Over a career longer than most of us have been alive and breathing, our BLLB AKA Beloved Leader Larry Brody, two of things that he is most eager to share are as follows:
- Energy sells. Not only your pitching energy, but writing energy. Sentences that zoom from the page and into our brains, filling us with emotion.
- Great dialog sells even more. Most readers, even the most professional of them, look down the page at the dialog first, and then if it sparks them and makes them say, “Wow!” they pay attention to what else you have to offer.
Keep both those thoughts in mind as you read this excellent and wonderfully titled piece (not written by LB, sorry) on “The art of dialogue.”
No more dialogue B.S. Here’s the truth
by Carson Reeves
The art of dialogue.
Whereas every other component of screenwriting can be taught, dialogue remains a shapeless colorless mist, something we keep trying to grab onto, yet continually come up empty.
How elusive is dialogue? Do a Google search right now. Try to find one article about dialogue that has a tip in it that you haven’t heard 17 million times already.
These people who claim to be dialogue experts can only recite the same tips Syd Field spouted 30 years ago in his best-selling screenwriting book. Come into a scene late. Leave early. Use as little exposition as possible. Blah blah blah. Oh, and here’s my favorite one: Listen to how people talk.
Oh yeah, yeah. I’ll listen to how people talk. Because people talking for 45 minutes is exactly the same as needing to write a two minute conversation in a movie.
Probably the most confusing story about dialogue that I’ve ever come across is the Thor: Ragnarok line. After professional screenwriters making millions of dollars for their months and months of work put Thor: Ragnarok together, they’re shooting the scene where Thor is about to fight someone in a gladiator arena, and out comes the Hulk. Hemsworth says the lines in the script. He then tries a few improv lines. Then there’s a Make-A-Wish kid on set that day. And he says to Chris Hemsworth, “Why don’t you try, ‘I know him. He’s a friend from work.’” Hemsworth does the line, and it not only ends up in the first trailer for the movie, but it becomes the centerpiece of the trailer and its most memorable line.
I want you to think about that for a second. A young kid, somewhere between 8-11 I’m guessing, was able to come up with the most popular line in a movie written and rewritten and developed and re-developed by Hollywood professionals, people supposedly at the very top of their profession.
Messes with your head, right?
Well, here’s what I’ve determined. While there is a randomness to dialogue that contributes to its elusiveness, there is a way to get better at it. There are five areas that influence your dialogue. And that four of them are under your control. The fifth, unfortunately, is not. But, if you can master the other four, you can write good dialogue. So what are these five things…?