Stuck on a bit of dialog



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  • Stuck on a bit of dialog

    One of my scripts is complete and tidied up quite nicely, I think, except for one important scene. My problem is that the scene as I have written it is just too darn cliche.

    The female lead wants her outlaw lover to put up his guns, quit drinking, and lead a "normal" life. He resists saying the whiskey eases his pain and his reputation won't let him put up the guns. (He does, anyway - for a while, but that's later.)

    I had her saying something similar to, "Everyone has pain. You play the cards you've been dealt and get on with life."

    WAY too cliche.

    I tried, "Stop with the self pity", or "Stop feeling sorry for yourself". Same problem, and boring too.

    Anybody want to help me out of this? Bill Martell, what's your magic cure for bland dialog and no imagination?

    Don't think of this 'play as a western, think of it as a drama, romance happening in 1880's.

    Bill Marquardt

  • #2
    Once Were Warriors

    This film by Lee Tamahori had a scene very similar to the one you are struggling with.

    To understand the context, the film is about: A family descended from Maori warriors is bedeviled by a violent father and the societal problems of being treated as outcasts.

    Close to the film's conclusion, the Mother confronts this abusive, alcoholic father. "You're a slave, Jake. To the drink... to the fist... to yourself."

    Rent the film for some inspiration.


    • #3
      Re: Once Were Warriors

      Hi Bill,

      I'm the guy you sent you the blotched email message with someone else's name on it <grin>... anyway, to your question.

      Hard to do the dialog of a character that I don't know. It has to come from her. Is she a "cliche" kind of talker? Maybe you could use someting from her past, sometime in your life to draw from. Maybe something from his childhood that she knows about. This way you are also giving the audience some more info about the characters. She is trying to get through to him so it would make sense that she looks for something that he can connect with from his past.

      Just a thot.


      • #4

        she tells him something plain and simple, straightforward enough that the subtext is obvious, like

        "grow up" or "get over it"
        "stop being a cliche" or something to that effect


        • #5
          Well. You are talking about a women circa 1880's who does not approve of guns or drinking. This probably means she has never in her life been in a card game or gambling hall and would not say "you play the cards you've been dealt" ever. Because she is not a gamler, card player, or drinker, and doesn't know that world.

          Unless she comes from that world too. Does she? If she doesn't, it does not sound like you are in the head or times of the character you're writing. Because in 1880, women who did not frequent card games did not use gambling metaphors.

          I could be wrong.


          • #6
            My shot

            FEMALE LEAD
            Life is pain (insert male character' name). Some people spend their
            entire lives looking for the right man or woman to share it with.
            Someone that they can count on, not to understand the pain, but
            to simply be there to comfort. It sounds selfish, but I'm not
            asking you to give up anything for yourself. I'm asking for me.


            • #7
              Re: Bob Gill's reply


              After reading your suggestion, I'm thinking maybe my scene is not too far off. Actually she tries to tell him of her own past and express her pain, but he doesn't listen. Maybe I just need to get rid of the overused line.

              Steeves - or maybe she should just hit him "on the nose".
              Too much, man!

              Gore guy, if I can find it, I'll rent it.

              Bill M.

              WOW! Two more replies while I was typing in the above. Thanks, guys. GIG - she is in that world, but wants out of it. She sees him as her "ticket", if only he will reform. The card thing works, I think, but I've heard that phrase too many times.

              Curtis, thanks. I think you're close to my thoughts, and something like that might work.


              • #8

                Everyone has pain. That's how we know we're alive.


                • #9

                  I can't decide if I'm falling in love with you or Callit.



                  • #10

                    "Everyone has pain. You play the cards you've been dealt and get on with life."

                    Take into account what GIG said, find the line that fits the character and their own experiences. Personalize the line.

                    But what you have now is too familiar. Take GIG's "paragraph 4" advice on describing a character (other thread) and use it here:

                    "You gonna play, or fold, or just complain about your cards?"

                    Find a different way to say it... but also find the way that also tells us something about who is speaking.

                    No one said this stuff was easy.

                    - WC (formerly Bill, but this may remove some confusion - except for you Brits like Treb who will just snicker)


                    • #11
                      I get by with a little help from my friends

                      To all - thanks. Think I have it now.

                      Bill, sorry if my name has caused any confusion on the board. When I signed on I was unaware that you were here with a similar name. Most people like to call themselves by some Freudian handle, so I figure I'm safe when I use my real name. Maybe I should have called my self DunderHead or something.

                      Thanks for the advice. I know it's hard to give specific advice without knowing all the background, but you did remarkably well, as did all the others.

                      Bill Marquardt


                      • #12
                        Stick with the Cliche

                        Most movies are filled with cliches. They're simple and everyone will know what you're talking about.

                        Unless you can come up with something better, use the cliche.

                        Everything's been said, especially dealing with convential stories. I'm sure that the scene itself is a total cliche, so why not go all the way?

                        Watch movies. Again and again, cliches are used at big moments. Why? Because that's what people think will happen. It's what they expect and what they want. That's why every action movie has stupid one-liners by the hero when villians die.

                        Producers want cliches. They want strong, vibrant, dynamic cliches that move people.

                        Embrace and love the cliche. It makes everythng easier. It provides a simple shorthand which everyone understands.

                        True, there is always originality. But originality is hard and often not entertaining. A blend is needed.



                        • #13
                          Dynamic Cliche, isn't this an Oxymoron?

                          Cliche's, by definition, are inert. Come up with something that can move the story along, move the characterization along... and most important, something that can move the audience.

                          -- Gore


                          • #14
                            Um. Not meaning to be rude or anything. But seems to me the simplest suggestion would be to just scrap the line and think of something dramatic, profound, and completely original. Do I say um before everything I say, I just noticed that?


                            • #15

                              Dear Bill, (just for assistance's sake)

                              I think a question needs to be asked here, and that is: how "accurate" do you wanna be? "The Piano" was a non-western, very popular flick set in the 1800's, but considering it's locale/time-period, it is VERY inaccurate RE character interaction, on many levels. Yet it was a very well-received popular movie.

                              Unless you want to go "completely accurate", you can be free to moderate the dialogue in ways that will help the modern/current audience "relate". Things that would happen/"be said" "today", but that an audience would accept as a "domestic-argument". Examples...

                              "When we went through this same thing 2 years ago, you promised that (....) and I thought we agreed that (...)..."


                              "Why do you need to go to the saloon? With all I've given you over the years..."

                              (reply) "I go there because I can say what I mean without getting nagged to death, for being what I was when I met you. Remember? The man you thought you wanted?"

                              If the male is a drinker, it seems to me that the proposed interchange will likely occur after he's been tippling. (This often happens in such instances). If so, the lines from the man sober will be different to what he will say while inebriated, no matter what time period.

                              Hopefully helping, kosk