Watch Some Dialogue

The other day, Candace, a transplanted San Diegan, who now lives near Tulsa, spoke with her writer friend, Dave. Although he keeps an apartment in Los Angeles, his home is in St. Louis.  Dave earns his keep by crafting screenplays and novels. When he’s not writing, he often guest lectures at UCLA. Great literature is his passion. Candace has been published, mostly short stories and poetry. Dave is Candy’s mentor and online critique partner. Once a week, using Skype technology, they meet over the Internet to discuss the progress she’s made since their last online visit.   Here’s a snippet from their video conference.

“I’ve been thinking about taking the romance I’m writing and turning it into a movie script.”

“The process is similar to writing a novel, yet different.” Dave took a sip from his coffee mug.  “Words make up a book, that’s obvious.  Plot exposition, character development, and the description of setting rely solely on the written word.”

Candy glanced outside her home office window. A cardinal, the promise of winter, settled on the limb of a Bartlett pear just off her back deck.  “It’s been said a novelist paints a picture with words.”  Candy rolled her eyes. God that sounded cheesy.

“True…” Dave nodded. “…but in a movie, screen shots help create mood and give the audience a sense of place. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language build the hero, heroine, and villain.”

“I get that movies are more visual, but dialogue really drives the story. I’ve been doing some reading. I read the notes from your last lecture. You said dialogue is what grants the audience insight into the characters’ motivations and moves the plot. Without it, a film is just a silent movie, literally.”  Candy frowned at her reflection in the mirror hung over her desk.  “To get good at writing strong dialogue, I’ve been watching it.  I set all my TVs to mute then turned on closed captioning.  Now I don’t watch TV. I read it. My eyes tune into how each of my favorite character’s voices is separate and distinct.”

“It helps, doesn’t it?”

“Abso-friggin-lutly.” She grinned. “I’ve noticed the dialogue in my novel is stronger than ever.  The pace of the story moves faster, there’s movement even during the ‘ah’ moments. I’ve started writing the dialogue first in every scene. Then I go back to fill in the setting, the physical movement of the characters, and inner monologue.”

Dave took another sip. “So how’s the weather back there? I’m hoping to get home this weekend.”

“Freakin’ cold. I’d stay in LA if I were you.”

“Thanks. But my neighbor’s getting tired of checking on my dogs.” He smiled then cocked his head. “See you next week?  I expect to have Chapter Four in my Inbox by Sunday.”

“It’ll be there.”  Candy logged off. She opened her current WIP, scrolled down until she reached the promised chapter. “Back to work.”


7 thoughts on “Watch Some Dialogue

  1. Cool! Let the dialogue tell the story, back story, and move the story along. I sometimes make the mistake of using dialogue like salad dressing, sprinkle a little here, a little there.

    Good tip, Lynn. You didn’t just tell us, you showed us.


  2. Lynn,

    I think truer words were NEVER spoken. To me, it’s all about the dialog. I want to find out about the hero and heroine in what they say, not in their minds. Good post! spw

  3. Ren:

    Thanks. Yeah, the thing about dialogue is that you really can drizzle it all over a story. I have often found when I went back to certain scenes that really read like info dump and re-worked them, transforming them into dialogue, it picked up the pace of the story and captured the reader’s attention. Dialogue will keep the pages turning and that’s what we all want.

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