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Old 08-08-2020, 12:41 PM   #11
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Default Re: The Use of Dialogue in Character Development

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Originally Posted by sc111 View Post
On the topic of dialogue, what say you? (A pun?)
No, not a pun. Sorry, carry on.
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Old 08-08-2020, 03:03 PM   #12
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Default Re: The Use of Dialogue in Character Development

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Originally Posted by finalact4 View Post
Long post, sorry-- keep on moving if it's too much.

SC111, I think you might like Karl Iglesias' "Writing for Emotional Impact." He speaks to the facets of screenwriting outside structure alone. Maybe you're already familiar with his book.
I'll check it out.

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Originally Posted by finalact4 View Post
General comments....
Listening and recalling dialogue can be a great way to give color to the way a character speaks, but the writer KNOWING a character is what results in good dialogue. Using that character's specific lens, filter, POV, perspective, is when and where, good dialogue is written.
I don't disagree with any of this and I certainly wasn't saying giving color is all one has to do. To clarify, of course it's crucial for the writer to know a character's point of view -- what they say -- and their back story experiences -- why they say it. I'm adding a factor: how they say it. And the only way to effectively develop how they say it is to first have a strong sense of the what and the why.

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Listening provides an immediate "surface" expression to the WAY a character speaks which can enrich characterization on the page. But it's the deeper motivation and world view in a character that reveals who they are, and more importantly what they want, imo.

Character can be revealed by what they do and do not say as much as by their physical actions and choices.
Again -- you're referencing what they say and why they say it and, yes, what they want must be fused in as well. Yet a writer can hit all of those benchmarks with two characters going back and forth yet still end up with dialogue that sounds similar: like one person having a debate with himself/herself.

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When Lector shines a light on Clarice and her good bag and nice shoes then immediately insults her with the truth... she's one step away from "poor white trash..." it is a pivotal moment... Will she cower in shame or will she stand up against him? This is the a moment we see her resolve and tenacity to set aside pride and humiliation to achieve her goal-- to get Lector to complete the survey. She TURNS the scene back onto Lector, and both he and the audience gain new insight and respect for Clarice.

This scene has a lot going on. They are both motivated. Both have goals (large and small). If Clarice fails to have Lector complete the survey a woman could die. Those are the stakes. Life and death. But for Clarice there is a deeper meaning and goal that is revealed with the story of the lambs screaming, and how she couldn't even save just one. Everything Clarice says, does, divulges, and how she reacts, is always related to her goal and her wound. That gives her character complexity and depth.

Lector is playing a game of manipulation, which he is highly skilled. His ultimate goal is to escape. So every scene, and play, is designed to achieve that goal. He believes that by exploiting Clarice's naiveté he may ultimately find a way to escape.

That's what I mean about lens, or filter. And what's at the core here is CONFLICT.The differences in us create conflict, and conflict advances story in a more interesting way. Conflict can be, but is not always, fighting. Many times it is about the differences in values, experiences, wounds, and world views.

Hiding truth below the surface is a defense mechanism, a way to keep emotional pain at bay. Defining what one character would say and differentiating that from another character with a different background, is a technique to make character dialogue unique.
Don't disagree with any of this either. I'm sorry if I gave the impression that suggesting listening to how people talk is all one has to do to write good dialogue.

However, using this Lector verses Clarice scene as an example: a less skilled writer could establish all of the same conflict you describe -- including the snipe about her shoes and bag -- without refining how Lector said it.

The way it was written (in both the novel and film) it's as if he's a snake weaving in and out of their discussion -- politely, seemingly harmless -- then he suddenly strikes, fangs bared. That's the "how" I'm talking about. It has nothing to to do with Lector's background or regional accent.

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For example. Three young women.

-- One is the daughter of a Baptist preacher who grew up in the bible belt.
-- One is the daughter of a hipster marijuana farm owner out west.
-- One is an urban city girl from NYC

You can well imagine the different ways these women might speak, right? From dialects and regional aspects to speed and cadence.
Again, I'm not talking about this type of regional differentiation. One can do that but it's a bit of a cheat in my opinion.

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They probably all believe in equal rights and equal pay for women, right? Sure, so their on the same page most of the time and this is where they connect.

Where they're from sets up some expectations in the readers mind. We form assumptions, sometimes unfairly, about who these women are until we learn more about them through their actions, the way they speak, and what they choose to reveal through dialogue and action. We can imagine which might be pro life and which might be pro choice, but we don't really know until they speak or react to the topic.

It's not just about how a character responds, it's also about whether they respond. These are all tools we can use to amplify dialogue to have deeper meaning.

But let's say one of them was violently raped their first year at university. We don't know which one. Their conversation turns to abortion and a woman's right to choose. Or a conversation about dealing with depression and mental health?

This is where you can reveal a lot about a character. Where you can subvert assumptions and expectations. Where you can surprise the audience and use the conversation to build up to a story revelation in an interesting and entertaining way.

Imagine one character saying, "They must be lying, why would they wait ten years to come out and report they were raped?" Can you imagine that they might feel differently?
Again, I don't disagree with any of this. However, what if all three of these young women were from NYC and had the same fast-taking delivery and regional accent?

Real life example: my best friend and I are both born and raised in Queens NY yet we hold different positions on some topics. We have the same regional accent yet when we debate our points of view, we express ourselves differently because -- setting similarities aside -- we're still different people.


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Or let's say the topic is assisted suicide? If one character watched their mother suffer for months until she was a skeletal shell of the person she once knew-- that woman's POV might be different in respect to assisted suicide than a woman who has never experienced watching someone they love suffer.

It's not only experiences but traits that separate us and skew our POV and our dialogue.
Re boldface: Now you're touching on my point! And a person's traits extend beyond regional accents or even life experiences. As evidenced by two siblings from the same family who -- other than their accent -- evolve into two totally different people who present differently.

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Think about pitting a disorganized, fly by the seat of you pants type up against an OCD neat freak. A priest and an atheist. A die hard southern gun owner and a father whose child was murdered at Sandy Hook. A person who has nothing and a person that has everything.
I hate to be a pain in the butt -- again -- I think that's a cheat way to differentiate characters. It's pitting stereotypes against one another.

Lector or Clarice were not stereotypes in any way.

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The key is that you don't have to know everything about your characters, you just have to KNOW the RIGHT stuff about your characters to create interesting, compelling characters.

Okay, rant done. I've gone on far too long. Sorry.
I like rants.
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Old 08-09-2020, 02:05 PM   #13
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Default Re: The Use of Dialogue in Character Development

Dialogue is something that will separate you from 90% of the scripts out there. It's worth investing time into mastering it.

As far as how, I think it's clear by your posts you already have all the information you need. Time to execute theory.
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Old 08-09-2020, 10:41 PM   #14
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Default Re: The Use of Dialogue in Character Development

we all believe that what we've written will somehow reveal the Canterville ghost, but objectively we need to understand that we are creating something new and devoid of anything from the past...

the dialog should be pertinent of the character and that's what most gurus are relating to the protege writer elites

all discretionary point aside--

We all know good dialog when we hear it, it's affects us emotionally, it promotes change, creates criticism... most important, it's what the audience wishes they could say in that situation...

are you relying on the setup and situation to dictate characters to the audience? the dialog should come from that prebuilt conflict and reveal characterization

Example:
Quote:
A father tells his wife that he's going to down to the car dealership where the man that's dating his daughter works. He's never met him and his daughter is not prone to bring him around because of some drama that recently occurred, but he wants to know for himself. Now the audience is going to feel a certain way, based on previous scenes, and want the father to confront the boyfriend, this allows to you have a dramatic scene with the important dialog that the audience wants to hear.
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Old 08-10-2020, 09:34 AM   #15
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Default Re: The Use of Dialogue in Character Development

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we all believe that what we've written will somehow reveal the Canterville ghost, but objectively we need to understand that we are creating something new and devoid of anything from the past...

the dialog should be pertinent of the character and that's what most gurus are relating to the protege writer elites

all discretionary point aside--

We all know good dialog when we hear it, it's affects us emotionally, it promotes change, creates criticism... most important, it's what the audience wishes they could say in that situation...

are you relying on the setup and situation to dictate characters to the audience? the dialog should come from that prebuilt conflict and reveal characterization

Example:
Your example would be a cool exercise. Depending on the genre, the father lurking the daughter's boyfriend could be written several different ways.
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Old 08-10-2020, 10:28 AM   #16
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Default Re: The Use of Dialogue in Character Development

I think it’s pretty simple. Dialogue is essentially:

Worldview + character traits + regional dialect + education + agenda in the scene.

A Texan man with a PhD who believes the world is against him, who is argumentative and withholding, and who has a goal of getting you to give him something he wants without giving you anything in return, will speak way differently than a teenage California surfer who wants the same thing from you.
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Old 08-10-2020, 11:06 AM   #17
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Default Re: The Use of Dialogue in Character Development

I don't think dialogue develops character. I think dialogue is a window into how the character's mind works and a way to get their agenda across in the scene. Character is developed by choice, action, and reaction. This is my opinion. Please don't shoot.
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Old 08-10-2020, 12:32 PM   #18
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Default Re: The Use of Dialogue in Character Development

I think dialogue is a good way to hear what people say out loud.
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Old 08-10-2020, 11:51 PM   #19
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Default Re: The Use of Dialogue in Character Development

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Your example would be a cool exercise. Depending on the genre, the father lurking the daughter's boyfriend could be written in several different ways.
you're setting up an expectation - and depending mostly on the theme - you'll create a dramatic scene... obviously he could dislike or favor the BF.

you could make it that the father is gay and knows the kid has had relationships with men in the past...
"the bongo room on Tuesday nights has a great D-J."


the father could be a former cop and read notes of a rape case he was a suspect in and knew he never saw the inside of a jail cell because of an uncooperative witness
"...you remember Kate Upshaw? She was raped."



there are a lot of rules to dialog and when and how to use correctly in a scene, but it's more of circumstantial and just examining your favorite movies will give you a lot of insight
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Old 08-13-2020, 08:06 AM   #20
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Default Re: The Use of Dialogue in Character Development

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...

I like rants.
Some of my comments are deliberately simplified for purpose of example. The "cheats" are good ways to demonstrate immediately how these characters might have different attitudes, voices, and opinions.

In general terms...

What a character wants and what motivates them directs their dialogue. Understanding human psychology helps with developing why and how characters speak.

And yes, a fast-talking New Yorker is a great way to distinguish one character's dialogue from another, as is a slow southern drawl, but those are surface and "easy" distinctions-- in your word, cheats, that don't develop or reveal character, but can provide an immediate distinctive voice. You can't do that with a story where everyone grew up in the same small town. I mean, you could have someone who went away and spent years in NYC then came back home. Like when Madonna moved to the UK and a year later had a British accent.

I'm adding to and building upon your assertions. Sometimes understanding on the easiest level allows a writer to "get it," which was the case for my writing.

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Think about pitting a disorganized, fly by the seat of you pants type up against an OCD neat freak. A priest and an atheist. A die hard southern gun owner and a father whose child was murdered at Sandy Hook. A person who has nothing and a person that has everything.
Stereotypes? I don't see it that way. OCD is a disruptive disorder that can be debilitating. A Priest is a lifelong commitment to Catholicism. An atheist is a belief, or rather disbelief, in God. A gun owner is someone who believes in their constitutional right to bear arms. A Father whose child was murdered is a human being in extreme grief. Their state of who they are is what distinguishes them from others and dictates how they relate to others. Characters are complex, these are only ONE PART of who a character might be.

Consider how you might add a twist to PRIEST: (a game a writer can play, if you will)
What if he is gay?
What if he doesn't believe in God?
What if HE isn't a he, but rather a she?
What if he is a man that loves women?
What if he is a sex addict?
What if he doesn't believe in absolution?
What if he is a killer?
What if he is a vigilante?

These aspects of character can provide both external and internal conflict. Each of those Priests above may have a different POV on any given situation or subject in a conversation.

Character is a composite of several elements. In order to make a character clear on the page, the writer must know CERTAIN things about the character. You don't have to know everything about a character to write distinctive characters. You need to know enough to show how they are distinct from each other and ALSO provide conflict between characters-- this comes from their differences in world views, values, and traits. Maybe five things.

We don't know everything about Clarice or Lector, we know specific things that drive and motivate their character (actions, choices, statements), that drives scenes, and creates ongoing conflict. We need to know ONLY what is necessary to understand and advance the story. We do not need to know extraneous information that has nothing to do with the story at hand. Sometimes writers include unnecessary information that muddies, stalls, or decompresses story.

When you pit people with opposing goals, views, values, and filters, it creates conflict. Dialogue reveals who characters are and who they are not. Every story must have conflict. It must be constant. No one goes to a movie to see characters get what they want and one where everyone agrees with each other. Witnessing the struggle is why we go to the movies.
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