dialogue along with a great plot. I wouldn't mind satisfying one of those producers who don't put a lot of weight on great dialogues, though. Heh-heh. The ways I address dialogue: + I really have to get granular...even anal....and ask myself...."is this line really important?" "Is this line too on-the-nose?" "Is this line tracking properly?" "Does this line raise emotions?" "Is this line character-consistent?" "Can I get some subtext in here?" + I have to do that one scene at a time...one character at a time....one line at a time. I have to be that character at every moment, psychologically speaking. That line has to be dead-center perfect from a psychological standpoint; from a tracking standpoint; and from a creative standpoint. + I have to make sure it flows with the story line. + I exercise during writing to stimulate blood flow that might make my brain work better (seriously), and have a chocolate IV drip that increases endorphin production (not-so-seriously, but chocolate truffles work, too, I must admit.) Mmm....chocolate truffles. It's not overthinking. It's just trying to make the story as moving as I can, and the characters' dialogues as evocative as I can. Lines can sometimes be almost poetic. It's part-analysis and part being at the highest point of creativity and also at the highest point of logical thinking. "Dynamic" is a good word choice for your post, since it is a dynamic process and the goal satisfies many needs simultaneously. Good word choice, Gavin. Writing great memorable lines...that's a lot harder for me than anything else. And I have to keep in mind - as I'm sure we all have to keep in mind - that I'm competing against professionals who are brilliant writers; who are very motivated to stay on top and stay in-demand; and who spend much, much time - over a year at times - working on one script and making each word perfect. They make their dialogues brilliant, and that's my competition, and my goal, too. Good luck and happy writing!
Thank you for that very insightful reply, Bill. I really enjoyed reading that. I may have to invest in some truffles :) I have been working on this for over a year, (Although I put it to one side for a few months - Due to self doubt). I just want to make it the best representation of my ability as I can. It has already changed dramatically since my first draft and the title has also changed several times. If my writing ability were as good as my creative imagination, I would be a great deal closer to my goal. For now, I will keep reading, keep watching and most of all, keep trying!
Thanks for the response, Steven. Are you saying it's best to write less dialogue?
@bill Some good insights ....thanks. @Gavin A good read covering this topic is Your Writing Coach Jurgen Wolff. I don't usually recommend books cos there are millions of them out there, but I'm lucky to have had discussions with the author in person, and he does bring the subject "Alive." www.yourwritingcoach.com Now I'm off to search out sugar free chocolate truffles.
Thank you, Debbie. I will take a look.
How to write dynamic dialog? Put a gun in the room. Obviously the gun is a metaphor for conflict and potential. If you start your scene with conflict and end with potential you should be able to generate a riveting dynamic where you can seamlessly plant the seeds of your emotional arcs. Of course you could reverse that and still benefit. You shouldn’t get caught up in making conflict overt. Many more subtle forms of conflict are just as powerful, as example, sexual tension.
I make all my characters look and sound like someone real (friends of mine, real actors, co-workers, etc.) and I try to describe how this person would react in a given situation.
Put a lot of thought into it.
@Maroun - I definitely have well known actors in my mind when creating my characters.. Not sure if that's a good thing or not, ha.
I like to go to a very busy public place and people watch. I hear the most interesting statements!
Thanks for your input, Jim :)