Friday, 7 December 2007
Some sage advice on dialogue from CHRIS SOTH:
"What's it got to do? What is dialogue for? I'd say it has
A. To advance story
B. To reveal character
And by the way, great when you can do both at once. One of my
last passes for a dialogue polish is always to say "Well, this
line is already advancing story, how can it also reveal
character?" Or vice-versa, but personally my problem is
usually the former.
And let me share with you, at this juncture, my first rule of
writing dialogue, or the first pointer I give my students:
That is, when you can avoid it, when you've got a way to SHOW
rather than tell, do that, do that, DO THAT.
Remember, dialogue is the icing on the cake. Make sure that you
have a cake first, which, in this analogy, is a great story with
great characters. And then, apply icing – it would serve at
this point to say that they DID make great movies WITHOUT any
dialogue back in the silent era, but they never made any without
good stories or good characters, did they? So, you don't need
dialogue to be great, do you?
That said, we don't make silent movies anymore...so you're
probably going to have to the characters say something,
sometime. But remember, you can tell an entire story without it
and it CAN be almost all character...if you see Reservoir Dogs
for instance, Quentin Tarantino goes wild with the pop culture
references and the story is mainly carried in the actions of the
-- when Mr. Blonde is preparing to torture the hostage police
officer, he doesn't SAY: "I'm going to torture you.
First I'll douse you gasoline, which will scare you, but
what's even worse is, I'm going to cut off your ear."
He turns up the radio and he talks about what's playing
on the radio and dances around the warehouse with a jerry can of
gasoline and a straight-razor. And it's all the scarier
thereby. If you watch the DVD, QT's commentary talks a lot
about how the characters don't talk about the story."