September 24th, 2015

BrainUnderRepair

Writing Excuses 10.38: How Does Context Shape Dialogue?

Writing Excuses 10.38: How Does Context Shape Dialogue?

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2015/09/20/writing-excuses-10-38-how-does-context-shape-dialog/

Key points: The context -- genre, setting, viewpoint, beats -- can change the meaning and impact of dialogue. But we don't want beats every line, either. Use beats to emphasize or to keep the reader in the scene. Mimicry, cliches, and pop culture references may cause stilted dialogue. Remember the motives of the character in this scene. Beware on-the-nose dialogue. Dialogue needs to be shaped by why the character is saying it, who they are talking to, and the function it serves for the author. Let each characters talk in their own way. People may talk in big blocks of dialogue, but that's not how we write it on the page, usually. Put in the interruptions, put in the personalities, put in the beats.
Collapse )
[Brandon] We're totally out of time. This is a fun, fun topic. To go with it, we actually have what I think is one of the best writing exercises we've come up with for this Masters' Course. Mary's going to take you through it.
[Mary] Okay. This one is a three-parter. You do not have to do all three parts. But, if you want to, get ready. So we're going to have, on the website, a transcript of something that we call in theater an AB scene. An AB scene is just... Basically it's a script with no character descriptions, no names, nothing. Just dialogue from a character A and a character B. What I want you to do is, I want you to give us context around that. You're going to shape the dialogue. You can't change the dialogue. But you will shape the dialogue by changing the description around it. So I want you to do this, and I'm going to have complete detailed instructions on the site. But basically what you're going to do is, you're going to take the AB scene and the first time, you're going to write it in one genre. Then, you're going to do it again, and you're going to change it to a completely different genre. Then,... With like different characters, same dialogue, though. Then you're going to take the one that you like better. So this is pass 2. In your second pass, what you're going to do is you're going to take the one of the genre that you like better, and you're going to flip it to the other character's point of view, because again, that's going to change the context and the way those lines of dialogue are being perceived. You have to make everything make sense. Then you're going to flip it one more time. That last pass is, you're going to take the dialogue that's already there and you're going to remove all of it and replace it with completely different dialogue, but leave the context the same. So, as I say, I'm going to have full instructions up on the website. The AB scene is there. It will drive you a little bit crazy, but it's really worth it for getting a hang on this.
[Dan] At the risk of lengthening the episode, I had a chance to do that with the new John Cleaver book. Because there's the book, and then the novella from a different character's point of view. In one scene, I had to keep exactly, like you are talking, all the dialogue is exactly the same but we're getting a different character's perspective on it. You're right, I learned so much about how dialogue works by doing that.
[Brandon] There's a short film competition that does this. They get an AB scene, and then film a scene. The best one I've seen from one of these is one called Room Eight. I would go watch that. Then you can go watch all of the others, which are still all very good, that use the exact same dialogue, and how different each of the films are. Fantastic.
[Mary] Yeah. It's a great acting exercise. They actually had us do that at the Sesame Street workshop, too. So we were doing that with puppets.
[Brandon] This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses. Now go write.
  • Current Mood
    rainy days