Go On Your Own Quest — Week 5: Dialogue

August 13th, 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].

For those of you who plan to Go On Your Own Quest, we began our week-long discussion on Dialogue yesterday asking this question: Do you ‘hear’ your characters ‘talking’ to you? You can read that discussion here. Today another question:

* Does dialogue come easily or hard to you?

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.

Onward!

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

  1. JoniB22 says:

    More easy than hard. Thank God!

    Of course, I should plop an asterik in there to qualify that — It’s easy* IF I’ve spent enough time (and had enough good fortune) to learn about and get to know my characters. Oh, and it helps a ton if I can “see” them in my mind’s eye. If I haven’t, and if I can’t, then “easy” gets tossed out the window.

    Dialogue is FUN for me. I cannot lie, though. Breaking story — and that wacky, heart-pounding, inspirational rush that comes with it — is the most fun about screenwriting for me. Crafting dialogue that uniquely and correctly suits my characters lags behind in a mid-distant second. But it’s still fun.

    And just because I claim it’s more easy than hard doesn’t mean crafting dialogue isn’t work. It is! It takes time .. and commitment .. to hang in there and toy and toil and muddle and muscle around with characters until their dialogue surfaces.

    But it’s worth it! And therein lies the FUN.

    1. Scott says:

      Joni, this has got to be one of the biggest keys, right:

      “It’s easy* IF I’ve spent enough time (and had enough good fortune) to learn about and get to know my characters.”

      The more one learns about a character – their backstory, personal traits, beliefs, behaviors, psychological construct, place within a specific community and the influence of that on them – the better chance they come ‘alive’.

      Alongside that doing what I call ‘character sit-downs’ can be helpful as well as writing monologues and scenes as exercises to get a feel for the character and how they express themselves.

      This is all part of the Inward Journey / Outward Expression character work we do in The Quest, a formal designation applied to what is for most writers a natural process – if they do the work.

      Thanks, Joni, for that observation from your life as a writer. Continue to have fun writing dialogue!

  2. Despina says:

    Hard. Putting meaningful/poignant/funny words in other people’s mouths terrifies me. I can barely do it myself.

    1. Scott says:

      Despina, your experience is not unusual. And it’s not just a matter of ‘hearing’ what characters say, but choosing the right dialogue. The principle we work with in The Quest — Dialogue = Purpose — reflects the fact that good dialogue almost by default is tied to advancing the plot, not just random conversation. This exacerbates our challenge.

      Again a major key is to go into the story and immerse one’s self with the characters and story universe. Hopefully some combination of the characters coming to ‘life’ and your understanding of what’s happening in the story itself will help you ‘hear’ the dialogue you need.

      Of course, this is one beauty of a first draft where no one expects perfection: simply test out dialogue [along with whatever else] to see how it works scene to scene, and over the course of the entire narrative.

      Another tip: Listen to movies. Take 10-25 of your favorite films in the genre you want to write, and really listen to their dialogue. See how the sides work within each scene. The more you do of that, the more feel you should get for dialogue-writing, some of it intuitive through the cumulative experience of listening to multiple movies.

      Finally I think the more you do it, the more comfortable you become at writing dialogue.

      Good luck!

      1. Despina says:

        I was thinking about this before I read your response and I think my dialogue problem is the stories I keep coming up with require acute knowledge of real world entities (CIA, FBI, etc) and/or events that warrant legit in-depth research. Having to be accurate/authentic is perhaps what’s so intimidating. (think Mark Boal territory)

        It’s not so much the “small talk” stuff, it’s more certain key scenes that require power and knowledge behind their words and “I” may or may not know what the F I’m talking about… meaning “they” don’t know what they’re talking about.

        In my head I’m trying to write Clancy or Chrichton when I should be sticking to (or at least starting out with) something of a lesser caliber…

  3. lisakothari42 says:

    Dialogue in the first draft comes easy for me, but refining it over and over to make sure it’s advancing the plot, using subtext, leaving things out, employing god dialogue techniques is challenging. However, it is one of the parts that I love the most about screenwriting – efficient use of the page – balancing dialogue and narration.

    Scott, it is so helpful to watch movies and listen carefully to the dialogue. This has helped me tremendously!

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