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Billy_the_Kid
04-09-2005, 02:16 AM
Hi guys,

Could u indicate me some good books about dialogue, teaching how can i write a good dialogue.

thanx
CE

Shoeless
04-09-2005, 10:06 AM
Here are some no-brainers for writing decent dialogue. You'd be surprised how often people ignore or forget them though...


1) Listen to real people.

If you want dialogue that sounds convincing, then pay attention to how actual people talk. In the same way that people instinctively home in on bad animation or character design in humans because we all know what people look like, the same applies to how they sound. There are certain natural rhythms and pauses that occur in normal speech that you should keep in mind if you want to write dialogue that sounds natural to the ears of a listener.

2) Find dialogue YOU think is good and analyze it to death.

This is your work, and ultimately as a writer, if the work has any chance of succeeding, you should be trying to please yourself, not just some distant Oscar or Tony award on the horizon. The energy of good writing comes directly from the writer's own integrity to WANT to create something good. That's what separates great writing from hack writing. If you think there's a piece of dialogue that's really good, ask yourself "Why do I think this is good?" and then start picking it to pieces. For example, if you really like the opening dialogue from Pulp Fiction then find out what you like about it. Maybe it's the delivery of the lines, or maybe it's the subject matter (Trivial differences between eateries in America and Europe) or maybe it's the pacing (They do it pretty rapid fire with few pauses).

3) KEEP SENTENCES SHORT.

Real people do not talk endlessly for paragraphs. While there will be some dramatic license taken with character dialogue (For example if you listen to a lot of people talk, there are invariably tons and tons of "Ums," and "Likes" and you probably don't want to pepper an entire dialogue sequence with those) for the most part, human beings do not talk AT each other in big paragraphs. Good, believable dialogue has interruptions, different rhythms based on where the conversation is going and even different emotional tenors depending on the significance of the dialogue.

4) Do not SHOUT ALL THE FREAKIN' TIME.

Some writers make the mistake of thinking that intense dialogue with good acting= shouting every line out. This is not true, and while there is obviously a time and place for hysterics, to have your characters resort to shouting everytime you want "good acting" is cheap and eventually turns off your audience.

As an example of where NOT shouting conveys more, look The Incredibles. When Mr. Incredible is captured and Syndrome is taunting him, Mr. Incredible grabs Mirage and threatens to kill her with the very quiet, very intimidating "I could snap her like a twig." This line carried more menace because of the fact that he was saying it so quietly you got the idea that A) he was dead serious and B) he was trying VERY hard to control himself, but he was obviously a time bomb that could go off at any moment. His attempt to control himself showed more effectively how angry he was than all the shouting in the world.

As an example of where shouting all the time doesn't work... Er, just watch any episode of Star Trek the original series where William Shatner has an "acting moment." Urrrrrgh...

5) Make sure your characters have their own VOICE.

The fastest way to have your dialogue fail to convince is to have everyone sound the same. This is an easy trap to fall into since you're one person writing all the dialogue, but you must try to be aware of this danger to your dialogue. Obviously if you have a rocket scientist and a talking mutant garbage heap, it will be utterly LAME if they both use the same language and diction rather than the Rocket Scientist saying "This defies all scientific principle!" and the mutant garbage heap not saying "Raaaaawrgh!" If the Rocket Scientist says "Whoa this is mutant is most heinous" and the garbage heap responds "Yeah, I feel totally bogus" you've pretty much failed.

There are just a few basic pointers to get you started. Keep in the mind that, like visual arts, literary arts can't please everyone. But hopefully whatever it is you do will find an audience. It's like any art; do NOT worry about trying to create something that everyone likes. Rather concentrate on doing something you've never seen that you've always wanted to, and if done well, you'll find a lot of people out there have been looking for the same thing.

And remember, writing good dialogue is only half the battle. Once you're done and you think your precious words are as good as they're going to get, it's all too easy to watch them butchered if the wrong choices are made with casting. It's very easy for a bad actor to turn good dialogue into crap, and conversely, it's amazing to watch a good actor make bad dialogue passable, or turn take good dialogue to a level you hadn't thought possible.

If you want to watch movies where dialogue is done (In my opinion anyways) to good effect for various reasons, then consider watching:

Aliens: Yeah, it's an action picture, but James Cameron was VERY concerned about characterization here and gave all the characters interesting things to say. Fortunatley the actors were up to the task.

ANY Kevin Smith Movie: Clerks, Mall Rats, Chasing Amy, Dogma or Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back... While the quality of the movies may vary, Kevin Smith has a fondness for dialogue and comes up with some truly original lines. Worth a watch for fans of dialogue.

Before Sunrise: I haven't seen the sequel yet, but this is a PURE dialogue movie and you can learn quite a lot from it. It's a romance picture, but one of the smartest ones ever done.

Reservoir Dogs/Pulp Fiction: The definitve Tarantino movies, they also have a huge helping of some of the most memorable dialogue in recent movie memory. Part of the secret of their success is the bizarre subject matter that gets discussed at the most inappropriate moments, like Jackson's and Travolta's discussion of European fast food joints on the way to an execution. Or the Dogs' opening discussion about Madonna before going off to rob a bank. In each case, the film opens with a funny and WILDLY inappropriate subject before going in to do something horrible. The (big word coming up here) juxtaposition of pop culture with acts of brutality works brilliantly.

flawedprefect
04-18-2005, 06:11 AM
While I agree with the above as a set of worthwhile methods to keep in mind, nothing beats letting your characters do the talking. You should concentrate on constructing solid characters with viable goals and ideals. From there, the dialogue will emerge when you allow them to interact. If your characters are wellbuilt: your dialogue will be strong, and memorable.

Shoeless
04-18-2005, 07:16 AM
Have to agree with you there, Flawed. When you're "In the zone" as it were and your characters have more or less taken over and are saying the things THEY want to say, that's when you know you've got something special happening.

TheOtherEmerald
04-27-2005, 03:35 PM
well, i guess i don't really have the right to give advice .. but drama taught me that the most original dialogues are created by improvisations.

Just give two people (who own a bit of imagination ..) a situation, a feeling,a goal .. or whatever you like to achieve. Then record, or remember what is said .. and when you come across a great line , take that as the new improvisation.
That way, your dialogues will come in the most sponanious way. Because when you just write them out, you tend to react only from one character ( yours).

And never start yelling. It's easy to just confront each other .. two camps arguing. But is uninteresting for the public. Constructive things are more instructive

malcolmvexxed
04-29-2005, 04:16 PM
3) KEEP SENTENCES SHORT.

Real people do not talk endlessly for paragraphs..

this is why i HATED the kevin smith movie dogma that so many people enjoyed. EVERY single character talked for 30 seconds at a time it drove me nuts.

Michiel t.B.
05-05-2005, 03:05 PM
I recommend you search the big shopping-sites, like amazon. Most books about dialogue you can find there have a good amount of reviews about it.

But, unless you really want a book about it, I think you should surf around the internet, I have no doubt there are sites devoted to dialogue.

Good luck.

Manuel Ponce
05-05-2005, 07:38 PM
I cant forget "Aliens" probably because of the characters and how they interacted with each other. Matter a fact if the movie is being shown while I'm flipping channels; I will watch it.

I'm not a fan of "Method Acting" , I believe that looking at real people talk with each other is the best way to develope your own characters. (shoeless beat me, I know)

ericsmith
05-06-2005, 03:42 PM
Here's a slightly different point of view, based on the notion that film is a unique art form, with its own set of rules and structure.

When making a film, one of the most important rules is "Show, don't tell".

The stories we tell in film are visual. So try to create a story that the audience can SEE. In any given scene, look for ways of telling the story that don't require words. Use actions to convey what is happening to the characters.

The easy mistake to make is to create a story that happens in the character's heads. The action is not there. So the characters have to tell each other (and the audience) what's going on. This is called exposition, and more than just a little of it can ruin a movie.

So the secret to writing great dialog is to create scenes where you don't rely on dialog to tell the story. Now you're free to use dialog to develop the characters.

The one fundimental concept I rely on is this: Action tells what is happening to a character. dialog reflects how the character feels about what has just happened to them.

I'm going to ruffle a few feathers here, but I'll go out on a limb and say that eavesdropping on real conversation will not get you very far. Listen to the dialog in any really great movie, and you'll realize that nobody in real life is that clever, smart, funny, or profound. In real life, you never think of the right response until the moment is long gone. In movies, characters throw amazingly perfect lines at each other without even a split second's worth of thought.

So try this: Put your character in a situation where something happens to them. Make this event emotionally charged, and something the audience can get just by seeing it. Then, imagine how this event makes your character feel. How it changes their perception of the world they live in. Express this feeling in words. Now, when they speak, what they say will have meaning, and will make the audience know who they are inside a little better.

Obviously, not every line of dialog should be emotionally charged. But using this point of view even for the mundane stuff will help you to get inside the character's head, and everything they say will expose their character, and you will ultimately find yourself writing dialog that is fresh and interesting.

Eric

fwtep
05-06-2005, 06:40 PM
I'm going to ruffle a few feathers here, but I'll go out on a limb and say that eavesdropping on real conversation will not get you very far.That's sort of true, but there's a lot that you get by listening to the way people talk-- even listening to the way you talk. It's true that dialog is very different from normal conversation; for example, in real life you might talk for several minutes before really getting to the point, whereas in a movie you seldom have scenes that are even several minutes long. But what you get out of listening to people is an idea of various cadences, types of speech, and types of words used. For example, some people speak in very short sentences where even the words are short, while other people are much more flamboyant. Some people are very clear and to-the-point in what they're saying, while others are more evasive.

And then there's the words themselves. I see words like "shall" and "perhaps" all the time in amateur scripts. Do you know anyone who uses those words regularly? "Perhaps" sounds like a common word, but from my experience the word "maybe" is used instead 99% of the time (in writing it's used much more). For example, on paper it looks fine to have: "Perhaps he's lying." But in real speech, it feels more natural as: "Maybe he's lying." Try it, say both versions. (In movies, it's not uncommon for the bad guy to speak more formally. For example, where Darth Vader might say, "Perhaps they are attempting to deceive us," Luke would say, "Maybe they're trying to trick us.")

Listen to the dialog in any really great movie, and you'll realize that nobody in real life is that clever, smart, funny, or profound. In real life, you never think of the right response until the moment is long gone. In movies, characters throw amazingly perfect lines at each other without even a split second's worth of thought.Maybe you're thinking of clever little quips in action movies. In regular movies it's not like every line is particularly clever, funny or profound. You get a line like that here and there, not constantly. And I DO think that at least a few times a day everyone manages to say something clever, funny, and maybe even profund. No one has the perfect comeback every time, but neither do movie characters; they tend to have a slightly better success rate than real people, but then again they're also in heightened situations.

But having said all of that, don't worry too much about dialog. Don't have lousy dialog, but don't worry about it being Oscar matieral either. It's almost all going to get changed during production anyway. There are lots of reasons for that, of course, but just as one example, something that seems good on the page might not feel right when the actor says it. Perhaps the actor has an accent so you need to change some words to make it sound right, or maybe you realize that you can trim a line and use a look or a sigh for the rest.

Fred

ericsmith
05-06-2005, 08:02 PM
Maybe you're thinking of clever little quips in action movies. In regular movies it's not like every line is particularly clever, funny or profound. You get a line like that here and there, not constantly. And I DO think that at least a few times a day everyone manages to say something clever, funny, and maybe even profund. No one has the perfect comeback every time, but neither do movie characters; they tend to have a slightly better success rate than real people, but then again they're also in heightened situations.

I think all movies, including "regular" ones have more carefully crafted dialog than is apparent on the surface. It's true that the really brilliant lines are reserved for special moments in the film, but even the basic stuff is often not very ordinary. I looked at to scripts, "Dead Poet's Society", and "10 Things I Hate About You" and basically just picked a random page in each. Below are some excerpts. I think it's clear that the dialog is nothing like what you would hear if you recorded a conversation in the real-world counterpart of these two scenes.

Eric

____________________________________________

From "Dead Poet's Society"

MCALLISTER
You take a big risk by encouraging them to
be artists John. When they realize they're
not Rembrandts, Shakespeares or Mozarts,
they'll hate you for it.

KEATING
We're not talking artists George, we're
talking free thinkers.

MCALLISTER
Free thinkers at seventeen?

KEATING
Funny, I never pegged you as a cynic.

MCALLISTER
(taken aback by the comment)
Not a cynic, a realist. Show me the heart
unfettered by foolish dreams, and I'll
show you a happy man.

_____________________________________________________

From "10 Things I Hate About You"

Patrick sits before Miss Perky, eating his Thai food

MISS PERKY
(looking at chart)
I don't understand, Patrick. You
haven't done anything asinine this week.
Are you not feeling well?

PATRICK
Touch of the flu.

MISS PERKY
I'm at a loss, then. What should we
talk about? Your year of absence?

He smiles his charming smile

PATRICK
How 'bout your sex life?

She tolerates his comment with her withering glance.

MISS PERKY
Why don't we discuss your driving need
to be a hemorrhoid?

PATRICK
What's to discuss?

MISS PERKY
You weren't abused, you aren't stupid,
and as far as I can tell, you're only
slightly psychotic -- so why is it that
you're such a f***-up?

PATRICK
Well, you know -- there's the prestige
of the job title... and the benefits
package is pretty good...

The bell RINGS.

MISS PERKY
Fine. Go do something repugnant and
give us something to talk about next
week.

_______________________________________________________________

fwtep
05-06-2005, 10:34 PM
Below are some excerpts. I think it's clear that the dialog is nothing like what you would hear if you recorded a conversation in the real-world counterpart of these two scenes.Yes, but being very aware of how real conversation sounds is important. It lets you construct movie dialog that rings true rather than just sounding like an immitation of movie dialog. Think of it this way: An impressionist painting of a flower doesn't look like a real flower, but it's painted from a real flower. So if you want to do a good painting of a flower it's better to have the real thing in front of you rather than six or seven other paintings. Otherwise what you end up with is a copy of a copy.

Fred

ericsmith
05-06-2005, 11:22 PM
Yeah, I won't argue with that. Observation is one of the foundations of virtually all art.

I just think its important to understand what dialog should accomplish in a film. Otherwise, you can find yourself ending up with a lot of on-the-nose, empty dialog that ultimately doesn't work.

Eric

fwtep
05-06-2005, 11:48 PM
Yeah, I won't argue with that. Observation is one of the foundations of virtually all art.

I just think its important to understand what dialog should accomplish in a film. Otherwise, you can find yourself ending up with a lot of on-the-nose, empty dialog that ultimately doesn't work.

EricI agree completely.

So along the lines of saying that it's good to listen to the way people talk, it IS also important to listen to them in movies, and to read as many real scripts as you can get your hands on. Because even though (as I said previously), you don't want to just immitate movie dialog, it's very helpful to see how other people got certian ideas across, and how to structure dialog. Dialog isn't just there because "in real life people talk," it's there to develop character, present vital information that can't be revealed in any other way, and to move the story along.

Fred

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