Writing "gotta" and "gonna" for characters who talk like that?

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  • Writing "gotta" and "gonna" for characters who talk like that?

    Is that considered acceptable?


    I'm writing a mob film and these guys famously don't talk Standard American English, so is it ok to emulate the way they talk in the script? Can I write "gonna" and "gotta" or would managers/contest readers look down upon that?

  • #2
    Re: Writing "gotta" and "gonna" for characters who talk like that?

    Originally posted by Dimitri001 View Post
    ...s o is it ok to emulate the way they talk in the script? Can I write "gonna" and "gotta" or would managers/contest readers look down upon that?
    Yes. You're fine to do that. Don't go so crazy to the point, the reader has no idea what is being said -- unless that's a story point -- but writers do that frequently. It gives the script flavor and some reality. People talk like that, of course.

    Action descriptions should really be proper English. But dialogue should sound like what we will hear as an audience.
    Will
    Done Deal Pro
    www.donedealpro.com

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Writing "gotta" and "gonna" for characters who talk like that?

      Yes. It's your script. Your characters.

      Do not use in action. Only for character colloquial tendencies.
      "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Writing "gotta" and "gonna" for characters who talk like that?

        It sounds like this thread's run its course, or has been answered satisfactorily, so I'll throw this out there:

        I'm Canadian, but contrary to what most Americans think that only means I'm more Yankee than British.

        However, I have written 5 UK-set stories. In None of the Above, I make use of the charm and humor (or is it humour?!) of their different accents and dialects, in particular for two wild and woolly political candidates. One has a hard-to-understand cockney, and the other has a Scottish brogue so thick it's equally unintelligible -- at least to those of us who aren't British.

        In the script, I actually write the dialogue phonetically, so that the non-UK reader gets the idea (it's a satire, after all). It took a helluva lot of research, I should add. Oh, and there is a single American character who has to take in all of this, and does some mild ribbing about it, but he's not a major character.

        Sample of the Cockney:
        ROGER
        Ah, don't tell me you's are still
        sore at each other. What gives wif
        you? It’s fine wif me that my Co-
        Campaign Chairs were shackin' up,
        man. You, Becky, give you boss-man
        da truth now, and I'll work it out
        for you. Who broke da rules first?
        This one's fairly easy to follow. It gets a lot more challenging when I included some of the British idioms and slang, like "see a man about a dog", etc.

        I've had this read by a couple of Brit producers, and I wonder if they think I'm a bigot, and that all I had to describe was the speech as Cockney and brogue? (Which sounds like a liquor based beverage at a pub, eh?)

        Anyway, the Brits are famously self-effacing and self-deprecating, but in today's age of political correctness maybe it extends only to doing it among themselves, and that for others it's "hands off".

        Regardless, I've never changed the script (it's from 2011) and will let things fall where they may.
        Last edited by catcon; 05-01-2020, 12:09 PM.

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        • #5
          Re: Writing "gotta" and "gonna" for characters who talk like that?

          But what about writing English that's to be spoken with a foreign accent?

          Is it better to write it like this?...

          Code:
                         INT. CANDY STORE - DAY
          
                         Pierre glides towards the young man behind the counter.
          
                                               PIERRE
                                   Allo, mon amee. May I av serm ov zoze
                                   leeterl shocolert bernberns?
          Or write it like this?...

          Code:
                         INT. CANDY STORE - DAY
          
                         Pierre glides towards the young man behind the counter.
          
                                               PIERRE
                                        (French accent)
                                   Hello, mon ami. May I have some of
                                   those little chocolate bonbons?
          Know this: I'm a lazy amateur, so trust not a word what I write.
          "The ugly can be beautiful. The pretty, never." ~ Oscar Wilde

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Writing "gotta" and "gonna" for characters who talk like that?

            Again, it depends on your intention for the scene or moment. If it's a comedic scene in which a very English-only speaking person ends up lost in the French countryside and they can't understand a word being said when the ask for directions and that's the whole joke of it, then put it in French for a couple of brief exchanges. We the audience then feel as lost as the character is for a brief moment. You want us to feel what the character is feeling. The character shakes their head as we do or goes off in the wrong direction as we probably would too, so to speak. (Who hasn't been there before?)

            But if it's to be a scene in which an English speaker is talking to someone who is French and there is to be a more comedic & even physical misunderstanding in what the French person tells the American, for example, who has no idea what the French person is saying, then for the sake of the reader put it in English, but note it's to be spoken in French. When the film is in post, they can add English subtitles so we the audience are "in the on the joke," but not the English speaking character in the film. That's been done numerous times in films.

            The reader & the audience doesn't always have to understand, which can again be part of the fun or thrill of it. But if we are to be in on the joke or even the danger of it all, then make sure it's clear to us, the viewer or read, even though the character in the film has no idea. We know something funny will probably happen or that something terrible could befall the protagonist. Now we are that much more invested.

            And I'm sure some others can jump in too and offer their experiences.
            Will
            Done Deal Pro
            www.donedealpro.com

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Writing "gotta" and "gonna" for characters who talk like that?

              Will - I'm not sure why you've focussed on misunsderstood speech. I was asking how best to write the dialogue for a character who speaks (mostly) understandable English with a conspicuous accent, such as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies.
              Know this: I'm a lazy amateur, so trust not a word what I write.
              "The ugly can be beautiful. The pretty, never." ~ Oscar Wilde

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Writing "gotta" and "gonna" for characters who talk like that?

                Originally posted by Crayon View Post
                But what about writing English that's to be spoken with a foreign accent?

                Is it better to write it like this?...

                Code:
                               INT. CANDY STORE - DAY
                
                               Pierre glides towards the young man behind the counter.
                
                                                     PIERRE
                                         Allo, mon amee. May I av serm ov zoze
                                         leeterl shocolert bernberns?
                Or write it like this?...

                Code:
                               INT. CANDY STORE - DAY
                
                               Pierre glides towards the young man behind the counter.
                
                                                     PIERRE
                                              (French accent)
                                         Hello, mon ami. May I have some of
                                         those little chocolate bonbons?

                IMHO (only), use the second example (as I do) and leave the interpretation of the accent to the actors.

                My script with a protagonist who’s a French-Canadian coureurs-du-bois receives a parenthetical under his dialogue the first time with the words “French accent” enclosed within the parentheses.

                Otherwise, I leave it to the actor to do his research and come up with a passable accent where the dialogue is not lost, yet the words have the requisite French flavor.

                IMHO (only), your first example will pull the reader out of the story trying to decipher its coded language.
                Last edited by TigerFang; 05-01-2020, 04:19 PM.
                "Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.- - Ray Bradbury

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Writing "gotta" and "gonna" for characters who talk like that?

                  When it comes to that, I just specify the character has an accent in the character description then write in understandable English, with the exception of when they say words in another language, in which case the word is still properly spelled in said language. Writing phonetically like that slows down the read if the reader has to figure out what you're trying to say, and I'd like to think a paid actor knows how to pull off an accent without the screenwriter telling them how to say words that the actor may or may not be able to decipher because you intentionally butchered the spelling.

                  That said, if a character is severely impaired or, say, Cajun, and everything they say is supposed to sound like absolute, almost indecipherable gibberish to everyone involved, then have at it

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Writing "gotta" and "gonna" for characters who talk like that?

                    In the movie The Usual Suspects (1995), the character named Fenster had dialogue that (to me) was unintelligible. But in the screenplay for the film, the dialogue is easy to read. IMHO (only), our part of the craft is to write a well-executed (and intelligible) story. After that, it’s up to the director and actors to execute their crafts to breathe life into it.
                    "Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.- - Ray Bradbury

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Writing "gotta" and "gonna" for characters who talk like that?

                      Originally posted by catcon View Post
                      ... I have written 5 UK-set stories. In None of the Above, I make use of the charm and humor (or is it humour?!) of their different accents and dialects, in particular for two wild and woolly political candidates. One has a hard-to-understand cockney, and the other has a Scottish brogue so thick it's equally unintelligible -- at least to those of us who aren't British.

                      In the script, I actually write the dialogue phonetically, so that the non-UK reader gets the idea (it's a satire, after all). It took a helluva lot of research, I should add. Oh, and there is a single American character who has to take in all of this, and does some mild ribbing about it, but he's not a major character.

                      Sample of the Cockney:

                      ROGER
                      Ah, don't tell me you's are still
                      sore at each other. What gives wif
                      you? It's fine wif me that my Co-
                      Campaign Chairs were shakin' up,
                      man. You, Becky, give you boss-man
                      da truth now, and I'll work it out
                      for you. Who broke da rules first?


                      This one's fairly easy to follow. It gets a lot more challenging when I included some of the British idioms and slang, like "see a man about a dog", etc.

                      I've had this read by a couple of Brit producers, and I wonder if they think I'm a bigot ...
                      catcon - No, it's very unlikely that those producers think you're a bigot, or took any offence - but they probably had a little giggle at your attempt to voice a cockney. As someone born almost within earshot of Bow Bells, here's how I'd rewrite your sample of cockney dialogue:

                      ROGER
                      Ah, don't tell us you've still got the
                      hump wiv each uver. What's wiv
                      youz two? Look, it's fine by me if
                      me Co-Campaigners was gettin'
                      it on. Now you, Becks, give it to
                      yer boss straight an' I'll sort it
                      out for yer. Which one of youz
                      crossed the line first?
                      Last edited by Crayon; 05-01-2020, 10:26 PM. Reason: more proper cockney
                      Know this: I'm a lazy amateur, so trust not a word what I write.
                      "The ugly can be beautiful. The pretty, never." ~ Oscar Wilde

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Writing "gotta" and "gonna" for characters who talk like that?

                        Originally posted by TigerFang View Post
                        IMHO (only), our part of the craft is to write a well-executed (and intelligible) story. After that, it's up to the director and actors to execute their crafts to breathe life into it.
                        Yeah, that's exactly what they conspired to do... SPOILERS--

                        Benicio del Toro: I read the script and I realized that the purpose of the character was that he was the first one to die. So then, every line that he said didn't really affect the plot. So I sat down with [director] Bryan Singer and I said, 'It really doesn't matter what this guys says. And if you allow me to, I think that we should allow me to do something with it.' And he said, 'go ahead.'

                        James Lipton: And what was it that you did?

                        Del Toro: I just mumbled it right through. But I say every line -- I say every line that was written.
                        https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ent...cent_n_6580574

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Writing "gotta" and "gonna" for characters who talk like that?

                          Originally posted by Crayon View Post
                          Will - I'm not sure why you've focussed on misunsderstood speech. I was asking how best to write the dialogue for a character who speaks (mostly) understandable English with a conspicuous accent, such as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies.
                          Ah, sorry, I missed that bit. Trying to do too many things at once.

                          Along with Prezzy's and TigerFang's comments, just put (French accent) or (in French) under the character's name. Keep it simple. If it's just for one little moment/bit then maybe phonetically spell it out and have some fun with it. Still, it's the same basic concept in many ways. What's the intention of the moment and scene? What are you trying to achieve? Is it supposed to be funny? Is the character and/or the audience supposed to be unclear about what is being said?

                          In an un-produced PINK PANTHER script by Sellers & another writer nothing was mentioned at all about Inspector Clouseau's accent. Maybe because at that point he and everyone else knew there would be an accent, but in your case parentheticals should be fine.

                          If the character is throughout the script, then maybe just note it early on and possibly work in a few phonetically sounding "Franglais" words throughout to "season" the dialogue as a little reminder.
                          Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 05-02-2020, 11:51 AM.
                          Will
                          Done Deal Pro
                          www.donedealpro.com

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Writing "gotta" and "gonna" for characters who talk like that?

                            Not to get into a debate with you, TigerFang, as I personally understood Fenster the whole movie, but you make a point that it's probably best to write in clear English when it comes to major characters. Especially when other characters can understand what they're saying.

                            Another good example is Kenny from South Park. He's also very difficult to understand, but his dialogue is written in coherent English as well.

                            I should have added the caveat that I would only do the unintelligible dialogue thing for very brief spurts, like for maybe a single scene or for a minor character that is only in a scene or two when the whole point is no one understands what is being said, not even the other characters.

                            I definitely wouldn't recommend writing a whole script like that.

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