Go On Your Own Quest — Week 5: Dialogue

August 12th, 2013 by

The 2013 version of The Quest starts Week 5 today. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by because you can Go On Your Own Quest by following the structure of The Quest to dig into screenwriting theory [Core – 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep – 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages – 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

This week, we are reflecting on the subject of Dialogue, mirroring the content the Questers are engaged with in Core V: Dialogue, working through six lectures I have written building off the 5th Essential Screenwriting Principle: Dialogue = Purpose. The lectures: Introduction to Dialogue, Finding Your Character’s Voice (Inward Journey), Finding Your Character’s Voice (Outward Expression), Subtext, What Is Not Said, and Realistic Dialogue [Idioms, Slang, Contractions, Declination].

The late playwright August Wilson was once asked how he wrote such great dialogue. He answered, “I don’t. They do.” The ‘they’ in question? His characters. And that in my view is a key to writing dialogue — go into the characters and find their voice. If you can coax them into talking, you tap into authenticity, distinctiveness, and personality. Then you can shape the dialogue so that it serves the purpose of each scene.

For those of you who plan to Go On Your Own Quest, let’s begin this week long conversation about dialogue with this question:

* Do you ‘hear’ your characters ‘talking’ to you?

Why not use the structure of this 24-week workshop to Go On Your Own Quest? That was an idea that gathered energy among many members of the GITS community which I described here:

The first eight weeks, we will focus on eight essential screenwriting principles, reflecting the content of what the participants in The Quest will be learning. The content I present publicly won’t be nearly as in-depth as that in The Quest proper, but the subjects and some of the ideas will be the same. What I’m hoping is that each week as we work through these eight subject areas — Plot, Concept, Character, Style, Dialogue, Scene, Theme, Time — the GITS community will engage in a wide-ranging conversation that will deepen and perhaps even change your understanding of screenwriting theory.

During this phase, I will be challenging you to do two things: (1) Generate story concepts with the goal of coming up with a killer idea for you to write as you Go On Your Own Quest. You may think you have a good idea now. Fine. Use these next eight weeks to come up with a better one. (2) Read scripts and watch movies that are similar but different to the story you want to write. This is not only about research, it’s also about priming your creative juices and centering your energy in that specific story area.

Here is the schedule for the first eight weeks of Go On Your Own Quest:

July 15-21: Plot

July 22-28: Concept

July 29-August 4: Character

August 5-August 11: Style

August 12-August 18: Dialogue

August 19-August 25: Scene

August 26-September 1: Theme

September 2-September 8: Time

Then on September 19, you can move into the next phase of Go On Your Own Quest, where you spend six weeks prepping your story.

And on October 21, you can type FADE IN, then over a ten week period write your first draft.

Again all of this is free.

If you plan to participate in the Go On Your Own Quest challenge, you have 4 weeks before we move into the Prep part of the process. Time to start getting in touch with your characters and discovering each of their distinctive voices as reflected in dialogue.

If you’d like to access the same Core content as the writers participating in The Quest, I will be teaching Core V: Dialogue starting Monday, September 30. More information on that 1-week online class here.

Why wait? You can have immediate access to the content of all eight Core classes by signing up for The Core Package. This enables you to go through all of the Core lectures (48 total, each written by me), tips, techniques and optional writing exercises on a self-paced basis as well as take any of the 1-week classes as I offer them. Plus The Core Package offers a nearly 50% savings compared to if you took each Core class separately. For more information on this unique offer, go here.

Meanwhile I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out these topics:

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.


Comment Archive

5 thoughts on “Go On Your Own Quest — Week 5: Dialogue

  1. Despina says:

    I can hear them talking to each other, and I’ve had whole conversations in my head btwn 2 or more characters, but sometimes I can’t tell if it’s me guiding a conversation the way I’d imagine it or the way it needs to go. I also wonder if I’m injecting too much of myself into each character even though they are unique in their own right and completely different from each other.

    There are some characters (supporting and only at a certain juncture within the story) I have problems with and can’t ‘hear’ what they’d say… I can see how they act and I know their way of thinking, but I find I have great difficulty putting meaningful words into their mouths.

  2. Debbie Moon says:

    Sometimes. Definitely something I need to encourage them to do more often…

  3. Tracy Downey says:

    I agree with August Wilson because that’s how it is for me. It’s not my voice, it’s theirs. Inside my head, I visualize the scene, clothing, mannerisms and how they express themselves. I just feel if a character is going to live beyond a screenplay, the actor has to bring that voice-I visualize that and it just flows.

  4. JoniB22 says:

    Dug out a playwriting book of interviews to get a wee bit more from August Wilson. Feel it’s worth sharing:

    “Once I learned to value and respect my characters, I could really hear them. What they are talking about may not seem to have anything to do with what you as a writer are writing about but it does. Let them talk and it will connect, because you as a writer will make it connect. The more my characters talk, the more I find out about them. So I encourage them. I tell them, “Tell me more.” I just write it down and it starts to make connections.”

    Do I hear mine? Yes. Some days easier than others. Some characters more than others, which signals some “work to do” on my part. Sometimes asking them questions or saying something like “tell me more” is met by croaking frogs …. I liken it to prayer, I guess. Ya gotta stick ’em out there into the Universe .. and then ya gotta wait for the answers. The trick is keeping busy (writing!! living!!) while you wait.

  5. lisakothari42 says:

    Yes – they show me who they are by what they want to talk about or how they want to respond to a particular situation. It’s not me responding on behalf of them, but these characters responding. The more I write – the more they respond and become separate from me. Then it’s like me interacting with the character too. Sometimes I ask myself, Would I like to be friends with him or her?

Leave a Reply