Thursday, November 12, 2015

Dialogue on dialogue

"So, I got a question for you."
"Go ahead."
"That's not a question."
"The question's implicit."
"No, it isn't.  That's an absurd statement."
"Fine.  How does one write good dialogue?"
"You're asking me?"
"You are the professional writer."
"That's true."
"Some would say you've got a good ear for it."
"That is the term of art used."
"Term of art?"
"Term of art.  Because, that's right... The yard for the boy."
"Yard for the boy?"
"Well, that's the whole..."
"What are you talking about?"
"You're supposed to ask, 'What is a 'term of art'?"
"That's the dialogue."
"Are we doing Mamet or something?"
"Fuck that, I'm not doing Mamet."
"Maybe you should."
"Do Mamet?"
"Look at the theatre, if nothing else.  You want to write dialogue, listen to people, listen to the rhythm of how they talk.  But also pay attention to playwrights.  Their craft is almost entirely dialogue."
"You were a playwright."
"I've written plays, yes."
"And that's helped you write dialogue?"
"I think it was crucial in developing my craft.  In my development of my craft.  Same with being an actor.  I had to take those words and put them through my mouth.  When I write dialogue, I'm constantly thinking about what it would be like to say them."
"And that helps?"
"Absolutely it helps.  If it sounds right being spoken, if you can get that in your ear-- see, there's the term of art--"
"Please don't start that again."
"But if you can get it in your ear, then it rings true on the page.  They hear it.  They hear the voice of the character.  Sometimes so well, you don't even have to attribute the dialogue."
"For real?"
"Hell, yes.  Check out Rules for Werewolves by Kirk Lynn.  It's a novel that's only unattributed dialogue.  And Lynn?  Playwright."
"Worth checking out?"
"Completely.  So, again:  watch, read, listen, then write.  Got it?"

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