Friday, September 03, 2010

Drafts and Dialog

My WIP sidebar is outdated. Two of those scripts have been put to back burner, and "Keys to the Garden" draft 3 is complete. As for my TV scripts, I'm clearly no longer considering "Dollhouse" to spec. For those TV writers out there, I asked Amanda the Aspiring Writer what shows would be good to spec this season, and she tweeted back Modern Family, Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife, and The Vampire Diaries.

Yes I did say tweeted. No I don't want to talk about it. I hate Twitter.

I've been reading Richard Walter's "Essentials of Screenwriting," and I just finished a chapter on dialogue. Besides going through a list of practical do's and don't [Do economize. Don't use ellpises unnecessarily], one thing really stuck out to me. Walter promotes constant dischord. He says, "Don't let anybody agree with anybody else. As soon as there is agreement there is boredom." He's not advocating incessant screaming, tantrums, or cringe-worthy shouting matches. But as long as the characters oppose each other, there is conflict, which is the heart of drama and a surefire way to keep your readers/viewers interested. "Let each line challenge the next," Walter encourages. It's also an effective way of making sure you know what each character wants in every scene. I mean, aren't we all just trying to get what we want from everyone else anyway?

I used to think that I was good with dialogue. I used to think I could make it sound very realistic [in opposition to how this blog feels to me right now]. But Walter challenges my thinking -- "real speech is available free of charge in the streets. Dialogue, on the other hand, is worth waiting in line for. It needs to be special. Unless it writhes and wriggles, glows and glistens, it is unworthy of any audience."

You know how when you have an important, emotionally charged conversation with someone, and usually all you can manage to get out is a stutter and a weak defensive? But how, five hours after the fact, you have the most perfectly constructed, flawless, scintillating argument, with a turn of phrase that would have shut that sucker down? That's what dialog needs to be. It's not the brain freezed
watered down fragments we say in real life. It's the mulled and spiced and sharply aged comebacks we only imagined we could have said.. And if it takes five hours to come up with that kind of dialog, it's ok. We've got the time.

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